Flush (novel)

Flush (novel)

"Flush" is a young adult novel by Carl Hiaasen first published in 2005, and set in Hiaasen's native Florida. It is his second young adult novel, after "Hoot". The plot is similar to Hoot but it doesn't have the same cast.


The story is told from the perspective of Noah Underwood, a boy in his early teens, born and raised in the Florida Keys. Noah's father, Paine, a passionate environmentalist, has been arrested for sinking the "Coral Queen", a casino boat operated by “Dusty” Muleman. Paine is openly proud of what he’s done, and seems unworried by the legal consequences. His wife Donna, however, is furious. Paine has been arrested twice before and she’s getting fed up with it.

Paine believes Dusty Muleman has been dumping sewage from the boat’s holding tank into the ocean at night. However, Noah and his younger sister Abbey visit the marina, and see that the "Coral Queen" will be re-floated and back in action by the end of the week. Paine's act of protest has come to nothing.

Paine’s backup plan is to get a witness statement from "Lice" Peeking, a former mate on the Coral Queen. Lice wants money for his help, but his girlfriend Shelly (Dusty's ex-fiancée) offers to help Noah.

Meanwhile, Paine is making the most of his arrest and giving interviews to the newspapers and television stations. Noah and his younger sister Abbey both become worried when they hear their mother start talking about filing for divorce.

On their own, Noah and Abbey sneak down to the marina and discover signs that Paine is right: the sewer tank mounted next to the "Coral Queen" into which Dusty is supposed to be pumping his sewage is a rusty fake.

Shelly informs Noah that Lice has disappeared, and she is afraid that Dusty had him murdered. She then surprises Noah by telling him she's taken back her old job as a bartender on the boat, to help Noah and Paine nail Dusty.

Things come to a head when Paine escapes from jail after Dusty files for a gag order, preventing Paine from saying anything bad about Dusty in public. Donna insists that Paine accept Dusty's offer to drop the charges if Paine keeps his mouth shut and pays Dusty back for the damage. Paine still doesn’t seem to understand how mad his wife is, until Noah tells him about "the d-word."

To try and help her father, Abbey sneaks down to the marina with the family's video camera, and films the crew dumping into the water from a tuna tower. The video, however, is too unclear to be useful. Paine, shaken that his daughter has risked her safety to prove him right, vows to forget about Dusty and get their lives back to normal.

But the next day, Noah and Abbey meet Shelly on the beach, and all three of them see the beach closed because of floating sewage. Shelly confides that one of Dusty's regular gambling customers is an employee at the Coast Guard station, who tips him off about surprise inspections.

After seeing the pollution for themselves, Noah and Abbey are both too mad to give up on nailing Dusty. Realizing the problem is that no one has ever been able to trace the sewage spills directly to the Coral Queen, Noah comes up with a plan, and they both agree to keep their parents out of it. Shelly promises to help.

On their way home from a meeting with Shelly, Noah and Abbey are ambushed by Dusty's son, Jasper Muleman, Jr. and his buddy, "Bull." Jasper Jr. is about to choke Noah dead, when a strange, tough old man with the look of a pirate appears and orders the bullies to let them go.

Noah’s plan, christened “Operation Royal Flush,” is to have Shelly flush food coloring down the "Coral Queen"’s toilets, dyeing the sewage and marking a trail in the water when it gets dumped. But Shelly points out that there is too much dye for one person to squeeze out in a short time, and Noah decides to sneak onboard with half the dye and flush it from a different toilet.

The plan goes off nearly perfectly, with Abbey manning a getaway boat. But just as they are escaping the marina, their engine stalls, and they are found by Dusty's security guards. One of them points a gun at the kids, but they are saved again by the appearance of the strange old pirate.

Noah and Abbey’s elation fades when the engine breaks down completely, and the current carries them away from shore. They are forced to spend the night at sea, getting more scared as time passes. In the morning, they are still stuck in the middle of the ocean without food, water, or shade. Abbey also realizes that their plan has fizzled, since they can’t call the Coast Guard about the pollution stain.

They are both ecstatic when Paine's boat appears, but stunned to see him accompanied not by Donna, but by the old pirate. Paine introduces him as their long-lost Grandpa Bobby.

Back at the house, Noah calls the Coast Guard, and then the newspaper. Grandpa Bobby tells his story: some people offered him a job smuggling emeralds from South America, but later double-crossed him, tried to kill him, and stole his beloved fishing boat. Ever since then, he’s been trying to track them down and get back his boat. It hurt to think that everyone thought he was dead, but it was necessary. First, he didn’t want the guys he was looking for to know he was still alive; second, he also knew that if his son found out, he would, true to form, drop everything and rush down to South America without another thought. Grandpa Bobby was in a bar in a small fishing village in Colombia when he saw Paine’s interview on the satellite TV. Hitching his way back to Florida, he tailed Noah and Abbey, suspecting what they were up to.

Noah then tells the story of Operation Royal Flush, though Grandpa Bobby adds that the "gun" was just a flare gun.

The Coast Guard shuts down the boat immediately. When Noah and Abbey go to thank Shelly, they find that Lice Peeking wasn’t killed or kidnapped, just scared into running away. He came back, says Shelly, because he missed her. The kids are equally surprised to hear her say she’s taking him back.

The "Coral Queen" is shut down, and Noah and Abbey lay low for the next couple of weeks, spending their days and nights with Grandpa Bobby, but soon he has to return to South America to resume the hunt for his boat.

About a month later, Noah comes home and finds his father has broken his hands, punching holes in the doors of the house. Paine tells Noah the bad news: Dusty settled his pollution case for a measly fine, and is re-opening the "Coral Queen" that night with a big party. Shelly told Paine that Dusty had incriminating photos of some lawyers from the U.S. Attorney’s office who had attended a bachelor party on the "Coral Queen".

That night, the "Coral Queen" is burned down, and Paine is immediately suspected of arson. But the investigation reveals that Jasper Jr. and Bull burned the boat down by accident. Even worse for Dusty, investigators find evidence in the wreckage that Dusty has been skimming from the gambling boat's profits. Furious, Dusty’s partners sue him for embezzlement while he is also audited by the IRS.

Paine gets back his captain’s license, and the whole family goes out for a celebratory fishing cruise. While watching the sunset from the water, they are amazed to see the legendary green flash, which Noah and Abbey have heard about, but never seen before.

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