The Rust-Larks at Glasson
The boat was sinking. It’d been sinking for seven years, two months and eleven days- ever since that November storm when some old doddering seaman had beached it on the thick Lune mud. He’d promised himself, he’d be back in the spring.
Nav’s bare feet splashed through the murky mixture of river water, engine oil and grime which had flooded the doomed boat’s deck. She snatched a spanner from a set on her belt and applied it to a rust-locked bolt with the deft strength of a lock-pick. Creaking resentfully, the hatch gave in and she slipped through a gap too narrow for anyone who lived off more than stolen bread and sea air. In the darkness within, her fingers read the workings of a long-dead engine, tracing warped plastic and snapped pipework until they clasped around some unremarkable muddy sprocket. In a flurry of twisting bolts, it was loose and carefully placed in a trouser pocket.
“He’s over there.” A grubby boy was polishing mugs with a stained rag. He nodded at the far corner of the listing catamaran. If the boat had been afloat, the tilt would have capsized it immediately. As it was, the muddy bank of the river Lune clung to the battered hull of the catamaran and stopped her moving anywhere at all.
Nav didn’t even glance at the boy. She just tossed the salvaged sprocket at the figure in the corner and waited.
“They said you was the best Rust-Lark on the river.” The figure held the sprocket up to the light. “But I ain’t even had time to finish me drink.” He whistled appreciatively and winked at her.
Nav ignored his patter and held out an empty hand.
“Hold your horses missy.” He took a swig from a chipped glass. “Come cuddle up here by me and we’ll see what we can do you for.”
She stayed put and glared harder. These scrap-junkies were all the same. Eventually, they got bored of chatter and gave you what they’d promised.
A small ring of polished metal appeared in his hand and danced across his knuckles. “I’d have give you this old gasket for nothin, if you’d just asked nicely…”
Nav’s look of disgust killed off any further attempts at charm from the scrap-junkie. Her patience was finally rewarded as he tossed the brass gasket at her and returned sullenly to his drink.
Nav pocketed the gasket and escaped into the chill evening air. She surveyed the rotting hulks and half-buried trawlers as the sky turned rust red over the scrap-docks at Glasson. Technically, anything beached on this bank of the river was owned by one scrap-junkie or another. But Nav was a Rust-Lark and scavengers like her ruled the mud.