Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Growing Up as the World Ends

July 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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Whether you’re a voracious reader or someone who only has time to squeeze an occasional book into a busy schedule, I’d recommend that Flotilla by Dan Haight be on your reading list. It is an exciting young adventure story that kept me engaged right from the start.

Actually, the book’s beginning left me no choice but to dive in. Who doesn’t want to see what happens in a story that commences, “I don’t know how much longer I have to live”?

The novel revolves around Jim Westlake, speaking to readers from the future as he recounts the ordeal he and his sister may or may not survive. He tells the tale as a teenager who found himself looking at a summer of swabbing the deck on an old yacht at a fishing colony. His mother sent him to live with his father at “the Colony” after Jim was involved in a series of life- and liberty-threatening events. These included three arrests for underage drinking, violating his probation, ending up in the hospital after alcohol poisoning, unwillingly undergoing a 21-day session at a drug and alcohol treatment center, and battling depression.

His mother thought that staying at the Colony would be better than doing time in a youth prison and being with his dad would help him turn the corner. However, when he arrives, Jim finds out that not everything is as it seems — not even his father. His time at the Colony includes odd adventures, crazy people, pirates, schemes, drugs, guns, pranks, and a whole lot of fish.

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As things fall apart around him, this kid who recklessly drank and smoked to excess must act like a capable adult to protect his own life as well as that of his younger sister, Madison.

Haight is a very good action and adventure writer. Along with the gripping drama, Haight draws on humor and suspense as well. He does an especially wonderful job of painting a picture of the Colony, and his creative and descriptive writing makes the reader believe they are experiencing everything along with Jim, including the intensity of the storm raging as the siblings escape on the yacht.

Flotilla is part of a series; the author advises that it’s his goal to get his books “into the hands of every kid in America.” I definitely recommend handing this book to anyone who is looking for a good read.

By Sam Mines


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Read an excerpt from Flotilla

One time when I was 4, I got lost in the sporting goods section at the Wal-Mart in Torrence. They almost called a “Code Adam” over it but Mom showed up as soon as they paged her. I can still remember it—Lost boy wearing brown shorts and white t-shirt. I was crying that day because I lost my Mom and she wasn’t where I thought she was and I was out of ideas on how to find her. I cried in the rain while standing on the deck on the Horner because I was lost again and I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do.

Over the sound of my voice and the storm, I could hear engines. Time to get out of here, buddy.

I stormed through the cabin quickly, soaking wet and crying. Madison must have thought I looked like a crazy person but I didn’t bother explaining. I tore out the back door to grab Dad’s ‘Emergency Axe’ and cut us loose from the ropes that still held us to the dock. At the center of the Colony, the Phoenix kept its engines running to maintain a slow, clockwise motion and keep our fish moving through fresh water. It moved the docks and all of the ships along with it. If the Phoenix sank, it could take the docks and every boat attached to them, down with her. If you needed to cut your boat loose in a hurry, the theory was, you had an axe to do it. Every boat was supposed to keep an ‘Emergency Axe’ on hand. Nobody had stolen ours, thankfully, and I yanked it loose to start cutting.

Have you ever tried to cut a taut rope? It isn’t easy … much less one that was moving and wet and holding a large boat in place. I took a big swing, missed the rope entirely and fell to the deck in a large puddle. I got up and tried it again, slower this time, but the rope simply bounced the axe head back the way that it had come.

We’re getting nowhere fast. I tried it again, this time aiming for the rope near the cleat on the dock. My first swing cut the rope, shredding half of it and my second swing cut it entirely. Whooping like an Indian on a war party, I made for the other three lines. As I cut the second, the normally stable ship, cozy inside her taut lines, started to bounce and drag against the dock. I couldn’t hit the ropes any more, they were moving too much. I settled for chopping the cleat out of the dock on the last two lines and then we were ready to go.

The Horner was loose of the Colony. She groaned and slammed against the docks. There were never any fenders out … Dad didn’t see the point with the lines in place. She scraped and thumped, taking all kinds of paint off of the hull in the process. I could hear Madison screaming inside and I realized that she thought I might have been hurt or killed. With a flash of shame, I realized I should have been working to keep her calm instead of going to pieces.

“Stop it you big baby!” I yelled at myself. “You have a sister to take care of … nut up and get to it!”

The Horner was careening in the storm, first slamming into the docks and then away from them. I realized in horror that she was loose and I was still on the dock. The gap of water between us was getting bigger. I threw the axe aside and leaped for the after deck … not quite making it. I caught the metal rails in my hands but my sneakers slipped right off the decking. My feet dropped into the water and my face slammed into the metal. The pain was so bad I actually saw stars, but by some miracle my hands stayed locked to the handrails. I was groaning and trying to pull myself up out of the water when the Horner lunged for the dock again.

I still don’t know how I managed it, I could barely see. The pain, the fear and the cold … all of that stuff suddenly disappeared. I yanked myself out of the water like a gymnast and away from the deck as the boat impacted. Man, that was close! That would have cut me right in half. The dock was splintering under the repeated crunches. No telling what this was doing to the Horner but I didn’t want to hang around to check.

I got up from the deck and slammed through the back door into the salon. Madison screamed “Jim” as I entered the salon and then screamed again. I looked down at my t-shirt and saw the reason why: I was covered with blood. That little face plant popped my nose loose and now it was bleeding like a waterfall. That’s the first time in my life it’s taken so long to realize I had been hurt. My front teeth felt a little loose too, but there wasn’t anything that I could do about it.

I got into the Captain’s chair and prayed that the engines would fire when I started them. I turned the key and pressed the starter. We could hear the engine cranking over the storm, the sound of boat engines and the alarm. Would they start? A few agonizing seconds went by.

“Why aren’t they starting?” Madison asked, beginning to panic.

“I don’t know … they’re gonna start, though. Just a few more seconds,” I replied. Normally, I would tell her to just shut up or something. I realized with a sudden wave of sadness that if things didn’t start going our way this might actually be the last time we would see each other. I wanted Madison to know that I loved her. Even if all we had left were a few minutes.

is a graduate of Buffalo State College and a sports blogger for www.thescooppress.com and http://doublegsports.com. He’s actively seeking a career in sports media and welcomes any opportunity. He also aspires to acquire a huge boat.

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