William Taylor threw up his hands, frustrated that he seemed to be losing the argument. "But I've got a family to feed! What'll we do?"

Mr. Larson shook his head. "And I'm right sorry for that, Bill, mighty sorry," He tapped the ash off the end of his cigar. "But business is business, you know. We can't afford to keep you on like this when all the other railroads are switchin' to the cheaper alternative. We gotta keep up!"

Taylor glared daggers at the business man and climbed out of the cab of the train, swearing and wiping the ever-present soot from his face. Being a stoker wasn't exactly cushy, but it was a steady job and it had been his for almost four years now. He spat angrily. It wasn't fair.

On the other hand…

He wouldn't have to bear the excruciating heat every day, the overwhelming noise that almost made him think he was laboring in the depths of Hell. He wouldn't have to strain his arms and back constantly throwing coal into an eternally hungry furnace just to keep the schedule. He wouldn't have to wear bandanas over his mouth and nose, trying not to breathe too hard, lest he choke on the black dust that hung forever in the air.

He straightened his sore back and quickened his pace. It might take a while, but he'd find a job somewhere else...whatever it was, it had to be better than the one he was leaving behind.

Back in the engine, Larson placed a small turtle inside the furnace and pushed a pile of coal in front of it, careful not to get his suit dirty. Then he straightened up and chuckled, taking a hearty puff of his cigar as he watched the turtle maneuver a chunk of coal onto its shell.

"Yessir," He said to himself. "Gotta keep up."

The torkoal released a small cloud of steam.