“THE BOAT IS SINKING. YOU HAVE TO MOVE.”
When Luke’s sailing trip goes horribly wrong, he must face the vast and brutal sea in this story of one boy’s survival and coming-of-age. On the evening before Luke’s family’s annual summer sailing trip off Cape Cod, Luke’s mother leaves. Luke is left with his angry, confused father on a small boat for a week and the trip goes horribly wrong when a summer storm sweeps Luke’s father overboard. Not knowing whether his father is dead or alive, Luke must figure out how to survive on a wrecked sailboat far out to sea. Fans of Gary Paulsen and Will Hobbs will be captivated by Craig Moodie’s depiction of the North Atlantic in this coming-of-age adventure.
|Publisher:||Roaring Brook Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.23(w) x 8.06(h) x 0.82(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
CRAIG MOODIE is the author of THE SEA SINGER as well as several works of adult fiction. He lives in Franklin, Massachusetts.
Read an Excerpt
By Craig Moodie
Roaring Brook PressCopyright © 2008 Craig Moodie
All rights reserved.
I should have known something weird was going on. Mom's big old leather suitcase with the broken strap was sitting in the hallway when I went into my room to finish packing. Sure, we were going on a sailing trip, and she was probably getting ready, but she would never bring along a bag as big that. There wasn't space on our little boat, and Dad wouldn't have stood for it.
I put my headphones on and jammed a few pairs of boxer shorts into my duffel bag, the last of the stuff I'd need. The CD I was listening to was my sister Beth's — a country folk band called Port Fortune she'd heard at college. I was trying to get my fill of it because I wasn't bringing any music along. Last trip we took, a leak had found its way into Beth's stuff and the saltwater made toast of her CDs and CD player. "Maybe Dad's right," she had said. "Who needs to take extra junk along when you sail?" But I could tell she was steamed.
My favorite song on the Port Fortune album was a solo sung by a guy with a voice like broken gears accompanying himself on 12-string guitar. It was fast and driving and it made me want to get up and go. It was called "Thief" and it went: I heard you left / Gone to a foreign sea / If love is theft / You stole everything from me.
I was listening to it for about the hundredth time when I saw our yellow Lab Mel — who was curled up on my comforter on the floor where I'd thrown it so he'd stop climbing onto my bed — lift his head and cock his ears. He must have heard something, and I thought I heard a sound, so I took my headphones off.
It was my mom, outside my door.
"Could you come downstairs for a minute? I need to talk to you. And bring my suitcase down, please."
I sat up. Her voice didn't sound right. It had an edge to it. Something strange was happening. And I was already feeling strange enough as it was.
I really didn't want to go sailing with Mom and Dad, but it was something we'd been doing for years — taking a two-week cruise every summer in our cramped cat-boat. Every summer, that is, except for last summer, when Dad was down freelancing in New York City most of the time. It had been fun when I was a kid. But at sixteen? I had better things to do, like fishing with Chet. And this time, Beth had managed to escape to Italy. At least when she was along we had some laughs.
Mel barged ahead of me as I hefted the bag down the stairs. He ran out the front door. I followed him onto the porch.
Out in the driveway, I saw the back of our old Defender packed with Mom's art gear. Mom crouched down when Mel ran up to her, and she held his face in her hands. His tail windmilled and he licked her face. Mom was wearing old khakis, a blue jean shirt, and tattered silk scarf — the stuff she always wore to paint in.
Dad was standing beside the truck, his hands plunged into the pockets of his madras shorts, the ones that made me cringe. He was looking at Mom as if he were trying to remember her name.
Mom stood up. "Put that in the back for me, please, Luke," she said, her voice tight, as if she couldn't move her jaw.
She came over to the truck with me. Dad stepped aside.
"What's going on?" I said.
Mom didn't say anything at first. I shoved the suitcase in the back.
"I've ..." she said, looking down. "I've got to go away for a while."
She sighed and looked back at me. She seemed to soften. "But I need you to take care of things. I might be gone for some time."
She took me by the shoulders and looked up at me.
"Did you grow again?" she said, smiling. Her eyes were red-rimmed and watery. Her clothes smelled of oil paint.
"Going where?" I said. This felt like one of those dreams where everything seems real but nothing's quite right.
"To Maine," she said. "To stay with my sister. I just ... I'm sorry, Luke. If I'd known I was leaving I would have told you. This just came up. I'm sorry it's so sudden, springing this on you."
I looked at Dad. Fog slithered through the bony trunks of the locust trees. He was staring straight ahead, as if he saw something through the trees. I saw his jaw muscle working.
"Dad?" I said. "What's going on?" He looked at me. He opened his mouth. No words came out.
"I don't get it," I said, looking back at Mom. "Why are you leaving?"
She let out a long breath.
"I just ... I can't say. I mean I can't tell you. Not right now. But I have to go away."
"Not right now? When?" I said. "When are you coming back? What about sailing?"
She reached her hand out and touched my chin with the tips of her paint-spattered fingers.
"I'm not sure, Luke. But I'll write. Or call. I'll let you know. I'll reach you somehow."
She gave me a quick, crushing hug, walked around the truck, climbed in, slammed the door, and started the engine. Mel whined and ran toward her.
"Come here, boy," I called, and he trotted back to me, his ears laid back and his head down.
She drove off, the tires crackling over the crushed shells of the driveway. She didn't even brake when she turned onto the road. Dad and I stood there. Mel leaned against my leg. I heard the truck shift gears. Then I couldn't hear it anymore.
Dad went back into the house without a word. Mel followed him. I stood in the driveway, thinking, Is this some kind of joke? What the hell are they doing to me? Don't they know it's almost the end of summer vacation? Are they going to ruin it now?
I drifted back into the house, so confused my mouth must have been working like a fish's.
Dad was sitting in his chair in the living room. Mel pushed his face into his lap and Dad began scratching his fur.
"Dad," I said, standing in the doorway. "What did she mean? What's going on?"
"Come here a sec," he said.
I went in and stood by the window. Outside, the fog was erasing the trees.
"It means she's flown the coop," he said. He had a choked sound to his voice even though he was trying to joke. "She's going to your Aunt Lucy's place, at least for a while. I guess I didn't think she'd do it."
"Didn't think she'd do what?"
"Leave," he said. "Leave us."
"Why?" I managed to say. "Why's she leaving?"
He closed his eyes and shook his head.
"Sick of it all, I guess," he said. When he opened his eyes, I could see they were shiny. "Sick of me. Sick of all this." He flicked his hand to indicate the house.
Sick of me? I thought. Why would she be sick of me?
"Did you know she was going to leave?" I said. "Why didn't anyone tell me? When's she coming back?"
"She told me just now. Minutes before you. She said she needed to get away. For a long time. Said she needs to think things over."
He sighed. "Now that it's happened, it's ... it's harder ..."
It sprang out of me before I could stop it.
"What did you do?" I said. "Did you do something to her?"
He slid his eyes away from mine and stopped scratching Mel. Mel pulled his head away and ducked out the door.
"Listen, Luke," he said, looking back at me. "She's been in her studio and hardly said a word to me for a couple of weeks. I've said nothing to her, done nothing but let her go about her business, tried not to get in her way if that's what she wants."
"But she's always in her studio."
He closed his eyes again.
"Painting there. Now she's been sleeping there, too."
I hadn't noticed. To me, Mom was painting all the time. I knew she had a cot in her studio, but I never thought about where she slept.
"I wish ..." he said, almost whispering. "I wish I had it to do all over again. I wish I hadn't ..." He ran his hand over his mouth and squeezed his cheeks as if to make the words come out.
I didn't get it.
"Why's she going there?" I said. "To Maine?" He was looking out the window.
"I don't know," he said. "But I bet the Wicked Witch of Downeast put her up to it."
Whenever he mentioned Aunt Lucy, which wasn't often, that's what he called her. It was a lousy pun, if you asked me. I'd met her only once, when I was eight or nine, when we took a trip to Little Spruce Harbor, the island where she lived. I remembered her booming laugh, frizzy black hair, tie-dyed skirt, knee-high black rubber fishing boots, and not much else.
Above our fireplace hung one of the quilts she'd made. It was wild — all abstract shapes colored blue, rust, sand, and green like the seacoast. It had been hanging on that wall for as long as I could remember.
On the mantel below it stood a few framed watercolors: Dad's boat, Mom's terns, Beth's clouds, and my Mel. We always had sketchbooks, and we were always pulling them out of some pocket or backpack or satchel or handbag and sketching or painting in them. That was the way we were. Every time something grabbed me, I wanted to draw it. It made it a part of me.
Another one of the watercolors on the mantel was Mom's. It showed Dad and me goofing around on the foredeck of our boat, Piper. She did it last October when we were hauling the boat out for the winter. I was already as tall as him and I had him in a headlock. He was bent over, laughing hard, his sandy hair mussed up and his eyes squeezed shut, and I was staring straight at Mom, pretending to be fierce. You could barely see my face for my floppy black mop of hair.
I looked back at Dad. He wasn't looking at me. He closed his eyes again. He let out a long breath, opened his eyes slowly, and stared in silence at the gray windows.
"What are we going to do?" I said at last.
His eyes met mine.
"This looks like pretty much it," he said, giving me a brief smile before he looked away at the window again.
Maybe we wouldn't go sailing after all. I could go fishing with Chet again. Maybe I'd even call Ginnie.
"But we'll think of something," he said. "Maybe she just needs some time away. People change, right?"
"I guess," I said, feeling like I was choking.
"Look, you still want to go out to dinner? I mean, just because she changed her plans doesn't mean we have to, does it? The last thing I want to do is cook."
"I'm not that hungry," I said.
"Neither am I," he said. "But I wouldn't mind getting the hell out of here for a while. I can't sit here mooning around all night, thinking about your mother. You ready?"
"I guess so," I said. Which I wasn't. I really wanted to go back up to my room and listen to "Thief" over and over and forget about what was going on — that Mom had been stolen away, if only by herself.
We took the jeep to The Landing, a place that overlooked a harbor if you could have seen it for the fog. The harbor lights glowed as if they were underwater. The restaurant was packed with tourists and we had to take a table in the bar.
Thinking of Mom on Little Spruce Island left me dazed. It didn't make sense to me.
"So, here we are," Dad said over the noise of the restaurant.
The waitress brought him a gin and tonic and he took a quick sip. He smacked his lips and set the sweaty glass down on the napkin.
"I don't get it, Dad," I said. "People don't just do that. Why would she do it?"
"Do what?" he said.
He shook his head.
"You're going to have to find out from her."
"But why don't you do something?"
"Like what?" he said. "Shackle her and throw her in the brig? She does what she wants. You know that, don't you? If the spirit moves her, she goes."
He took another sip of his drink and set his glass down.
"I've made a decision," he said.
I looked at him. He was looking directly at me.
"We're going sailing anyway, just as we planned," he said. "Why shouldn't we? We'll be two castaways, sailing off to adventure, like two Sindbads. What do you think?"
I squinted at him, then looked away. I didn't know what to say. The truth was that I didn't want to go. Not now. All I could do was shrug and pick up a fried clam off my plate.
"Don't shrug," he said, his grin fading.
I wanted to shrug again, but I decided against it.
"I don't know," I said.
"You don't know what?"
"I don't know what I think about it. It's okay, I guess. But it won't be the same. Without Mom, I mean. And Beth."
"I know, I know," he said, brushing his hair out of his face. "It's okay, you guess, but you'd rather be home with your pals, right, instead of stuck out on the water with your old man? It's okay, you guess, but it won't be the same without your Mom along, right? Without Beth, who's off spending all my money in Europe?"
I didn't want him getting mad. What I wanted was to break free. That was all I wanted. Freedom. The Big Freedom to do what I wanted. When we were younger, Chet and I had talked about taking off to Wyoming to work on a ranch. "It'd be great," Chet said. "We could hitchhike out there and do whatever we wanted." I pictured Wyoming with the Grand Tetons raking sawtoothed into the blue sky and I got a kind of tickle in my stomach that made me crave to go. We would leave Harwich Port and never look back.
I craved the Big Freedom more than ever. I just didn't know where to find it.
Maybe that was what happened to Mom. Maybe she'd been fighting the urge to go for a long time. Maybe it built up until she couldn't stand it and instead of chopping Dad into chunks and throwing them in Skinequit Pond or burning the house down, she loaded up her painting stuff and bolted. But would she ever look back?
"I don't really care," I said, lying to him just so he wouldn't get angrier. "I'll go if you want to go."
He took a sip of his drink, looking at me over the rim of his glass. His eyes brightened.
"Okay, then," he said, licking his lips. "I know you don't mean it, but we might as well. The boat's ready to go. We're all packed. So it's settled. We'll shove off tomorrow, just as we planned."
But Mom had changed the plans. And now nothing felt right.
We said nothing on our ride home. The house stood like a black hulk when we crackled up the driveway and put the jeep in the garage. We'd forgotten to leave a light on. Even when Mom was immersed in a painting, rushing to get canvases ready for a show, or just shuffling around, looking out the windows, working out an idea, if I came home after dark, I'd always glance up to see her studio lights burning.
"Mel?" I said when I walked in the hallway and flipped on the light. "Where are you, boy?"
Usually he was right there to greet you. I called him again and went to the foot of the stairs. I heard the scuffle of toenails and paws and then he rattled down. Dad came around the corner just as Mel bounded down the last three steps and shouldered into his legs, driving him against the door frame, before veering into the living room.
"Settle down!" shouted Dad as Mel galloped through the living room, holding himself low to the ground. He swung his hindquarters around and came to a halt in the middle of the room, his rump raised and his paws extended before him. His ears were twisted and he was panting.
"He must have been hiding in Mom's studio," I said as Dad took a step toward him. "He's all wound up."
"I told you to SETTLE DOWN," yelled Dad again as he advanced toward Mel. Mel sprang off across the rug and rocketed past Dad and me, tore down the hall, banged into something, and came charging back in to brush past Dad.
Dad grabbed his right ear and tweaked it and yelled, "No, Mel! I told you to SETTLE DOWN. Bad dog!" Mel shrieked and rolled over on his side and flailed his legs.
"What the hell did you do that for?" I screamed. I found myself standing next to him. "You're sick, you know that? What the hell did you have to hurt him for?" "You, you," said Dad, rising up. His face flared red. Through clenched jaws he hissed, "You shut your mouth."
"You shut your mouth!" I screamed so loud my voice cracked. I realized that I was looking down at him. At that moment I thought I was going to hit him as hard as I could, hit him square on the nose so I could hear the cartilage crunch and make his selfish smile vanish. But instead I spun around and snatched the picture of the two of us off the mantel and pivoted and hurled it like a discus at the quilt. The frame and glass smashed, shards showered to the floor and a piece of the frame flew to the floor, almost hitting Mel. Mel flinched, jumped up, and scrambled out of the room. I wanted to grab the quilt and yank it down and rip it into tatters, but instead I turned, stomped out, and banged up the stairs to my room. I slammed the door and threw myself on my bed. I had no tears. My heart throbbed in my throat. I punched my headboard, a feeble punch, luckily, given that I was lying down, but the pain in my fist brought me around. I lay face down on my pillow as I gradually calmed down.
Excerpted from Seaborn by Craig Moodie. Copyright © 2008 Craig Moodie. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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