Fireman on the Ninety-Three

by , under Fiction Prompts, Flash Fiction, Friday Fictioneers

First thing the engineer did was grab my arm with his gloved hand, give it a good squeeze. “You sure you up for this, son? That stretch into Shakopee Lakes has a 13% grade, and likely to be drifted up.”

“Don’t you worry.”

“Just remember, I see that gauge drop I won’t be so nice.”

“Don’t worry,” I said again.

That night I worked my shovel fast as I could, jabbed the fire with the clinker rod to break up the dead spots.  That guage stayed steady all the way.

“Not bad,” he said, and bought me a cup of coffee.



When I was eight years old, a man named George Williams came to our school with a book he’d written about his father Buddy, Life on a Locomotive.  Buddy worked on trains his whole life, first as a fireman shoveling coal into the insatiable mouth of the boiler, then as an engineer on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. This visit from the author sparked in me a desire to write, as well as a deep and abiding love for steam trains. I still have his book on my shelf.


  1. Sandra

    This is a story after my husband’s heart. He actually paid good money recently to do precisely this… You captured that beautifully.

  2. 4963andypop

    This interchange makes me think of the last conversation you have with a teen, before sending them out to drive on their own. You give them a dozen warnings, but when they come back in one piece, it’s cause for celebration!


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