This is for the Midweek Flash Challenge and you can follow Miranda Kate on twitter @PurpleQueenNL. As usual it will take me a couple of days to proofread it.
The pitter patter of strange little feet splat their way on the new lake to the giant engine, baking slowly in the desert. Two men sit high upon the coal bunker, incongruously full, smoking their blunt little cigarettes, seeming to have little to do but wait for the rust to claim the remainder of the structure. Their overalls seem out of place in the heat, beginning to raise vapour from the shallow water, but no man would be without a hat in the sun, and their seated position was already providing shade from their broadbrimmed chapeau.
The little girl, dressed only in a simple shift and a version of the same hat, looked up at the two men.
“Mama says you gonna try and move her today.”
“Yo’ momma’s got a good eye, Casey.” Said the taller of the two, at least, taller as the little girl saw it.
“I can push.”
“Every hand’s needed.”
“Momma says I’m too small to push hard.”
“Yo’ momma cares about you. She don’t want you to get hurt,” said the big feller.
“Nothing hurts me, Uncle Joe.” It was true. She’d never been hurt, by anything, since she’d been born, a thousand miles back. There was nothing the tiny girl was afraid of, because she seemed to be charmed, special.
“Well we ain’t ready for yo’ mighty strength yet Casey, we gotta put the rail down in the day when it’s dry, see? And then we crank ‘er up tonight and carry on while you asleep. Meantime, you better git on board and outta the sun.” He spat a stray piece of tobacco over the back of the train. “Go on, Casey, git.”
“Alright Uncle Joe.”
They watched her pat in the wet towards the back of the train. Joe looked over at the shorter man, who was looking at the horizon, desert for miles and then mountain.
“Reckon’ this’ll last us a few hundred miles, then we gotta be miners again.” He lit up another cigarette. “If we get lucky.”
“Yep.” Said his companion, rising. “Let’s git that rail laid.”
Whistling up the crew, everybody, and unshackling the single forklift took an hour, and by the time these things were done, the morning fog was in full swing. The crew moved to lay the recovered rail in front of the locomotive, ripping the broken track away and discarding it while laying down the new. Vapour streamed from everybody contributing to the fog as the teams ran their straightening device over the newly placed rails before securing them by hammering the stays into the ground.
Midday came, and the work continued in the brutal heat, no-one now exposing any part of their delicate skin to the relentless hammer of the sun’s rays and drinking frequently from flasks they carried, several each.
By the time sundown approached, the last of the rail was used, and the little forklift was bemoaning its need for oil by rattling unhealthily. It was put away while the majority took sandbaths and tried to prepare for the evening meal. Joe and his fireman started the fire in the engine, and ate of the frugal meal when it was presented. The man bringing the food looked at them.
“We got good rail at the end o’ what we laid. Scouted on a bit, reckon it might have been above the basin, could go on fifty miles.”
“You think?” Said Joe.
“Yep. We can pull it up after too.”
“Another fifty miles nearer the ocean.” Said Joe’s fireman.
“Gotta problem though.”
“What’s the problem Joe?” Asked the food bringer.
“We’re facing up hill.”
“Then we’ll push.”
“Tell you whut. Y’all gonna push, you better git Casey in on it.” The man looked up at Joe.
“You humouring her ain’tcha?” Joe took off his hat, and looked up the rail-line, laid at the cost of so much sweat. He shuffled it about in his hands, until he’d turned it right about, and jammed it back on his head.
“No, sir, I don’t think I am.”
“What makes you think she can do anything?” Joe, looked over at his fireman.
“Bill, how deep you think this morning’s storm was when it gave out?”
“’bout six inches or so.”
“You see that little girl’s tiny legs sinkin’ down in six inches o’ water.”
“Can’t say as I did, Joe, now you mention it.”
“So whut was it she was walkin’ on then?” Said Joe.
“I’d say it was prayers and a good push, Joe, prayers and a good push.”
Published December 2017