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THE STORMS CAME more often this summer. They were intensified by ocean currents that blew violent tropical weather in from the south, and whenever they arrived Jonathan Cox was forced to stay inside and entertain himself with magazines and novels, or the math workbooks that his uncle forced him to complete.
Jonathan stared at the math workbook on the desk in front of him and frowned. Then he pushed it aside and gazed out the small oval window at the swirling surf and black clouds. In a way, he thought to himself, the storm outside was like his life the past half year -- angry, a little out of control, and very unpredictable.
It had been exactly five months since his parents had left him. They had been on a plane that disappeared over some small islands in the Atlantic Ocean -- the same mad, swirling ocean outside his window -- leaving behind only a garbled radio message and some important Xeroxed papers in a safe that his mother's brother, Uncle Pinchbeck (formerly Osbourne, which he decided was too common a last name, and whom Jonathan was not allowed to call by his first name, Frank, anyway), had been extremely anxious about.
Jonathan did not accept it at first; had insisted that they would be back. They were probably stranded on one of the islands, or floating in a life raft somewhere waiting to be rescued. Jonathan had too many plans about becoming a young adult and exploring the world to lose the primary anchors in his life. Five months with his secretive, eccentric uncle, however, changed his mind. His parents were never coming back, and the reality of this finally took its full effect on him.
The lightning outside seemed to bestriking the ocean itself. What was it actually hitting? he wondered. The lightning reminded him of the plane crash. What had hit the plane? The FAA people said it was probably a mechanical failure, but they never found any wreckage. It was as if the earth had swallowed the plane up. Or, perhaps lightning had struck it. It didn't matter, anyway, since his uncle never permitted anyone to talk about it.
Uncle Pinchbeck was a decent sort, Jonathan tried to admit, but he was almost fifty and had never been married or had any children himself, and his personality centered mainly around the preservation and growth of his enormous wealth. He always told Jonathan that the plane crash was ancient history, and that it was unhealthy to linger on it. His parents were gone, so he should get on with the business of life.
But aren't thirteen-year-olds supposed to miss their parents? Aren't they supposed to be concerned about the unknown future? Of course they are! he told himself.
The storm outside seemed to grumble in agreement.
"COME ON, JONNIE, eat up."
Uncle Pinchbeck was eating an elaborate salad that the cook had created with hearts of romaine and alfalfa sprouts, but he always had "kid" food prepared for Jonathan.
Jonathan toyed with the peas and carrots on his plate and studied his uncle. He was not a handsome man, although he did bear a striking resemblance to Jonathan's mother in his piercing greenish eyes and blond hair. He groomed himself meticulously which seemed to water down his personality. Even then, he certainly didn't look like a millionaire, or a person that teenagers would be thrilled to hang out with.
"If you don't eat your food, you won't grow up strong like me!" Uncle Pinchbeck liked to laugh at his own jokes.
Jonathan cringed. Why wouldn't his uncle admit that his nephew was thirteen, practically a young adult? Peas were not as important as independence.
"After the storm, I'm going out to the island to check on the buildings. I assumed you would be going with me."
"Yes, Uncle Frank."
A deep scowl passed over his face. "Pinchbeck. Remember?"
"We'll maybe do a little fishing, if you want."
Jonathan rolled his eyes. "The fishing's not very good after a storm, Uncle."
"Oh, really? Hmm... I guess that's so. Well, anyway, we'll leave after dinner if it's clear enough."
"What were those papers in the safe about?" Jonathan asked suddenly.
Uncle Pinchbeck paused in mid-bite. This was not an approved topic. For some reason, he remained very sensitive about the mysterious papers. "Hmm? The, um, papers were to do with your parent's plans for you... That kind of thing. I'm taking complete care of it. Trust me, their wishes will be done; are being done."
"I'll bet they're copies of the--"
"Enough!" he said. "I told you to forget about the crash. The papers are not your business, and you need to quit asking about them."
"But my parents weren't on a vacation, like you say they were. They would have told me that."
"They were on a vacation, Jonathan."
"But what if they're still alive somewhere? Wouldn't they want us to keep looking for them? Maybe the papers said something about--"
With that, Uncle Pinchbeck got up and left the room, retreating to his den for a pipe smoke and the rest of the newspaper, with maybe a few phone calls or emails mixed in. He was in the real estate business - - world-wide, in fact -- and his money was growing so fast that he had no idea what he was really worth. Currently, his pet project was financing some shipbuilding company in Connecticut that made hulls for nuclear submarines. Uncle Pinchbeck was good at what he did, however, and Jonathan did have to concede that he was provided for.
His uncle was not a good parent, though. He restricted Jonathan from a normal social life by making him attend an elite private school near Savannah, confined him in the house on weekends, and coerced him into following his uncle around like an enthusiastic business apprentice. Uncle Frank -- Pinchbeck (formerly Osbourne) -- was nothing like his sister, Hillary. Jonathan's mother had thrown slumber parties, taken all his friends with him skating and to the movies, gone on picnics, encouraged him to play sports...
But those days were over.
These were the dog days of summer in Georgia, and they were dog days for Jonathan, too. He flipped several of his peas onto the silk table cloth.
Why wouldn't Uncle Pinchbeck talk about the papers his mother had found? And how would Jonathan ever have a normal life again? These were two of the questions that rattled around his head all of the time.
More importantly, though, he also couldn't shake the strong feeling that his parents were still alive, and that he had to do something about it. The clues were hidden in the papers.
Copyright © 1999 by Jack Trammell
Posted August 29, 2000
This book is a modern sequel to the original 'Treasure Island' by R.L. Stevenson. My 8th grade students helped write it, and it has been nominated for an EPPIE award. It was written for middle grades.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.