Rusty Brakes

Fiction By Ariel // 10/21/2008

Once, there were two boys, born on the same day, but of opposite fortunes. The older boy was born of a wealthy family and the younger boy was born of a poor family. These two boys never knew the other existed until they were young men. As children they unknowingly shared a common interest— trains. The older one was given every model train he ever wanted. Often he would grow bored with a model and let it fall into disrepair. The other boy looked forward to every one of his birthdays and Christmases, wanting to receive the longed-after toys for gifts. But most often, if he wanted to get a new model, he would take a side job after school to earn extra spending money. In contrast to the older boy, this boy kept his models in immaculate order. He never seemed to lose interest in his models until they wore out and he had to get rid of them.

As the boys grew older, they both applied for jobs at the local railroad company. Amazingly, they both were given identical jobs as freight train engineers in the same district. They became acquainted during training periods and other events. The older boy was polite whenever they met, but he looked down on the younger boy for his social standing and financial situation. Behind the poor boy’s back, he secretly called him “Coal-boy” because of the black coal dust that was often layered on the younger boy’s face. Soon the entire station referred to the boy by that name. What Engineer did not know was, that the dust on Coal-boy’s face was not only from working many hours behind the bellowing smokestack of his locomotive, but also from the long after-hours that he spent polishing and oiling all the moving parts on his machine. How could Engineer have known about that important part of the job when he never even so much as showed the dusty parts an oil rag? Rust and grime were fast taking over the moving parts that were vital not only to the proper working of the locomotive, but also to his safety. So he continued to ignore the problem and would rush home everyday as soon as the last run of the day was done to complain that he was surrounded by dirt and inferior coal-boys all day, and it was ruining his health!

One day, as Coal-boy and Engineer were running their branch lines, a careless switch operator fell asleep at his post. Unknowingly, he had left the switches to the track that Engineer was racing down switched to the main track where Coal-boy was finishing up his daily run to the saw mill. Of course, Engineer was very much to blame too. He should have realized that something was wrong when the track switched over onto the main line. But, being careless himself, he failed to notice the change until it was too late. Speeding around a bend toward him, was the #30 freight train with its load of rough sawn logs. He frantically reached down to pull the emergency brake lever. It began to move stiffly toward him as he pulled on it with all his might, but then, it stuck! Glancing down at the bottom of the lever, he saw that it had almost rusted completely over in some places, hindering it from engaging smoothly. Desperately, he pulled the whistle cord, hoping to alert the other driver coming round the bend. The whistle let out a piercing shriek, making the slumbering switchman jump out of his chair. The switchman’s searching eyes immediately took in the immanent disaster on the tracks below him. Letting out a yell of terror, he reached for the siding switch and pulled with all his might.

In the cab of the #30 freight train, Coal-boy’s eyes were squinted almost shut against the bright sun as he rounded the bend in the track. Passing under the shade of a large tree, they grew wide at the sight of another train trundling toward him. As smoothly as a fish goes through water, his hand reached down and pulled the emergency brake handle. It pulled smoothly and quickly as all well-maintained machines respond when called upon. How he was glad of the extra hours he had put in making sure that every part of the engine was free from rust and grime. But then he looked ahead and saw that the other engine was still heading straight for him at full speed. Thinking quickly, Coal-boy jumped out of the cab, landed by the side of the track and ran up the bank, out of harm’s way.

Back in the oncoming train, Engineer was getting ready to abandon his locomotive to the arms of disaster, but then he noticed that the switches leading to a siding were being rapidly switched. Returning to his post, he managed to guide the machine onto the siding and bring it to a gradual stop. By the time that he was done, the switch operator had called the chief inspector and reported the whole incident. The inspector was just pulling up in his car next to the watch tower. Engineer could see him a gesturing to the two locomotives and instructing the switch operator to do something. Shortly after, the switchman came puffing down the hill to inform him that the inspector wanted to see him in the watch tower.

“Well it seems that you had a very narrow escape today!” The inspector addressed the two engineers and the switchman standing before him.

Engineer spoke up first, “Sir, I think you have a real problem in this establishment!”

“Oh?” the inspector leaned back in his chair. “What do I have a problem with?”

“Well, first of all, because I was not given the proper equipment, it was very fortunate that there was not a serious accident here today. It was only because of my levelheaded thinking that I was able to take the train onto that siding. Also, the people that you have working here are very under-qualified! For example, I believe that the reason that my train was diverted onto the main line was because of a careless mistake on the part of this switchman!” The inspector nodded at Engineer’s words.

“Ah, yes. Switchman, because of your carelessness you should be fired on the spot, but because you were able to help stop the trouble you had helped start, you may keep your current job.”

The switchman breathed loudly in relief. “Oh, thank ya, Govna’! I’ll be more careful on me post in the future.”

“Now, let us go inspect the engines for any damage,” said the inspector as he rose from his seat and headed out the door. The three people walked down the hill toward the locomotives with Engineer at the inspector’s side explaining every reason why it was not his fault that there had almost been a tragedy while Coal-boy trailed behind.

After making a thorough investigation of the two machines, the inspector asked everyone to go back to the watch tower. Turning around to face Coal-boy, he cleared his throat and asked a question.

“Boy, how many after-hours do you spend working on your machine?”

“Oh, not very long, Sir. Just until I get it all cleaned up and ready for the next day’s run.”

“Hmm,” the inspector looked thoughtful for a moment. “How long do you spend, engineer?”

Engineer shifted nervously: “Not very long. I never really saw the need to clean anything. It’s always going to get dirty again.”

“I see,” the inspector turned to Coal-boy, “Let me be the first to tell you, well done, my boy! You are a valuable asset to this establishment. I feel confident that you will go far in life!” The inspector picked up his hat and turned to Engineer. “You’re fired!” he stated mater-o-factly and turned toward the door.

Engineer’s face was the picture of complete shock and amazement. “What! He gets a congratulation and I get FIRED? What makes him better than me. I’m by far more superior than this...this, coal-boy!”

The inspector turned to him, “In some ways you may be his superior, but in other ways you will never be able to measure up to this man’s standards. All you would tell me when I was inspecting the locomotives, were all the reasons why you were not to blame. What I saw were rusty brakes and dysfunctional mechanisms. The only reason why you and you train were not destroyed this afternoon, was that this man always had his machine in working order and that the switchman was quick on his feet. If you had just been thankful for that, or if you would have done the extra things that your job required, but did not mandate, you might still have a job!” And with that, the inspector put on his hat and walked out the door, leaving Engineer openmouthed and jobless.


I liked this. I can almost

I liked this. I can almost see it in The Book of Virtues. :)

Oh, it made me laugh how you found the site...

"Weddings? I love weddings! Drinks all around!" -Jack Sparrow

Anna | Thu, 10/23/2008

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Thank You!

Thanks for comenting on my story.

Belive it or not, it was actually an asignment after reading a story from the "Book of Virtues" !!!

Anonymous | Thu, 10/23/2008

Neat story!! It should be

Neat story!! It should be one of Aesop's Fables.
Welcome to AP, btw. :)
"Ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?...Morons."

Clare Marie | Thu, 10/23/2008

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

I don't know how I missed

I don't know how I missed seeing this before! Great job!
"You're pirates! Hang the code, and hang the rules! They're more like guidelines anyway"
-Elizabeth Swan//Pirates of the Caribbean//Curse of the Black Pearl

Sarah | Sat, 11/22/2008

"Sometimes even to live is courage."

Blogging away!



Ariel | Sun, 11/23/2008

"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville


Really good ariel,it must have took you a lot of time!

I am Nate-Dude | Thu, 12/11/2008


Thanks for liking it. It

Thanks for liking it. It didn't take me that long 'cause I was hurrying to finish it. Deadlines can be very motivating:)
"Have a holly, jolly, Christmas. It's the best time of the year!":)

Ariel | Thu, 12/11/2008

"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville


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