PROLOGUE TO A BOATYARD TO BURN FOR
The boatyard is usually still at midnight, so the muffled noise tonight has drawn Jacob’s interest. He seldom sleeps at this hour, nor does his mother – not since his father abandoned them when Jacob was diagnosed autistic. This night Sissy has fallen fast asleep and hasn’t heard him crawl from his bed and slip out the back door to see what is causing the noise.
Suddenly Sissy comes full awake. Was it a dream or is Jacob gone? Frantic, she races to his bed in the next room. Empty. Grabbing at a pullover she dashes out the door that opens onto the parking lot of the boatyard next door.
In the moonlight she sees Jacob. He is crossing the lot toward what looks like a commercial fishing boat that swings gently in the slings of the Travelift. The aroma of marine growth already decaying in the night air reaches her as she nears the boat. Men are passing what appear in the pale light like trash bags down three ladders laid against the side of the boat to others on the ground, who in turn pack them in three grey vans that are parked alongside. It is an assembly line of sorts. The men work in silence, as if actors in a mime, making only hand gestures to communicate. Periodically one of the bags drops to the ground. It is the thump that has attracted Jacob. Sissy asks herself again if she is really awake. What she is watching is more a dream sequence than wide-awake reality.
Sissy rushes to Jacob, folds him to her body. He is babbling softly and pointing to the action. Her son cannot form the words, but she can tell he is asking what they are doing. Sissy is asking herself the same question. Jacob wants to get closer. To humor him, but careful not to get so close as to be seen, she lifts his 49 pounds onto her hip and approaches. She is just in time to see a fourth ladder land against the stern of the boat, away from the others, and another man climb onto the deck.
A voice she recognizes from hearing it carry up from the yard to her kitchen windows during the day now interrupts the night.
“Well look who’s here. What are you doing, old man? It’s too late for you to be out.” The voice turns to a cackle.
“No, you mutt, what are you doing. I threw you out of here last week.”
“Yes, you did, and now I’m doin the throwing, you old buzzard.” With that the ladder on which the older man is standing falls backward and crashes to the ground twenty feet below.
“Jesus, Dan, what have you done? You’ll kill the old man,” says the man in the Greek Sailors hat.
Sissy turns and scuttles back to her house struggling to hold Jacob on her hip. She feels his tears against her cheek.
Three days later when the weekly Painter’s Cove Gazette arrives Sissy reads the half page obituary about a tragic accident at Emmett Boat Works that has taken the life of the fourth generation Emmett to operate the yard. She knows the real truth, but it is none of her business. Life as a single mom with an autistic son is as much as she can handle.