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Insurance Fraud

By Cedar Ayers

It is cold. The dockyard is a high-contrast photograph, the dark tones of pine trees and the white glint of metal exaggerated by the harshness of the winter sun.

The dockyard is dead. Abandoned. The great crane sits idle. Rust runs down it like rivulets of blood upon the deck of a fishing boat.

Like my boat, listing upon sawhorses in the weed-riven parking lot. But no liquid runs over the decking now. Not since the last autumn squall had driven her into the dock piling and stove the side in.

The yard foreman had looked at it and shrugged. “’Fraid there’s not much doin’ here till spring. Weather’s turned. Too cold to do much work. And the parts aren’t manufactured now. Too expensive.”

But fishing doesn’t care much for such practicalities, as I explained to the insurance man.

“We won’t pay out till we see a receipt for the work order.” he said.

He’d sounded like he was someplace warm and temperate. I could hear it in the breezy, affable tone of his voice. He wasn’t worried about how he’d feed his family next month.

But I was. Me and a paper bag of sardines. I’d had to buy them. I’d never bought fish in my life. But the little shallows and inlets where the minnows swarmed were iced over.

The mangy stray Tom cat that stalked the dockyard had already caught the scent. It was his lean season, too. He lived like a king in the summer, when the fishermen threw him their leavings. But this time of year, he had to hunt for himself.

He was licking his lips at thought of an easy meal.

I moseyed over to the utilities shed, where all the paints and solvents were kept under careful lock and key. I reached up to the vent and tossed the bag of fish inside.

The cat, I knew would follow. And it wouldn’t be delicate about its business. Doubtless, shelves would be knocked. Cans would fall and break open. Their contents would run, down the slope of the dockyard to where the fuel shed sat.

It wouldn’t even take a spark. The fumes would be enough. Whole place might go up, including my boat, not fifteen feet away.

And who would suspect? Dockyard’s a dangerous place. And accidents happen.