The Switchman’s Lantern


Image: Google Images – labelled for re-use.

Josiah Bell was a switchman like his Pappy before him. He had a gimpy leg from an accident he had when he was six so he walked the tracks carrying his lantern in one hand and a long pole in the other. On top of the pole, he hung a red kerchief on a nail which he liked to wave at the engineers as they drove their enormous machines along the tracks.

He was working the yards in Chicago and it was damn early in the morning and cold. He done heard on the radio what those Hitler and Mussolini fellas was doing and how them Germans sent their army into peaceful Denmark and Norway. Josiah was a peaceful man and a simple one but he didn’t take to no bullies. He’d been bullied plenty as a child because of his bum leg. A lot of folks wanted America to stay out of that mess in Europe and maybe they were right, but then who was gonna take care of those bullies?

The 3:10 from Omaha was just coming up to his switch. Josiah set down his pole and grasped the metal bar and with a practiced hand and steely sinews, pulled, switching the course of the train from the main line to the freight yards. Then he stood, putting most of weight on his good leg and waved his lantern. No use waving the kerchief on the pole, too dark to see it.

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The Friendly Dinosaur


© C.E. Ayr

Ginny remembered her Daddy as she stood overlooking the railroad yard. She was just three years old when he showed her that first train up close. It was moving slowly; large and stately, like a friendly dinosaur. The engineer looked down at her and smiled. She waved shyly back. She’d loved trains ever since. Someday, she’d teach that same love to her children and tell them how much she adored the Grandpa they would never meet. Ginny left the train yard and went back to work in the oncology ward. She hated the cancer that had taken her Daddy.

Written as part of the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The idea is to write a piece of flash fiction with a max limit of 100 words based on the photo prompt (above).

To read more stories based on this week’s prompt, visit

Today’s story is exactly 100 words long.