On the Hard

Fred and I were gabbing in the wheelhouse, telling each other about our separate days, when we heard the screams. It was horrible!

Screams in the night usually are.

We looked at each other, looked out into the dark and looked at each other again, straining to hear that which we thought we'd just heard.


We looked at each other again, looked into the night and were ready to shrug, "one of those things", and it happened again.

Screams breaking through the dark.

"We have to do something!"

"What can we do?" Fred asked harshly.

"I don't know but… I have to do something! I'll just get close and see if I can figure out where it's coming from. If it's bad, then I'll phone the cops."

Out the door, Fred shouting at my back, down the dock, up the ramp, across the road, down into the ditch and a short hop over the rivulet it contained. Up the embankment on the other side, slipping on the muddy grass, I stopped at the break in the fence to listen again.


I looked back to our boat and spotted Fred peering anxiously through the binoculars, tracking my progress. I waved. Fred waved back.

I turned back to the break in the fence and peered into the darkness at a dinosaur graveyard on the hard.

Hulks and projects, masterpieces and disasters towered above me and beyond what I could see. It was a vast boatyard, a demonstration of industry and sloth, ingenuity and money sunk into the sea, hopes soured and dreams realized. During the day a walk through the yard always brought a friendly smile or good advice but alone, in the dark, in the silence waiting for screams, it produced a latent "giant monsters waiting to pounce" fear in me, not felt since I was a child.

A cry! A woman's scream, and then a lower voice, a man mocking.

Crouched in the dark, afraid to be seen, I looked back again at Fred still watching through the binoculars, gave another quick wave and slipped through the fence. Cringing low under the bellies of beasts far greater than me, tripping on a discarded two by four (or maybe a big bone?), inching 'round wheelhouses without hulls and sailboats without masts, I crept my way in the direction of the pandemonium in the dark.

"Oh No", I whispered quietly to myself as the voices became louder and I realized there were children involved too. "Oh no, oh no, oh no."

Small community, I knew there was a family living on their boat, on the hard, doing repairs. They'd been up for a couple weeks and I sympathized with the hardship they were going through (no running water, no head, climbing into the boat via a long ladder, young children) and hoped their repairs wouldn't keep them up much longer.

"Oh no oh on oh no", I chanted to myself, crossing my fingers in my mind, hoping against hope, crawling under the boat next to The Family and hunkering down.

A chorus of screams! Children - male - female - Adults!

Shouting at each other! Accusing!

Cajoling and pleading.


They were playing Monopoly.

Dad had just taken Boardwalk!

Fred laughed when I got home.