Feb 052015

Hello, good evening and welcome to Micro Bookends 1.17. I hope you all like a good political scandal.

On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested inside the Watergate building in Washington, D.C, the office of the Democratic National Committee. The men were connected to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign, and had been caught planting wire-taps and stealing secret documents. Nixon’s knowledge of the incident was in doubt, but he certainly tried to cover it up by paying off the burglars, trying to stop the FBI from investigating, and destroying evidence. Nixon resigned from office, was pardoned of any crimes by President Gerald Ford, and continued to proclaim his innocence until his death. In 1977, Nixon was interviewed by British journalist David Frost, whose surprisingly thorough preparation and interview technique laid the whole scandal bare for the American public, and elicited an apology from Nixon.

The interviews were dramatised in the 2006 play, Frost/Nixon, which was itself adapted into a film of the same name in 2008. Frost was played by Welsh actor Michael Sheen (who celebrates his 46th birthday today) in both productions. Sheen has had a very successful career on both stage and screen, being nominated for four Olivier Awards for his work on stage, and a BAFTA for his portrayal of British Prime Minister Tony Blair in The Queen. Sheen being a Welshman, and today being the eve of the opening game of this year’s Six Nations Rugby Championship (when England are probably going to be taught a harsh lesson by Wales), let’s celebrate Wales’s proud coal-mining heritage with this week’s photo prompt:

Photo Credit: [Duncan] via CC.

Photo Credit: [Duncan] via CC.

The Judge

This week’s judge is Emily Livingstone, winner of MB1.16. Read her winning story here, and what she has to say about flash fiction here.


A story of between 90 and 110 words starting with WATER and ending with GATE and incorporating the photo prompt.


Anyone, but especially you!


Why not! Because it’s fun. Because it’s a challenge. Because the winner will receive their own winner’s page, their story on the winning stories list, a ‘who is the the author’ feature to be posted next week, entry into the ‘Micro Bookend of the Year’ competition, and a copy of this year’s winning stories compilation.


Now! Get your entry in BEFORE 5:00 am Friday (UK time: http://time.is/London).




Post your story in the comments section. Include the word count and your Twitter username (if you’re Twitterized). Don’t forget to read the full rules before submitting your story.

Anything else?

Please give your story a title. It will not be included in the word count.

Please try to leave comments on a couple of other stories. It’s all part of the fun, and everyone likes feedback!

Remember, only stories that use the bookends exactly as supplied (punctuation is allowed) will be eligible to win.

  77 Responses to “Micro Bookends 1.17 – WATER [micro] GATE”

  1. Mistake


    Water poured with venom over my face and distracted me from the pain in my legs. My body clung to the mud, while my arms frantically clawed.

    It was a big mistake.

    Carl said “Don’t”.

    So tempting, the factory sat silent for years and no one came. Even the security guard stayed in his cabin and read porn mags.

    We clambered over the barbed fence, up countless rungs and onto the platform. The wheel would never again spin, but the slide held promise, a log flume in pouring rain.

    Carl said “Don’t”.

    I slid.

    From under a wooden weight I would wait and pray he was running for the gate.


  2. The Shoot
    (word count: 109)

    Water slopped over the cold edge of the metal shoot carrying yet another body into the open cavern at its base.

    Relics of the industrial revolution, these mechanical scavengers were now put to a more effective use.
    They had become both a warning and a symbol for justice and democracy.

    Those who were forced to climb its jagged frame had been found guilty of trying to better themselves at the expense of others. However, despite the harsh punishment, the total number of cases processed was on the increase.

    And the procession drew big crowds. Each day we would come to watch, huddled ten deep behind the barb wired gate.


  3. Take Me
    (word count 110)

    Water. Let it be like water under the bridge. That was dad’s advice. Jake wished his dad was more elegant or in the least more clear. Not only had the girl with his heart squeezed it flat, his best friends proved themselves as scoundrels.

    Jake sat on the wooden bridge over Penley River, watching the water glide by. Was that what life really was? Just a constantly moving stream you moved in and out of daily?Over his shoulder he heard a voice that chased his sour mood. It was Andrea or Andi as he called her.

    “I heard. I still have my prom invitation,” she said from the gate.

  4. Unwelcoming

    Water cascading over me, hiding, for now I’m free. Free from my self-inflicted cage called marriage, barbed wire twisting, tighter and tighter around my heart. I daydream continually of an alternate reality, where we part, amicably.

    I married my best friend, not my love he didn’t even know I existed, even when he found his one, I persisted. If I hadn’t wanted a baby, I’d probably be still chasing him and me, to put it in the saddest and simplest terms, my womb doesn’t even want my husband’s sperm.

    Each month, we hope, but yet again, nope. Next time I’m late I’m not opening that gate.

    Word count – 107

  5. Laughable

    Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink, that’s the way it’s going to be in Ireland if we don’t pay our charges. If you believe the scaremongering were all going to end up showering one a week, and together. Won’t that be a fantastic baby boom and yet another burden on our dire financial straits?

    Daily I’m watching protestors and police clash. How much money is that costing? Arrests, manpower, time.

    It seems that water is not a basic human right, and for it we must fight. I’ll pay when the product is safe, when it’s not green, until them I’m chaining myself to my gate.

    Word count – 108

  6. Enough,
    109 Words

    “Water?” the Hurrier begs.

    “Back to work,” the Foreman orders with a whip.

    The Hurrier, my twelve-year-old brother, collapses. He coughs blood onto the cart track.

    The Foreman’s boot shoves, nay kicks, the boy off the track. I race for my brother.

    “Trapper,” the Foreman shouts at my cousin. “You’re promoted.”

    The trapper is too young. Uncle Cylen, a Getter like me, says it’s time for us to emigrate. My whole family grabs our tools and heads to the surface.

    The owners have guards waiting to keep us in.

    “Boys. Picture the guards as goal,” Momma says. “Go be Getters.”

    Tools in hand, we charge the gate.

  7. To Have and Have Not
    110 words

    Water dripped from the roof of the shaft house at the Tamarack mine. Tommy saw the men with their bow ties and pristine suits walk through the gate.

    “What’s going on?” he asked his pal, both covered in coal dust eating from their tin pails.

    “Something about plumb lines. They’re further apart at the bottom.”

    “Who cares?”

    “It’s a scientific mystery,” his pal said.

    Tommy ate his mayonnaise sandwich. No money for meat this week. He bet those suits always had money for meat. He walked towards the mining tunnel, a deep abyss that led right to hell on earth. He descended as the suits left through the barbed gate.

    • Great story. Such a clear comparison between the haves and have-nots especially that description where the latter descend to ‘hell on earth’ whilst the others walk away.

  8. Aberfan (1966) revisited

    @geofflepard 110 words

    Water blurs the picture. Rain teems down. The gate supports his camera; he wipes the lens, letting the images try and explain. He should help, dig at the slag with the other desperate souls but his job is to bear witness to Nature’s response to man’s hubris. Water, giver of life and destroyer of hope. An innocent morning rendered mute by a torrent of mud, taking 116 unformed lives.
    He stands in the self-same spot, the slag heap has gone and the rain teems down. Peaceful yet echoing with empty voices. He wipes his eyes, still seeking an explanation. Tears blur the picture and he leans on the gate…

  9. Water supply cut of as I couldn’t pay my bill
    Tearing my hair out how will I take my pill
    were both starting to stink
    Should be enough to make us stop and think

    We now really reek
    Haven’t showered for a week
    TV cameras are calling
    And were wall-to-walling

    I refuse to compromise
    My protest might be my demise
    Hair and skin crawling
    Inside I’m bawling

    Oh no I should have used protection
    It certainly was not an immaculate conception
    I’m two weeks bloody late
    Bags are packed at the gate

    Word count – 92

  10. Waterlogged

    Water was the culprit, the only tool available for use. She knew her son had be struggling to cope with their situation but had she really understood him, his mentality?

    She collapsed to her knees in the muddy riverbank, hands sinking in deep as she tried to breathe but it was more like hyperventilation. Her sobs and wails could be heard only in her atmosphere, no one knew the pain she was suffering right now. She felt the overwhelming compulsion to join him. The only reason she braved being strong in this hell of an incarceration camp was for her 12 year old son who was now at heaven’s gate.


  11. Memories

    Water playing a symphony
    Sea’s sounds singing to me
    Smells wafting by
    My soul lets out a contented sigh

    Dreams float on a sea’s breeze
    Building sand castles on my knees
    Rising to any occasion
    The seaside is amazing

    Where I find complete peace
    My ultimate stress release
    Fills my every desire
    Lights my hearts fire

    I bought my own picnic
    wrote love letters with a stick
    Memories I recreate
    The sea my favorite date

    The beach sign said no trespassing
    But I could not curtail my passion
    I’ll take the owner’s debate
    If caught climbing over the gate

    Word count – 99

  12. Hired Thief
    109 words

    “Water isn’t poison.”

    “I hate being wet.”

    If Gen was scared of rain, how was she going to hold up inside? She had promised a fortune, but since they’d kissed Judy was worried about more than that.

    “Why are we here?” Judy asked.

    “For my money. They took it and dumped me in the river.” Hence her fear of water.

    “Is this revenge? I don’t do murder.”

    “I just want my money so I can travel. Will you join me?”

    “Of course, but – why didn’t you call the police?”

    “This is faster.”

    She wasn’t wrong. Judy knelt by the barbed wire fence to pick the lock on the gate.


  13. The Dark Place
    (108 words)

    Water tick tocks from a tap somewhere in a corner.
    ‘What do you want from me?’ I say to the darkness.
    ‘You’ll never guess,’ was said from the darkness.
    ‘They’ll be looking for me!’ I say to the darkness.
    ‘Not here, they won’t,’ was said from the darkness
    ‘Is this Hell?’ I say to the darkness.
    ‘You’re not dead,’ was said from the darkness.
    ‘Can you turn on a light?’ I say to the darkness.
    ‘No point,’ was said from the darkness.
    ‘What do you mean?’ I say to the darkness.
    ‘I have your eyes,’ was said from the darkness. And the laughter grates like a creaking gate.


    Brian S Creek
    103 words
    @Brian S Creek

    “Water?” said Chris.

    Mike glanced at the flask in Chris’ trembling hand. “I’m good.” He shone his torch around the chamber. “Why exactly have you dragged me down here?”

    Chris smiled and pointed across the chamber at a large iron gate. “This mine holds a treasure like no other.” He took an ancient looking key from his pack. “Fortune and glory.”

    “I don’t like this,” said Mike.

    “It’s perfectly safe” said Chris as he turned the key in the lock.

    From the bowels of the mine came a monstrous roar.

    “Safe, my arse,” said Mike. He grabbed the key and locked the gate.

  15. God of the Diggers
    110 words

    “Water?” Ricardo shuffles. “Blood’s better.”

    “It’s all we got.” I make the offering. Tio, protect us.

    “Behind me, hermano,” I warn, but he hustles ahead. The recent discovery of a zinc vein convinced him there’s silver ore hidden in here. Foolish. Tio hasn’t spit up silver in years.

    Ricardo halts, drops like a coal sack.


    Tio’s poison fingers reach for me, but I can’t leave Ricardo. I tug him toward the main tunnel. Talons claw my throat. I cry out.

    Answering shouts. Hands hook my armpits. But Tio’s breath is deep in my lungs.

    A man mutters the Lord’s Prayer.

    Foolish. Only one power reigns within the shaft’s gate.

    • How original! Love the direction you have taken this. ‘Tio’s breath is deep in my lungs.’ – wonderful image.

  16. Drowning Ghosts

    106 words

    “Water drowns people, not ghosts,” said Evan as he gazed down the pit shaft, wishing that the howling would stop.

    “It’s just the wind in the tunnels,” said Huw. Dai the Death had a lot to answer for, frightening new miners with stories of the ghost who sang when a fatality was imminent.

    They were the last to leave following the flooding in the lower levels.

    “We listened to his warning,” continued Evan. “So shouldn’t he stop?”

    As if in answer, the howl became a roar and the waters rose again, a merciless torrent conducting the men in mocking chorus towards the cage and rescue’s gate.

  17. Break

    Water has power.
    Water has the ability to transport you, clean you, keep you alive. It is elegance itself when the temperament allows.
    Water had the ability to plummet you, bloat you, drown you to death. It is roaring vengeance when it’s masses crash and break.
    There’s no water in rock, paper, scissors, because water has the ability, and the patience, to ruin them all.
    There is no rock so strong as to not succumb to the perpetual persistence of a repetitive drop of water.
    No man either.
    Water will break the dam against his words.
    Drown his face, rob his breath, and then the opening of the flood gate.

    110 words

    • Wow, for some reason, that sentence about why water isn’t included in the rock, paper, scissors game blew my mind. Dang. Love the concept and execution here. Good work.

  18. @stellakateT
    110 words

    What is Coal?

    Water, lying in puddles on the floor, huge waterfalls spilling out of the tin bath as mother scrubbed coal dust from his muscular body. Dad sang pitch perfect as the water turned black, his body glistening with cleanliness. Grandma said it was next to Godliness. On a Friday night Mr Spode, the preacher was no match for my Dad.

    He wasn’t from the valleys with a name like that. Grandpa said he was from some Godforsaken place north of Birmingham. They made pottery for the masters not honest coal hewed from the bowels of the earth. Little did we know that one day they would forever close the mine gate.

  19. Pit of Despair

    Water dripped in the darkness, a rhythmic ticktock marking every second of Alex’s incarcerated existence. He had lost track of time long ago, life in this underground hell now defined by interludes of hunger, feast and defecation.

    They had fled long ago, seeking shelter from the scorching mushrooms filling the sky. Seeking sanctuary within the subterranean toil of their fathers.

    Now the floor was littered with those he had once huddled with. Bones picked clean, gnawed by his teeth.

    Till only he remained, the last of his kind.

    He just wanted to see the sky one final time.

    Alex turned the reluctant handle.

    Splitting apart the mine shaft’s gate.

    107 words

  20. In Prison

    Water seemed so simple a request. At the prison mine, it came whenever he asked—they needed him hydrated to get the labor they demanded. On the outside, though, no one wanted his labor. So he had no job, no home, and no water.

    He could get it from the lake, if he wanted a horrendous disease. He could collect it from the rain, if only it would.

    The looks on the faces of those he begged for it were blacker than those he used to work with.

    So he stood there, wondering. Did he want in? Did he want out? He just stood there, at the gate.

  21. Senghenydd Mine, 1913

    Water streams down the candle-lit bedroom window. Ieuan kisses Myfanwy, caressing her swollen belly.
    He trudges to the pit with the others, joking about the likelihood of a ‘Christmas bonus’.
    “Bonus, boyo?” says Huw Parry. “The only reward you get for digging holes is a bigger shovel!”

    Later, at the coalface, Huw strikes his axe against pyrites. The spark ignites escaping firedamp, trapped in the seam. The resulting explosion’s shock wave disturbs coal dust on the floor of the workings; it effectively becomes self-fuelling.

    The pit hooter sounds the alert. Myfanwy rushes to the pithead with the other women, desperately searching for their loved ones, pressing against the colliery gate.

    Word Count: 110 words

    • Thank you for introducing a disaster I knew nothing about. You say it all in so few words.

      (I feel particularly proud that I actually know how to pronounce all these names due to my time in Wales and subsequent marriage to a Welshman – nearly called son Ieuan but decided no one would be able to spell it or say it!)

      • Thanks very much, Steph.It’s a fictional account of a very real disaster. I came to know about it in 2013 (the centennary year) from my sister-in-law who lives a few miles away in Bedwas.

    • The dialogue is very good. Concise description of the events make this a very sharp piece and the mention of his relationship makes those events even more tragic. Well done.

  22. Mercury Rising
    A.J. Walker

    Water seeps through the tired forgotten dykes and mirror flecks sparkle their taunts at Roberta as she looks from her window. The rising waters have attracted thousands of waders, which yesterday had brought the shortsighted binoculared birders from far and wide. Their cars had blocked the lane, now empty crisp packets are stuck to the fences like rubbish decorations.

    Roberta hears a bang and the lights go out. The smell of ozone tells her that her electricity has been defeated.

    Outside the puddles in the driveway are snaking together; mercury oceans beneath the grey laden clouds. Her faithful car sits useless now as she realises what lies beyond the gate.

    (110 words)


  23. Leach Party
    A.J. Walker

    Water leaches through the tips seeping into everything like a Glastonbury mud. Orange and ochre spills down through the old mine tracks glistening with hydrocarbon sheen, dying the soils in industrial water colours. This scene of devastation a mini victory of insane man over earth, but one day life would be back. Arsenic and lead covered by chlorophyll; one day – but not now.

    Now the soil and water is a hazard. Toxic. Acid. Nature denatured. Today it is a hidden embarrassment from our past. Parents and teachers warn not to go beyond the barbed wire fence. The children think the oranges look beautiful when somebody forgets to lock the gate.

    (110 words)


  24. — Quintessence —

    Water washed Bitty down from the hills who knows how many years ago. Tens, hundreds, thousands? Despite the baths and blankets, she’s constantly cold.

    Earth was her home until Arthur, out scavenging for fuel, dug Bitty up. She winked at me, he always says. How could I resist?

    Air quality around here, what with the fissures, is awful. Me and Arthur cough and wheeze. Not Bitty. It’s like she breathes in a totally different way.

    Fire is coming, Bitty says. Those words sound like a warning but for her big smile. She’s growing. It won’t be long before she can climb over that baby gate.

    109 words

  25. Foy
    100 words

    It’s All in the Framing

    “Water droplets would make this look better, don’t you think?”
    “What look better?”
    “Or maybe dangling icicles?”
    “Do you mean the barbs?”
    “Aren’t you paying attention?”
    “Aren’t you gonna take the picture?”
    “Do you think it might rain before we leave?”
    “Do I look like rain woman?”
    “Why’re you always this ornery?”
    “Why’re you always this boring?”
    “Would you just stop a moment?”
    “Is that the best you’ve got?”

    “Does anyone really care about an old mine?”
    “I do.”
    “Gotcha! I win.”
    “Damn it. You know I hate that game.”
    “Tough. You pay the toll at the gate.”

  26. Memory (110 words)

    Water makes up 57% of the human body. So, a little extra couldn’t hurt, right? Wrong. I wish I realized that when I bet Joseph that I could jump the length of daddy’s truck off the pier. I always knew the way that boy made my heart flutter would be the death of me. Only I expected cardiac arrest, not drowning.

    Pain now, like prickly wires poking at my lungs. Like the fence at the old factory we sneaked into last summer. That smile distracted me, so I cut my leg on the barbs. Maybe I can take it, if I just picture it now. I can still see the gate…

  27. A Better Place
    99 words

    Water, water every where,
    And all the boards did shrink;

    The outlawed words rose, unbidden, as he gazed out the window, idly wondering at the relics of an industrial past starkly silhouetted on the horizon. Their train moved faster now, seamlessly gliding on magnetic rails. He tried, vainly, not to daydream about workers long-dead, but his brain was simply not wired for the practical concerns of his caste.

    Water, water every where,
    Nor any drop to drink.

    “Almost there, Paul. You’ll be happier soon.”

    His mother squeezed his knee a little too brightly as they approached the looming gate.

  28. Wasser Macht Frei

    Water – truest force of nature,
    primordial element
    in manifold manifestations:
    avalanche and blizzard,
    cloudburst and downpour,
    eagre, flood and gale,
    hail and iceberg,
    lake, loch and lagoon,
    millrace and monsoon,
    Niagara and puddle,
    riptide and rivulet,
    sleet, slush and snow,
    torrent, tumult and tempest,
    undertow, vapour, wave…

    Water will overflow
    the vainest monuments of Man,
    water will lay low
    the jackboot and the iron fist

    In the fullness of time,
    even saltwater tears
    will prevail against
    the cruellest barbed wire,
    the sturdiest shackles,
    the heaviest chains,
    the strongest iron gate.

    Word Count: 91 words

  29. Passing Through (110 words)

    Water, the essential life force of man, had become the anchor to my liberation. My shoes were clogged and it felt as if I was slogging through a canal of my own deepest insecurities and paranoia. Hunger did that to you.

    My wet orange jumpsuit seemed to add an amphibious human to my back, but one steeped in the history of…that place.

    Before dawn, Muhammad himself had walked through my cell door, scraped my carcass from the cold, damp floor and said, “Allahu Akbar.”

    God had not been great. Not in this place where the Americans broke from their delusion of civilization. But today, Allah had opened the gate.

  30. Relentless – 104 words

    Water is relentless. Man can only hope to guide its flow.

    Harry looked down at his crew crossing the bridge over the spillway and into the mine. Something was not right. After so much rain should not more water be flowing from the dam just one thousand yards away? Harry picked up his walkie-talkie, “Jerry, …. Jerry come in.” No answer. Concerned now, Harry drove his truck up to the dam. He found Jerry slumped over in his truck, dead.

    He turned to head to the flow control shed when the dam broke. Harry realized now, Jerry never made it to the flood gate.

    An interesting aside – Before i knew of the title of the image, “Coal Mine”, I picked a mine as my setting. I never worked the mines, but I did deliver more than a few pieces of large equipment to mines scattered throughout the PA and WV region during my trucking days.

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