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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fireman

A cold firebox awaited me in the stark light of the predawn full moon
Giving me just enough light as I unrolled the water hose
Climbed the side of the locomotive and started the slow process of topping up the boiler
While I waited I gathered some tinder and starter trash together
Setting it close by as I opened the access in the side of the twenty yard long engine
Scraping the long handled grate cleaner along the iron bars
A pile of fire leavings slowly grew at my feet
Until the interior was as clean as it would get in this lifetime

Using my torch
I stuck my head inside and had a look around
Looking for broken staybolts
Or the telltales of leaking flue pipes
Finding nothing that cried out to be fixed
Then picking through my pile of combustibles I'd brought along
Piling it carefully in just the right way in the center of the firebox grate
Then surrounding that small pile with pebble sized pieces of coal
With some chunks of larger coal outside of those

A blaze of light illuminated my face briefly
Before I tossed the lit oil soaked rag onto the kindling
Where the flame caught quickly
Spreading to a merry little campfire
Beginning to roast the nearby pebbles of coal
As they released a bit of smoke before catching fire themselves
Slowly progressing to the bigger pieces
Until there was a small bed of glowing coals

A sound of water switched my attention to the shut off cock
Then pulling the hose off the boiler and closing the fill port
Rolling up the hose tidily again for the next time
Gathering up another bucket of coal
Which I carefully added to my small hot fire
I moved them around a bit with a poker until they all caught
And were spread out nice and evenly
Then closed the access hatch
Feeling the growing warmth in the metal
Leaning in and pressing my cool cheek to it
As a babe to it's warm mother's breast
Heating up my very soul
Upon the steel hide of this steam powered beast
Awakening once again for the day

Breaking the embrace suddenly
For that is the only way to do it I've learned
I stow my starter kit away
Climb into the cab to really get things started
As the sliver of the sun peeks just above the horizon
Glinting through the edge of the lake
Giving me a rare blue flash
A bit of luck
For this bit of a man
Clambering about his complex machine