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flush

flush1 / fləsh/ • v. 1. [intr.] (of a person's skin or face) become red and hot, typically as the result of illness or strong emotion: Mr. Cunningham flushed angrily | [as adj.] (flushed) her flushed cheeks. ∎  [tr.] cause (a person's skin or face) to become red and hot: the chill air flushed the parson's cheeks. ∎  glow or cause to glow with warm color or light: [intr.] the ash in the center of the fire flushed up | [tr.] the sky was flushed with the gold of dawn. ∎  (be flushed with) fig. be excited or elated by: flushed with success, I was getting into my stride. 2. [tr.] cleanse (something, esp. a toilet) by causing large quantities of water to pass through it: flush the toilet the nurse flushed out the catheter. ∎  [intr.] (of a toilet) be cleansed in such a way: Cally heard the toilet flush. ∎  [tr.] remove or dispose of (an object or substance) in such a way: I flushed the pills down the toilet the kidneys require more water to flush out waste products. ∎  [tr.] cause (a liquid) to flow through something: 0.3 ml of saline is gently flushed through the tube. 3. [tr.] drive (a bird, esp. a game bird, or an animal) from its cover: the grouse were flushed from the woods. ∎ fig. cause to be revealed; force into the open: they're trying to flush Tilton out of hiding. 4. [intr.] (of a plant) send out fresh shoots: the plant had started to flush by late March. • n. 1. a reddening of the face or skin that is typically caused by illness or strong emotion: a flush of embarrassment rose to her cheeks. ∎  an area of warm color or light: the bird has a pinkish flush on the breast. 2. [in sing.] a sudden rush of intense emotion: I was carried away in a flush of enthusiasm. ∎  a sudden abundance or spate of something: the frogs feast on the great flush of insects. ∎ fig. a period when something is new or particularly fresh and vigorous: he is no longer in the first flush of youth. ∎  a fresh growth of leaves, flowers, or fruit. 3. an act of cleansing something, esp. a toilet, with a sudden flow of water: an old-fashioned toilet uses six or seven gallons per flush leave the hose running to give the system a good flush out. ∎  the device used for producing such a flow of water in a toilet: he pressed the flush absentmindedly. ∎  [as adj.] denoting a type of toilet that has such a device: a flush toilet. ∎  a sudden flow: the melting snow provides a flush of water. 4. the action of driving a game bird from its cover: the dogs retrieve the birds after the flush. DERIVATIVES: flush·er n. flush2 • adj. 1. completely level or even with another surface: the gates are flush with the adjoining fencing. ∎  (of printed text) not indented or protruding: each line is flush with the left-hand margin. ∎  (of a door) having a smooth surface, without indented or protruding panels or moldings. 2. inf. having plenty of something, esp. money: the banks are flush with funds. ∎  (of money) plentiful: the years when cash was flush. • adv. so as to be level or even: the screw must fit flush with the surface. ∎  so as to be directly centered; squarely: Jumbo reached up and hit Bruno flush on the jaw. • v. [tr.] fill in (a joint) level with a surface. DERIVATIVES: flush·ness n. flush3 • n. (in poker) a hand of cards all of the same suit. flush4 • n. Ecol. a piece of wet ground over which water flows without being confined to a definite channel.

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flush

flush.
1. Even with or in the same plane as something else, such as a panel with its surface on the same plane with its surrounding frame, or flush pointing on the same plane as the face of the brickwork.

2. Stones or bricks bedded closely in mortar with very small joints.

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Flush

Flush

a flock of startled birds; a hand of cards of the same suit; a sudden growth of emotion.

Examples: flush of cards of the same suit; of emotion; of malard [rising from the water]; of plumbersLipton, 1970; of Wing Commanders.

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flush

flush3
A. (of liquids) rush out suddenly or copiously XVI;

B. emit light or glow suddenly; produce or show heightened colour XVII. orig. identical with FLUSH1.

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flush

flush2 hand containing cards all of one suit. XVI. — F. †flus, flux — L. fluxus FLUX.

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flush

flush4 abundantly full, plentifully supplied XVII; even, level with XVIII. prob. f. prec.

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flush

flush1 fly up suddenly. XIII. first in pt. forms fliste, fluste; of imit. orig.

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flush

flushablush, blush, brush, crush, flush, gush, hush, hush-hush, lush, mush, plush, rush, shush, slush, thrush, tush •airbrush, hairbrush •sagebrush • paintbrush • onrush •song thrush • outrush • toothbrush •woodrush • bulrush • uprush

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Flush

Flush ★★ 1981

Unorthodox comedy involving funny noises. 90m/C VHS . William Calloway, William Bronder, Jeannie Linero; D: Andrew J. Kuehn.

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Flush

Flush

INTRODUCTION

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

PLOT SUMMARY

CHARACTERS

THEMES

STYLE

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

CRITICAL OVERVIEW

CRITICISM

SOURCES

FURTHER READING

INTRODUCTION

CARL HIAASEN

2005

Flush, published in 2005, is Carl Hiaasen's second novel aimed at a young adult audience and, like his first, Hoot, has an environmental theme. The winner of the 2006 Green Earth Award in the young adult category and the 2006 Agatha Award for best children/young adult fiction book, Flush follows the story of Noah Underwood and his family as he helps prove that a casino boat operator is illegally dumping sewage into the Florida Keys. Throughout the text, Hiaasen emphasizes the beauty and glory of nature, while underscoring the ability of people, including children, to make a difference in preserving it.

Hiaasen is a native of south Florida and an outspoken newspaper columnist for the Miami Herald. In his popular columns as well as his many novels, he speaks out against the development and transformation of the land in his beloved home state, often with a sense of humor and a touch of satire. Like his adult novels, Flush does not shy away from the darker side of the issues as well. He describes in detail how sewage is dumped into water and its effect on the nearby environment. Hiaasen also includes memorable characters, usually humorously named, like the lying bully Bull and the dirty Lice Peeking.

While Flush was not the popular smash hit that Hoot was when it was published several years earlier, the young adult novel was well liked by critics and readers. Hiaasen was lauded for his ability to weave environmental themes

relatively seamlessly into the text. Praising the book in the New York Times, Sam Swope wrote,

maybe he's just found a way to channel his anger and at the same time inspire some youngster to action, for he sneaks in an important message into this book that with any luck the censors won't notice: sometimes breaking the law is the right thing to do.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Carl Hiaasen was born in Plantation, Florida, on March 12, 1953, and raised in southern Florida with his three younger siblings. Throughout his childhood, he played near swamps, scrubland, and lagoons. His love of nature was tempered by seeing developers turn the environmentally sensitive land into houses, resorts, and malls. His father, Odel, was a lawyer who often represented such developers, while his mother, Patricia, was a teacher. Her influence led Hiaasen to grow up loving reading and the written word.

At the age of six, Hiaasen asked his parents for a typewriter, and the youngster soon was intent on a career in journalism. Early on, he focused on writing sports stories, but as he grew older, he wrote essays on why he was right in arguments with his parents. By the time he was in high school, he had his own satirical newspaper, More Trash. After marrying his high school sweetheart, Hiaasen studied at Emory College and the University of Florida, where he earned his journalism degree in 1974.

After two years as a reporter at Cocoa Today, Hiaasen landed a job with the Miami Herald. He was soon working as an investigative journalist. While he did well at the job, Hiaasen also wanted to explore longer, fictional pieces, a hunger that dated back to his young adult years. To that end, Hiaasen and another reporter, William Montalbano, wrote a novel together, the thriller Powder Burn (1981). The pair wrote three more thrillers together before Montalbano went on assignment to China.

Hiaasen soon moved on to a different job at the Miami Herald: columnist. Beginning in 1985, he took on tough issues like corruption, bureaucracy, and drugs. Hiaasen did not abandon fiction, however. In 1986, he published his first solo novel, the mystery Tourist Season. Hiaasen continued to regularly publish thrillers, mystery novels, and dramas primarily based on life in south Florida. One of these books was Strip Tease (1993), which was later made into a film starring Demi Moore.

After divorcing his first wife and moving to the Florida Keys in 1996, Hiaasen married Fenia Clizer. He continued to write columns for the Herald, though his output decreased to about one per week. Hiaasen focused much of his time on his fiction, including Skinny Dip (2004), an adult novel thtat looks at the poisoning of the swamps of south Florida.

In 2002, Hiaasen took on a new challenge as a fiction author and published his first young adult novel, Hoot. The popular Newbery Honor-winning book focuses on a group of teens who work to prevent a bulldozer from destroying land where baby burrowing owls live. While Hiaasen kept a humorous, satiric tone in his books for young adults, including Flush (2005), he toned down the drama found in his novels for adults. As of 2008, Hiaasen continues to live in the Florida Keys, writing his novels and columns while enjoying the nature that surrounds him.

PLOT SUMMARY

One

As Flush opens, young Noah Underwood is visiting his father, Paine, in jail on Father's Day. His father has been put there because he sank the casino boat, the Coral Queen, owned by Dusty Muleman. Paine believes that Dusty has been illegally dumping sewage into the Florida Keys, which has been negatively affecting a nearby beach as well as wildlife.

Paine does not want to be bailed out by his wife nor will he apologize for his actions. He tells Noah, “I'm not sorry for what I did, Noah. The only thing I'm sorry about is that you've got to see me locked up like an ax murderer.”

When Noah returns home from visiting his dad in jail, he tells his mother and younger sister, Abbey, about what happened. Noah tells his mother that Paine will allow his wife to call a lawyer. When Donna goes to call Mr. Shine, the family lawyer, Abbey wants to know the full story.

The siblings go to the Coral Queen's dock and watch as workers decide how to raise the boat. Noah tells Abbey why their father sank the boat. Though Abbey is skeptical about her father's actions, she agrees that the crime of dumping sewage into the water is abhorrent. Noah also tells her that their father asked him to help nail Dusty for the crime. Abbey knows her brother will help and tells him to be careful.

Two

The next morning, Noah stops by the marina to watch the Coral Queen floated again. There he is confronted by Dusty's son, Jasper Jr., who promises to hurt him for what he has done. Only Dusty calling his son over saves Noah.

Abbey arrives, and she and Noah watch the ship rise from the bottom of the ocean. Noah tells her that until the casino boat came, there had been no sewage in the water. Abbey notes that the Coral Queen will be operating again within a week.

Following his father's advice, Noah visits Lice Peeking. Noah tells Lice why his dad is in jail and that he wants his help proving that Dusty has been dumping the sewage. Lice used to work on the boat, until he was fired, and will attest to the crime for a price. Noah agrees to ask his father how much he will give Lice for his help.

When Noah goes home, his mother is angry because his father refuses to be bailed out. Abbey informs him that their mother might be leaving their father. Abbey now wants to help Noah save their dad.

Three

Noah visits his father again, and tells him the casino boat is nearly operational. Paine tells his son to sign over his fishing skiff to Lice in exchange for his sworn statement. He will not come home until after the trial because he wants to expose Dusty's actions in court.

Noah goes to Lice's trailer but learns from Shelly, Lice's girlfriend, that he is not at home. Shelly invites Noah inside, where he sees Lice drunk and asleep on the couch. Shelly questions him about his life and what is going on. Before she learns the whole situation with Dusty, Lice starts to wake up and Noah leaves.

Four

The next morning, Noah goes fishing under the bridge at Snake Creek. Jasper Jr. and his friend, an older boy named Bull, drive up on a boat. Jasper Jr. jumps off the boat and punches Noah in the eye, then spits in his face. Instead of fighting back, Noah catches him with his jig and hooks Jasper Jr. in the back of his shirt. Before the line gets cut by Bull, Jasper Jr. and Bull are both in the small boat's stern, and the boat starts to capsize.

When he gets home, Noah tells his mother and sister what happened. Though his mother is mad and wants to talk about Noah's confrontation with the boys, a reporter, Miles Umlatt, is waiting to talk to him about his father. Noah answers the reporter's questions about Paine's previous brushes with the law and emphasizes his support. Noah tells Miles, “I am proud of my father for standing up for what he believes. But, like I said, once in a while he goes too far.”

After the interview ends, Noah goes upstairs and hears his sister crying. Abbey tells him that she overheard her mother talking about getting a divorce.

Five

Noah goes to visit his father in jail again. He is not allowed to see Paine because a television crew is interviewing him. Instead, Noah goes and visits Lice and offers the skiff as compensation for the statement. Lice goes home with Noah to see the boat. Lice agrees to the deal and promises to come back the next day with his sworn statement in exchange for the boat.

That night after their mother goes to bed, Noah and Abbey sneak out to watch the Coral Queen's crew remove their sewage. They are disappointed to see the men use a hose and put the sewage in the sewer tank, where it should be. Noah and Abbey wonder if their father was wrong.

Six

As Noah and Abbey watch the boat, a man named Luno grabs Abbey around the neck. She bites him so hard on the forearm that he screams, and Noah punches him in the kidneys. They escape and make it home without their mother noticing.

The next morning, Miles's article is in the paper. Noah does not like how he sounds or how his father comes off, but his mother tells him it is balanced on both sides. Noah then goes to the jail, and is allowed to visit his father. Noah tells Paine what he and Abbey saw last night, as well as the fact that Lice will help him. Paine speculates that Dusty is obeying the letter of the law because of the publicity and promises his son that everything will work out.

Noah goes home to wait for Lice, but he never shows up. Noah bikes out to Lice's trailer in the rain and finds that only Shelly is at home. Lice has left her and abandoned her jeep near a tollbooth. After complaining about Lice, Shelly forces Noah to tell her the truth about what is going on. Shelly tells him that she can help.

Seven

At home, Abbey is skeptical about Shelly's ability to help. Abbey also tells Noah that she thinks their mom should not see Paine's interview on the five o'clock news. She creates a diversion so Noah can move the satellite dish away from the signal, but their mother winds up watching the interview on a cassette a friend drops off. Noah later overhears her talking about divorce with her parents who live in Canada.

Late at night, Noah sneaks out again and goes to the Coral Queen. He snoops around looking for anything to help. While trying to hide out, he accidentally bangs his head on the sewer tank. The tank rings because it is empty, and Noah figures out it has not been used in a long time.

Eight

After watching the tape of his father's interview and trying to fix the satellite dish, Noah is startled by the appearance of Shelly. She picks him up and tells him that she thinks Lice has been killed because of the deal he was making with Paine. Shelly wants to help clear Paine's name and has already started the process by getting her old job back as a bartender on the Coral Queen.

Later that night, Noah tells Abbey what he has learned over the past day. Abbey thinks the whole family, including their father, should go to Canada and live with their maternal grandparents. Noah has intense dreams that night, but it is not a dream when his father appears in his bedroom. Paine escaped from jail.

Nine

Paine announces his presence to the rest of the family. Angry because the sheriff 's department no longer allowed him to do interviews, he left when the deputies forgot to lock his cell after serving him dinner, during the diversion created by a car accident outside. Donna tells him that Dusty will drop the charges if he ceases to tell his story and gets psychiatric help.

She also informs him that the sheriff's department was going to release him anyway because the cells were needed for other prisoners. Paine wants to refuse to turn himself in on principle. When a sheriff's deputy comes to the door, Noah's father runs out the back door. The deputy was just dropping off his belongings, though he still has to go back to sign paperwork.

Noah finds his father at Thunder Beach. After informing his dad about his situation, Noah also tells him what he learned about the sewage tank and Lice's disappearance. When Paine is dismissive about his wife wanting him to come home and settle down, Noah informs him that the word divorce has been mentioned. On his way home, Noah again encounters Jasper Jr. and Bull and suffers physical harm.

Ten

After dealing with his legal troubles, Paine is forced to stay home under house arrest and wears an electronic ankle bracelet. One day, Shelly visits and informs Paine, Noah, and Abbey that she witnessed the sewage being directly dumped into the water. Shelly promises to keep them informed about what happens on the Coral Queen.

The family tries to share some of this information with Donna, but she does not want any more legal difficulties. Later that night, she tries to explain her point of view to her son. After Donna leaves his room, she becomes upset when she finds that Abbey is gone, as is the family video camera. Paine removes the ankle monitor and Noah is also ready to go look for her. Donna is upset because Abbey has gone to do something about the situation on the Coral Queen and decides she will go with her husband and son.

Eleven

The family drives down to the docks, where they start looking for Abbey. When they cannot find her right away, Donna marches into the office of the Coral Queen and asks Dusty if he has seen her daughter. She also makes Paine apologize to Dusty for sinking his boat. Dusty has not seen Abbey nor has Luno, who walks in as they are talking.

Dusty allows them to search the boat for Abbey, though Luno accompanies them. They do not find Abbey. When they get back to the car, Noah and his mother and father are not sure where to look for Abbey. As they drive back home to see if she has returned, they find Abbey walking along the side of the road and pick her up.

Twelve

The next morning, Abbey shows them the videotape she made at the marina while hiding in a tuna tower. The grainy footage shows the Coral Queen's crew members dumping sewage. The footage is so hard to see, however, that it would prove nothing to authorities.

While they are talking about the tape, a sheriff 's deputy shows up. Noah has to help Paine put his ankle monitor back on quickly. It does not matter because Paine is jailed again for forty-eight hours for tampering with the device. When Noah visits him in jail, Paine tells him that he wants to give up on the situation and lead a normal life. Paine tells his son, “Being right isn't worth squat if you're endangering the people you love.”

While at Thunder Beach, Noah and Abbey see Shelly. Noah wades into the bay to retrieve a beer can and gets caught up in the sewage that has floated that way. He goes in again to push a sea turtle out of the muck.

Before they leave, Shelly tells them that she thinks the gambling- and drinking-addicted Billy Babcock is the one who tipped off Dusty every time the Coast Guard was going to do a surprise inspection on the Coral Queen. Abbey is now ready to prove Dusty's guilt, and the siblings agree they will do it without involving their father.

Thirteen

After being released from jail, Paine gets a job with a boat towing company. Family life becomes normal again, but Noah and Abbey continue with their plan. They go to Shelly's trailer a few days after their father's release. They ask her to keep her promise to help them, and she does. They tell her of their plan, and she agrees that it might work.

On their way home, Noah and Abbey encounter Jasper Jr. and Bull. Abbey bites Bull and will not let go. Jasper Jr. puts Noah in a headlock and nearly forces him to faint to get Abbey to back down. A stranger, who later turns out to be their presumed-dead paternal grandfather, gets Jasper Jr. to relent, then convinces Abbey to let go. The stranger sends Noah and Abbey on their way.

Fourteen

To put Operation Royal Flush into action, Noah and Abbey buy thirty-four bottles of fuchsia food coloring at the grocery store. When they return home, they find Bull waiting at their house. He apologizes for all that happened and promises that Jasper Jr. will not beat up on them anymore either. The stranger had affected Bull's opinion on the matter.

After lunch, Noah and Abbey go to Shelly's trailer. Their plan is ready to go. Shelly even has a way of dealing with Billy Babcock so that he cannot tip off Dusty when the Coast Guard is called.

The original plan called for Shelly to dump all the food coloring in the toilet during a bathroom break on her bartender shift. Because the food coloring is hard to squeeze out quickly, the plan changes. Though Shelly has her doubts, Noah is going to hide in a bathroom and dump half the food coloring while Shelly dumps the other half in a restroom at the opposite end of the boat.

Later, at the Underwood home, Paine is unhappy with the way his court case was settled, primarily in that he is not allowed to talk about Dusty to the media. While Abbey declares confidently that Dusty will get caught, Paine is not so sure. The siblings are happy that their parents are going out on a date on the night they designated to execute their plans.

Fifteen

Noah and Abbey use his friend Rado's dinghy to go near the docks. Noah gets off the boat, while Abbey prepares to wait and rescue her brother. Behind Dusty's ticket shed, Noah climbs into an empty liquor crate. Within a short time, two men, including Luno, carry the crate inside.

About twenty minutes later, Shelly frees Noah from the crate, they divide the food coloring, and she sets him up inside a ladies' bathroom with an “out of order” sign on the outside. Noah dumps the dye and gets ready to make his escape.

Noah's plan is stymied when an old woman demands entry into the bathroom. She pulls the door open and starts yelling at him. Because she is attracting attention, Noah forces his way out and he makes it to the edge of the boat. When two security guards have him cornered, Noah jumps into the water.

Sixteen

In the water, Noah can see the casino's security looking at him. Abbey has not responded to their code word—Geronimo!—so he has to swim to the channel. He accidentally collides with a manatee before his sister appears. The motor on the dinghy would not start and now has stalled again.

As they drift towards the dock, Luno has found them and puts a spotlight on the dinghy. When Noah and Abbey get closer, they can see that Dusty has appeared and that Luno has a gun on them. Before Luno can shoot, the mysterious man who has been watching out for Noah and Abbey attacks him from behind. As the man takes care of Luno, Noah gets the engine started and he and Abbey zoom into open water.

The engine conks out again, and they are forced to float through a developing rainstorm. Noah realizes his parents are probably home by now wondering where he and his sister are. They both fall asleep in the boat until the morning, when they hope to be rescued. Noah and Abbey are eventually rescued by their father and the stranger, whom their father introduces as their long-lost grandfather.

Seventeen

When Noah gets home, he reports the sewage incident to the Coast Guard using his father's name, then calls Miles the reporter to get him on the story. Noah and his family then reconnect with Paine's father, Grandpa Bobby, who explains why he has allowed them to think he is dead for the past ten years. He explains that his boat, the Amanda Rose, was hired by emerald smugglers, who later tried to steal it and kill him. While Grandpa Bobby was searching for the smugglers, he did not want his son to know he was alive because he would have come to South America and done something dangerous on his father's behalf.

Grandpa Bobby explains that he decided to come to the Florida Keys when he saw his son on a news report. Stowing away on a ship, he began following Noah and Abbey to make sure they were not doing anything too dangerous. Grandpa Bobby had seen what had happened last night and made himself known to his son and daughter-in-law because he believed the engine on the dinghy would not hold. Noah then tells his and Abbey's part of the story, and the family leaves for Thunder Beach.

Eighteen

On Thunder Beach, the Underwoods can clearly see the line of fuchsia in the sea from Dusty's casino boat. Now that Noah's mother believes the story, she grows angry, as does Grandpa Bobby. As they watch, a Coast Guard helicopter swoops down and videotapes the evidence. Though everyone is happy, Noah's mom informs both of her children that they are grounded.

Noah and Abbey are, however, allowed to go visit Shelly and thank her for helping them. At her trailer, they learn what happened on the Coral Queen and how Shelley took care of Billy Babcock. He was still asleep on her couch after she gave him too many cocktails. The children also are informed that Lice has reappeared. He was not dead after all, but had run off because Luno had scared him away. Lice came back because he loves Shelly.

On the way back home, Noah encounters Jasper Jr. and Bull and confronts them. Noah gets his apologies after showing him the medallion Grandpa Bobby wore.

Nineteen

In the newspaper, Miles's article outlines what has happened and shows the fuchsia-stained sea. Dusty's boat is immediately shut down. Grandpa Bobby stays with the family for just over a week, then returns to South America to deal with his own problems. Before Grandpa Bobby leaves, he takes Noah fishing and says he will return when he finds his boat.

Twenty

Paine is surprised when the Coast Guard gives him a one thousand dollar reward for reporting the dumping. Noah does not tell him that he called the Coast Guard using Paine's name. Noah and Abbey return to school and their friends. Paine gets his captain's license back so he can return to his ideal job of serving as a guide on fishing charters.

The good times end when it is announced that the Coral Queen will be reopening. Paine is so angry he punches a door and breaks both his hands. He tells Noah that Dusty's only punishment was a ten thousand dollar fine, because he caught some federal prosecutors in a compromising situation and has something to hold over them.

In the middle of the night, the Underwood family is woken up by the police. Lt. Shucker wants to know if Paine's hands are burned because someone set fire to the Coral Queen and destroyed it. Not believing Paine's explanations, the officer arrests him.

Twenty-One

Shelly calls and tells the Underwoods what happened. She says that after a wild reopening party, the Coral Queen began exploding at three in the morning and was soon gone. Dusty immediately accuses Paine, and even his children believe he may have been involved until Paine assures Noah that he did not have anything to do with it.

When Lt. Shucker comes to the Underwood home with a search warrant, he is not pleased because he cannot find anything linking Paine to the crime. Donna further undercuts his case by showing him the bill from the emergency room when Paine punched the door. It clearly states that he fractured his hands sixteen hours before the boat blew up. The case against him is not revived.

They later learn that Jasper Jr. and Bull started the fire by smoking Cuban cigars in a room where fireworks were being stored. In the investigation, crime scene technicians find a box with one hundred thousand dollars in cash that had been skimmed from casino profits by Dusty. Dusty's operation is closed for good.

CHARACTERS

Billy Babcock

Billy Babcock works for the Coast Guard. Because of his alcohol and gambling problems, he is in debt to Dusty Muleman. Billy tips off Dusty when the Coast Guard is going to make inspections. To complete Operation Royal Flush, Shelly ensures Billy cannot tell Dusty about the Coast Guard looking into the sewage dumping situation by bringing him to her trailer and plying him with drinks. Billy passes out on her couch and is beaten up by the returning Lice.

Grandpa Bobby

Grandpa Bobby is Paine Underwood's father, and Noah and Abbey's grandfather. Throughout much of Flush, the Underwoods believe that Grandpa Bobby is dead. The owner and operator of a charter boat, he took his boat, the Amanda Rose, to South America, never came back, and was considered dead by the U.S. government though no body had ever been found.

Grandpa Bobby is not dead, however. When he catches a news report on Paine doing his jailhouse interview, he stows away and comes back to the United States. Without revealing his identity, he follows Noah and Abbey, and steps in to protect them on several occasions. When the kids are nearly lost at sea after dumping food dye into the Coral Queen's bathrooms, Grandpa Bobby reveals himself to Paine and Donna, and helps them find Noah and Abbey. He stays for a bit longer, before returning to finish his business in South America—getting back at the men who stole his boat.

MEDIA ADAPTATIONS

  • Flush was released as an unabridged audio-book by Listening Library/Books on Tape in 2005. It is narrated by Michael Welch.

Bull

Bull is a large teenager who is close friends with Jasper Jr. He is a known liar who dropped out of high school, allegedly to play minor league baseball. Bull helps Jasper Jr. pick on Noah numerous times in Flush. Unlike Jasper Jr., Bull immediately becomes intimidated when the mysterious stranger, a.k.a. Grandpa Bobby, starts standing up to them for Noah. Bull apologizes for his actions toward Noah.

Bull's friendship with Jasper Jr. does not survive to the end of the novel. Bull is with Jasper Jr. when he accidentally sets off the explosions that lead to the destruction of the Coral Queen. Though Bull saves his life, Jasper Jr. blames Bull for starting the fire, prompting Bull to tell the whole truth to the police.

Godzilla

Godzilla is the large dog owned by Rado's family who corners Noah and Abbey when they come to borrow Rado's small boat.

Grandma Janet

Grandma Janet is Donna Underwood's mother. A former character performer at Disney World, she now owns and operates a snowmobile dealership in Moose Lick, Saskatchewan. Donna talks to Janet about moving with her children to Canada when she is thinking about divorcing Paine.

Jasper Jr .

Jasper Jr. is the son of Dusty Muleman, the owner of the Coral Queen casino boat and, as Noah states in Flush, “a well-known jerk.” Throughout the novel, Jasper Jr. confronts, and sometimes physically harms, Noah with the help of his friend Bull because of Paine Underwood's actions. Noah stands up to Jasper Jr. as well as he can. At one point, he sinks Jasper Jr.'s boat with him and Bull in it. After Jasper Jr. is put in his place by the mysterious stranger (who turns out to be Noah's Grandpa Bobby), he is more cautious around Noah. By the end of the novel, Noah is no longer afraid of Jasper Jr. Jasper Jr. is also the one who, with Bull's help, accidentally blows up his father's boat and unintentionally reveals that his father has been skimming off his profits.

Grandpa Kenneth

Grandpa Kenneth is Donna Underwood's father. He is a former character performer at Disney World who once lashed out on a tourist. To avoid the consequences of the lawsuit, he moved his family to Moose Lick, Saskatchewan, where Donna spent the rest of her childhood. Donna considers moving there with her children early in the novel.

Luno

Luno is a foreign-born man who works for Dusty on his casino boat. The goon always acts to protect Dusty's interests. When he catches Noah and Abbey watching workers dump sewage into the tank early in the novel, Abbey bites his arm and forces him to let go. Later in Flush, Luno aims a gun—later revealed to be a flare gun—at Noah and Abbey as they make their escape from the Coral Queen. Luno eventually gets paid off by Dusty, leaves the country, and does not return.

Dusty Muleman

Dusty is the owner of the Coral Queen, the casino boat that is illegally dumping sewage into the Florida Keys. Because of the operation, Dusty is wealthy, and it eventually comes to light that he has been skimming from his casino profits as well. He gets away with his crimes for much of Flush, and he seems to enjoy making his former friend Paine look crazy. Dusty is also the father of Jasper Jr. and a former boyfriend of Shelly's.

Jasper Muleman Jr .

See Jasper Jr.

Charles Peeking

See Lice Peeking

Lice Peeking

Lice Peeking is a former employee on the Coral Queen who Paine wants Noah to contact to help with his case against Dusty. While the alcoholic Lice agrees to sign a sworn statement that he saw the illegal sewage dumping in exchange for Paine signing over his fishing skiff, Lice disappears before the transaction can take place. Because of his disappearance and presumed death, his girlfriend Shelly starts helping Noah and Abbey prove that Dusty is dumping the sewage into the water. Lice is not dead, however, and reappears before the end of Flush. It is revealed that he left town for a while because he was afraid Dusty would come after him for agreeing to help Paine.

Shelly

Shelly is Lice Peeking's live-in girlfriend and the former fiancee of Dusty Muleman. She has brassy blond hair, a barbed-wire tattoo on her arm, and lots of attitude. After Lice disappears and is presumed dead, Shelly becomes involved in Noah and Abbey's plan to prove that Dusty is dumping sewage off of his casino boat. Shelly returns to her job as a bartender on the Coral Queen and confirms the dumping is taking place. She also helps Noah sneak on board and both of them put food coloring into the sewage system. In addition, Shelly keeps Billy Babcock, the man who works for the Coast Guard and has been tipping Dusty off about any inspections, out of the way. Shelly's role in the plot does not become known publicly, but she does not care because Lice returns to her.

Mr. Shine

Mr. Shine is the Underwood family lawyer. He represents Paine in his various court cases, and also would have represented Donna in any divorce proceedings she might have filed against Paine.

Lieutenant Shucker

Lt. Shucker investigates Paine when the Coral Queen blows up and is reduced to rubble. He believes Paine is responsible for the crime until Donna shows him the emergency room bill from Paine's two broken hands.

Miles Umlatt

Miles is a reporter for the Island Examiner who interviews Noah for a story about Paine and his accusations against Dusty. Miles's story on the matter is generally balanced. Noah calls Miles again after Operation Royal Flush, and the reporter dutifully covers the story.

Abbey Underwood

Abbey is Noah's younger sister, and the daughter of Paine and Donna Underwood. Named after one of her father's favorite authors, she is strong, amusing, and tough, and gets along well with Noah. Like her brother, she also enjoys fishing and the outdoors.

Though Abbey is initially skeptical of her father's actions to highlight the casino's sewage dumping, she supports her brother's efforts to prove him right. Abbey helps formulate the plan to prove Dusty is dumping illegally and picks out the color of the food coloring they use. She is happy to wait alone in the dark in the dinghy while Noah puts the food coloring in the casino toilet. Abbey also backs up Noah in his confrontations with Jasper Jr. and Bull.

Donna Underwood

Donna is the mother of Noah and Abbey, and wife of Paine. She shares her husband's love of nature, but is frustrated by her husband's impulsive actions and the toll they take on their family. Donna is a caring and attentive wife and mother, but has her limitations. Early in Flush, she considers divorcing her husband and taking her kids to Canada to live with her parents because of his stubbornness and ongoing legal trouble. Over the course of the novel, Noah, Abbey, and Paine try to hide anything from Donna that might upset her, though she usually learns about it in the end. Donna's loyalty to her family is never in question, and she is the one person who provides the police the proof that Paine could not have blown up the Coral Queen.

Noah Underwood

Noah Underwood is the approximately twelve-year-old narrator and protagonist at the center of Flush. Like his father, Noah loves the outdoors and is a firm believer in exposing the wrongdoings of others, primarily when it involves the environment. After Paine Underwood is arrested for sinking the Coral Queen, it is Noah, with help from his sister and Shelly, who figures out how to expose Dusty's crime of dumping waste illegally. Though Noah comes close to getting caught several times, he completes his mission.

Along the way, Noah acts to keep his family together as his mother considers divorcing his father for his repeated escapades. He is also protective of his sister, and will not allow her to be directly in harm's way. In addition, Noah must deal with two bullies, Jasper Jr. and Bull, and, by the end of the novel, has put them in their place. Throughout Flush, Noah serves as the book's even-keeled, sensitive conscience, always doing what he thinks is right, but with an awareness about how his actions affect others.

Paine Underwood

The father of Noah and Abbey, Paine Underwood is a passionate man who acts without thinking about the consequences. When Flush opens, Paine is in jail for sinking the Coral Queen. He did so because the casino boat was illicitly dumping sewage into the water, but no one believed him. Paine refuses to be bailed out to make his point about the dumping, and eventually escapes.

It is not the first time Paine has done something like this. Paine's previous impulsive actions have cost him his captain's license, forced him into a job as a taxi driver, and put his family's well-being into jeopardy. Paine does not realize, until Noah tells him, that his wife is considering divorcing him because of his irresponsible actions.

While Paine has many good qualities—including his passion, his environmental conscience, and his love of nature—his faults nearly cost him everything. When Noah and Abbey take up the cause, however, Paine is proven right. Additionally, the court-mandated anger management therapy he must take helps him learn some self-control. By novel's end, he deftly handles the false accusation that he blew up the Coral Queen and can focus on his life with his family.

Robert Lee Underwood

See Grandpa Bobby

THEMES

Environmentalism

Environmentalism—that is, a concern for the preservation of nature and the natural environment—is the primary theme of Flush. The narrative of the novel turns on Dusty Muleman dumping sewage waste from his casino boat into the water to save money. Dusty refused to put the waste in an environmentally safe sewage tank and to pay for it to be hauled away. This sewage flows out from the marina where the Coral Queen is docked to nearby Thunder Beach, where locals enjoy the water. The beach is regularly closed to swimmers and fishermen because of too much bacteria in the water, a situation that did not happen as often before the casino boat opened. Because Dusty has a source within the Coast Guard, he is never caught committing the crime.

Most of the characters in the novel decry this situation, especially Noah, his father, and his sister Abbey. Paine Underwood takes action by committing an act of civil disobedience when he sinks the Coral Queen. Unfortunately, that does not stop Dusty from reopening the casino and continuing to dump his sewage. To support their father and express their own concern for the environment, Noah and Abbey formulate a plan to expose Dusty's crime. While they are successful, the casino owner has to pay only a ten thousand dollar fine and is then allowed to open his casino again, albeit only for one more night.

Throughout the text, Hiaasen emphasizes an environmental message. Sometimes he shows how the dumping has a negative effect on the surrounding area. For example, in chapter twelve, Noah and Abbey run into Shelly at Thunder Beach. Because the Underwood family always picks up garbage in the water—yet another environmental touch to the characterizations—Noah wades out into the sewage-tainted water to retrieve a beer can and then to ensure a loggerhead turtle does not swim through the sewage for too long.

At other points, Hiaasen describes nature in gorgeous detail to emphasize its majesty. Such descriptions are not necessarily related to the primary plot, but show that nature should be appreciated and protected. Chapter thirteen, for example, ends with a description of an Underwood family fishing trip near sunset. As the sun goes down, Hiaasen writes, “Gradually the sun changed from gold to blazing pink and seemed to turn liquid as it dimpled the horizon. None of us said a word because we didn't want the moment to end.”

Family Relationships

Another theme emphasized in Flush is the importance of familial relations. Throughout the novel, members of the Underwood family often act to protect and support each other, even if they do not always agree on principle. Noah is the first to believe his father is right about the dumping, even though everyone else says he is wrong. Abbey is more doubtful about her father and his actions, but she is there to help her brother with his cause and comes to believe their father. Though Donna—Paine's wife and Noah and Abbey's mother—is very upset by her husband's insistence that he stay in jail to emphasize his point about the Coral Queen dumping situation, she supports him by the end of the novel as well.

Even Paine believes in the importance of family. Though he wants to be the activist who dramatically proves his point, he modifies his ways by the end of the book because he wants the best for his family. Paine follows the court order not to speak to the media, and uses anger management therapy to improve himself and become a better father and husband. He takes a job he does not necessarily enjoy, working for a company called Tropical Rescue that helps people with disabled boats (though usually the boats have been disabled through their owners' stupidity). Because of Paine's growth, he saves his marriage and is a better, more controlled father and husband.

Hiaasen further emphasizes this concept in the form of Grandpa Bobby, who risks his own personal safety to help his family out. While Paine's father has been in South America trying to find the smugglers who stole his boat, seeing his son on the news compelled him to come north. Without revealing his identity, Grandpa Bobby watches over Noah and Abbey, and intercedes when Jasper Jr. and Bull are picking on his grandson. Later, Grandpa Bobby is forced to reveal himself when Noah and Abbey are adrift at sea after Noah dumps food coloring in the casino boat toilet. Together, Grandpa Bobby and Paine rescue the children and have a family reunion, during which the family learns why Grandpa Bobby has allowed himself to be presumed dead. Because of his strong family ties, Grandpa Bobby is there for his family when they need him.

Doing the Right Thing

Also underscored throughout Flush is the concept that people should do the right thing no matter what. Hiaasen repeatedly emphasizes that it is both illegal and morally wrong to dump sewage in the water. Paine is willing and able to prove this point through his actions, including sinking the Coral Queen, sitting in jail and refusing to be bailed out, and growing angry every time he learns that he was right about Dusty. Noah twice wades into sewage-filled water at Thunder Beach, once to retrieve a piece of garbage and then to ensure a sea turtle does not get caught in the sewage.

Doing the right thing also extends to family. When Abbey goes out in the middle of the night to videotape the sewage dumping from the casino boat, Paine removes his electronic ankle monitor so he can go look for her. While it costs him another two days in jail, he believes it was worth it. Abbey does, too, for she was trying to help out her father and brother in their quest to bring Dusty down. Grandpa Bobby makes a sacrifice similar to Paine's by getting in contact with his family again. Though the actions of Paine, Abbey, and Grandpa Bobby come at some cost for the family, they show that the family is committed to doing what is right.

STYLE

First Person Point of View

Flush is written from a first-person point of view. All the events of the novel are explained from the perspective of Noah Underwood, who is also the primary protagonist and narrator. Because the book is written in first person, readers have extra insight into what Noah is thinking and why he makes the decisions he makes. For example, though Noah's father Paine is a strong character who makes rash decisions, readers never learn about his motivations from his perspective. Noah tells readers why his father acts the way he does. By being written in first person, Flush is a personal story told through the words and feelings of a young adult.

Antagonist

In Flush, there are several antagonists. An antagonist is a character who works against or stands in opposition to a book's hero. For Noah, Dusty Muleman and his son Jasper Jr., as well as Jasper Jr.'s friend Bull, are antagonists. Dusty is an antagonist because he is illegally dumping sewage and punishes Noah's father for trying to reveal the truth. Jasper Jr. shows support of his father by punching and otherwise trying to

TOPICS FOR FURTHER STUDY

  • With a partner, research the conflict over sewage, its treatment, and its environmental effect on the Florida Keys. Have each person pick a side and stage a debate in which you discuss the major issues for the class.
  • Read Carl Hiaasen's first book for young adults, Hoot. Write a paper in which you compare and contrast how he expresses his environmental themes in both books. How are the protagonists different in each novel?
  • Research the legend of the green flash in the Florida Keys. Write a poem, short story, or other creative work in which you link the legend to the themes of Flush.
  • Create a visual presentation for the class on the Florida Keys in which you emphasize its natural environment, including beaches and waterways. Link the ideas explored in the book to your presentation, and explain why many are protective of the environment.
  • Break the class up into groups of four or five. In each group, discuss what you would have done with the information about Dusty's illegal dumping. Would you have acted like Paine or Noah? Come up with alternative ways of dealing with the situation. Have each group present its conclusions to the class.

intimidate Noah, with the help of Bull. While such actions are also intended to demonstrate Jasper Jr.'s superiority, both Dusty and Jasper Jr. get their due when it is Jasper Jr. who ultimately sets his father's boat ablaze and burns it to the ground.

Foreshadowing

On several occasions, Hiaasen uses foreshadowing in his novel. Foreshadowing occurs when an author creates an expectation in a story by dropping clues or hints. In Flush, an example of foreshadowing can be found before the climax of the novel. When Noah and Abbey borrow his friend Rado's small boat, Noah explains,

After a half dozen hard tugs, the motor spluttered to life in a burp of purple smoke. Rado's dad always made sure the gas can was full, but I checked anyway, just in case. Getting stranded would have been a total disaster.

Disaster does happen, but not because they run out of gas. When Noah needs to make an escape from the casino boat, Abbey also has problems getting the boat's motor started. While she does eventually get it started and picks up her brother, the motor eventually fails, causing them to be stranded overnight. This unfortunate turn of events was foreshadowed by these words earlier in the novel.

Setting

The setting of Flush is important to the story. The setting is the geographic location, as well as the time and culture, in which a story takes place. Hiaasen is able to weave a narrative about environmental concerns because the novel is set in a place where such matters are part of daily life. The Florida Keys are an environmentally sensitive place, full of beaches, wildlife, and waterways. Some of the people who live there care about their surroundings, like Noah and his family. Others, like Dusty, are more concerned with making money without regard for what happens when they illegally dump sewage. The setting of Flush gives the story its power and deeper meaning.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Sewage-Tainted Water in Florida

To some readers, the sewage-dumping scenario in Flush may seem far-fetched, but sewage disposal has greatly affected the waterways and wildlife in various parts of Florida, especially in the early 2000s. Many state officials as well as civilians have become involved in some cases and demanded action. In 2005, for example, the Palm Beach County Reef Rescue accused the South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant of allowing one of its pipes to dump treated sewage into the Atlantic Ocean and polluting a nearby coral reef. State officials agreed that the rescue group had made a compelling case and urged the plant to take measures to correct it.

Two years later, Burt Saunders, the chairman of the Florida Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee, called for an end to the dumping of 300 million gallons of lightly treated sewage by three major Florida counties. The water was dumped about three miles out into the ocean, and many believe it contributed to the degradation of the coral reefs as well as posing a threat to human health for users of nearby beaches. While some disputed the claims of Saunders and his supporters, the matter went under advisement.

The Florida Keys suffered from a similar situation. Until 1989, raw, untreated waste was dumped directly into the ocean. There were few centralized municipal water treatment plants, as the area relied primarily on sewage disposal wells and package plants that lightly treated wastewater before pumping it into the ground. By the end of the 1990s, water quality in the Florida Bay was relatively low as nitrogen and chlorophyll levels increased and the water became cloudy. Some action was taken. In November 1999, Key West was officially declared a no discharge zone for boat sewage within city waters, but few water treatment plants were being built.

The situation only grew worse over the next few years. According to the results of a three-year University of Georgia study published in 2007, sewage-contaminated groundwater was making its way up to six miles offshore to the coral reefs in the Florida Keys. The contaminated water was primarily coming from in-ground waste disposals such as septic tanks and injection wells. The water contained fecal indicator bacteria as well as human viruses, like enteric viruses. Thus, this sewage-tainted water was a threat not only to the corals but to human health as well. Another expert, Billy Causey, the superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, said that as of 2004 there were twenty-five thousand septic tanks in the Keys, as well as seven thousand to nine thousand illegal cesspits and nine hundred shallow injection wells.

In 2004, Causey specifically listed wastewater as contributing to the decline of local coral reefs. He told Betty Ann Bowser in an interview published in Online NewsHour, “At the local level, the things that we are seeing happen are water quality degradation, we're seeing nutrients coming from storm water runoff, or from the way we treat our wastewater.” He added, “There's a halo of pollution surrounding the Florida Keys.”

One way to counteract the sewage water problem is to install new wastewater management systems, which became required by Florida state law. Such systems include centralized collection facilities and advanced wastewater treatment facilities. Over time, it is expected that such centralized sewage facilities as well as anti-sewage dumpage ordinances will be put into place, thus ensuring the long-term well-being of the environment around Florida Keys.

If centralized facilities could be built, one potential use for sewage water in Florida as well as the rest of the United States is as drinking water. Some communities engage in this practice by recycling wastewater into drinking water and into water intended for agricultural irrigation. Because of growing water shortages across the nation, more municipalities are considering adopting or expanding such a program. One state that is embracing the move is California, which will operate the Advanced Water Purification Facility. Such a facility can yield about 70 million gallons of drinkable water per day from sewage.

CRITICAL OVERVIEW

Often compared to Hiaasen's first novel for young readers, Hoot, Flush was generally praised by critics for its handling of environmental themes while reflecting the author's own distinctive writing style. In the New York Times, Sam Swope noted, “Flush is the PG version of the author's own terrific adult novels” and lauded Hiaasen's “pitch-perfect writing.” Emmy Nicklin, reviewing the novel in Nature Conservancy Magazine, also found much to like, calling it “A delightful read even for ‘grown-ups’.”

David L. Richardson of Reading Today gave critical kudos to the author's “strong environmental message and the same superb humor.” Hiaasen's knack for creating memorable characters was also often observed. In Horn Book Magazine, Betty Carter wrote, “it is the multidimensional characters who give the novel its vitality.” Carter continued, he “creates individuals who are simultaneously noble and petty, quirky and realistic, decent and wayward.”

Most critics liked Flush overall, but a few were disappointed by the state of its plot. Writing in School Library Journal, Joel Shoemaker commented, “The plot would practically disappear if any one of the major characters had a cell phone, but the environmental story is front and center and readers will be hooked as the good guys try to do the right thing.” Booklist's Stephanie Zvirin also liked the book overall but noted, “An old-fashioned deus ex machina interrupts an otherwise believable setup.” Similarly, Publishers Weekly offered, “While much of this adventure…is predictable, Hiaasen creates enough plot twists to keep the pages turning.”

CRITICISM

A. Petrusso

Petrusso is a freelance author with degrees from the University of Michigan and the University of Texas. In this essay, Petrusso examines whether Paine Underwood can be considered a hero or an antihero.

Illegal activities—some cowardly and some idealistic—are at the heart of the story in Carl Hiassen's 2005 young adult novel Flush. Dusty Muleman is illegally dumping raw sewage off of his casino boat into the harbor, and it is spreading outward to nearby Thunder Beach and beyond. This situation deeply offends Paine Underwood and his children, Noah and Abbey. Paine, as well as his children, act illegally in turn in an attempt to bring Dusty to justice.

As a writer, Hiaasen admits that he likes his characters complex to better reflect the reality he found in the subjects he covered as a reporter and in life in general. In an interview with Powells.com, he tells Dave Welch, “The good guys all have flaws that are in some cases very serious, and the bad guys all have some sort of reason for why they are the way they are.” While Hiassen assigns a rather simple motivation—greed—to Dusty's illegal actions, he explores in depth the motivations behind Paine's acts of civil disobedience. Paine is set up to be a hero, albeit a multifaceted one, but he also has many of the qualities of an antihero.

In literature, readers are supposed to identify and sympathize with heroes, who are courageous, full of integrity, and live idealistically. Antiheroes, on the other hand, lack such qualities. Often they are not physically strong or courageous. They often do not commit to any ideals, while distrusting conventional values and living as social outcasts. Antiheroes also feel feeble in the face of the world they cannot control. Heroes do not usually act illegally, though antiheroes most certainly do.

Paine does meet some of the criteria of a conventional literary hero. He stands up for what he believes in and is most definitely idealistic. After trying to follow the rules by alerting the Coast Guard and other authorities about Dusty's illegal dumping, Paine commits an illegal act of civil disobedience—sinking the casino boat—to stop what he perceives as the greater crime of illegal sewage dumping into local waters. Paine fully admits to sinking the boat and waits on the dock all night after the act so that he can be arrested. He is also willing to go to prison indefinitely if it means that Dusty is brought to justice. Paine even compares himself to Nelson Mandela and is willing to do the time to make his point.

Paine courageously lives out his ideals in the beginning of the book and is quite certain he is right. When his son visits him in jail in chapter one, Paine tells Noah, “I'm not a common criminal. I know right from wrong. Good from bad. Sometimes I just get carried away.” Paine rationalizes and idealizes his crime because the hero in him knows it was the correct thing to do. He lives out other aspects of his life in similar fashion. Paine has trained his children to pick up garbage that others have left floating at sea to better their environment. He has also taught them to appreciate the abundant, beautiful nature around them.

While Paine does have heroic qualities, he has many aspects of a literary antihero as well. He has been arrested twice before for committing similar crimes in which he acted because he thought he was right. In the Carmichael case, Paine flattened the tires of the Carmichael's RV because he saw them abusing their two dogs. Paine also made off with the two dogs and would not reveal their whereabouts. The Carmichaels were afraid of him and never came back, but Paine pled guilty to the vandalism charge and still had to pay for the dogs and the tires. Noah quoted his father as calling his actions “A public service.” In the Derrick Mays case, Paine wrapped up the man in his own gill net because Paine caught him using the illegal net to fish in the protected waters of the Everglades National Park. As a result Paine lost his captain's license and his ideal job as a fishing guide.

To prove his point about Dusty, Paine sank the Coral Queen in the middle of the night. While all of these illegal acts could be interpreted as courageous and idealistic, sinking the boat is also destroying someone else's property. The people who worked on the boat were put at risk—Hiaasen does not say if Paine checked to make sure the boat was empty before he sank it—and then were out of jobs after the fact. Trying to bring Dusty down in this way may have helped highlight the sewage question and temporarily helped improve local water quality, but it hurt many innocent people as well.

These people include Paine's wife and children. For the first part of the book, he puts his ideals before their well-being, which is not exactly heroic. While this situation could be considered an example of distrusting conventional values, there is more to it as Noah is forced to visit his father in jail on Father's Day. Paine will not let his stressed out, concerned wife, Donna, bail him out, putting a strain on his marriage. She tells Noah in anger, “he'd rather sit alone in a cramped, roach-infested cell than be home with his family.” Paine loses his job as a taxi driver the day he is arrested, and the economically challenged family has to live on the small salary Donna receives as a part-time employee at a law firm until Paine breaks out of jail and gets another job.

Paine's lack of conventional values also affects Noah and Abbey. Their mother considers divorcing Paine and moving her children to her parents' home in Canada early in the novel. Furthermore, Paine asks Noah to help him prove he is right about Dusty. Thus, Noah and Abbey put themselves in several dangerous situations to vindicate their father—not exactly a fair or conventional situation for them. The siblings follow in their father's footsteps by putting together their own plan, Operation Royal Flush.

While the siblings' plan is less criminal than their father's, it still involves breaking the rules. Noah, being a child, is not supposed to be aboard the Coral Queen—and is certainly not allowed to dump food coloring into a woman's toilet. Both Noah and Abbey are put in danger by their actions, which is a direct result of Paine's idealistic influence. As Donna tells her son in chapter one, “Your father has many good qualities, but he's not the most stable role model for a young man like yourself. He'd be the first to admit it, Noah.”

In addition to negatively affecting other people, Paine's decisions make him a social outcast, another key quality of an antihero. At the beginning of chapter two, Noah was glad school was out for the summer so that he and Abbey did not have to deal with all their peers who knew there father was in jail. He notes that “everybody” in the small community “would be talking about it.” For that reason, Donna shops for groceries in Homestead at the beginning of chapter eight to avoid the situation. It is not the first time Paine has been considered a social outcast. Noah confirms to Shelly that his father does not drink, something far outside the social norm for men living in Key West.

While Paine is also able to get his story about the Coral Queen in a local newspaper and on a Miami television station, no one in the community seems to take him seriously or offers to help him. Lice is ready to trade a signed sworn statement only in exchange for a boat. During Noah's initial visit with Lice, the old man tells him, “What do I care about baby sea turtles? I got my own daily survival to worry about.” Shelly helps primarily because she incorrectly believes that Dusty killed Lice, though she also shows some caring about the Underwoods as well as the environment when she becomes more involved in the kids' scheme.

Though he still holds on to his ideals, Paine has another quality of an antihero in that he feels weak because he cannot control the situation with Dusty and the Coral Queen. Every time the boat and Dusty are mentioned, he grows angry and frustrated, as when Shelly confirms the dumping in chapter ten. He is peeved that the Coast Guard does not believe him and never catches Dusty in the act. When Paine learns that the casino boat was floated and will soon be operating again, he grows upset. This feeling becomes worse after chapter nine when a gag order has been imposed on him and he must not speak to the media or anyone else about Dusty or the casino boat. Paine believes his right to free speech is being imposed on, though there is still no well-known proof that he is correct about the dumping.

While an antihero may have little respect for the law, respect for the law is often the hallmark of a hero. Paine's lack of respect for the law is obvious from the first chapters of the novel. As Donna tells her children when Paine is locked up early in Flush, “he's sitting in jail, talking about fighting for his principles. He wants to be a martyr, Noah, that's fine—but not at the expense of his family. I won't stand for it!” After Paine breaks out of jail—yet another illegal act, though the sheriff was about to release him anyway—he apologizes to his family, which shows his growth. He tells them at the beginning of chapter nine, “I want to apologize for all the grief I've caused. I'm not sorry I sunk the Coral Queen, but I admit that my judgment was clouded by frustration and impulsiveness and…well, anger.”

After this point, Paine still holds on to his ideals but also matures in his morality somewhat and moves away from his many antiheroic qualities. He is still angry over the situation with Dusty, but follows the rules and sticks to the gag order. Paine begins putting his family first by taking a job with a boat rescue operation and then working on getting his captain's license back. He also uses his court-mandated anger management therapy to learn to control his temper in public—though he does break his hands punching a door after he learns Dusty will get off light despite the proof that he was dumping sewage into the water.

Paine's illegal acts are now family-oriented. Paine takes off his court-ordered electronic ankle monitor when Abbey leaves home in the middle of the night to tape the sewage dumping off the Coral Queen. During the search for Abbey, Paine even gives in to his wife's demands and apologizes to Dusty for sinking his boat. After the incident with Abbey, he tells Noah, “Being right isn't worth squat if you're endangering the people you love.”

Ultimately, Hiaasen's depiction of Paine Underwood in Flush can best be described as complex. He offers an explanation for Paine's motivation through the actions and disappearance of his father, Grandpa Bobby. The author also shows Paine growing into a more fully realized hero as opposed to a full blown antihero by novel's end. While Hiaasen imbues Paine with many antiheroic qualities, they are tempered. Thus Paine can best be described as more of a hero than antihero because of his journey and choices.

In a review of the audio version of Flush, Barbara Wysocki of the School Library Journal comments that the book has “good insight into real world relationships plus a mix of solid citizens and offbeat good guys.” Though she does not mention him by name, Paine, with his passion for the environment and his family, is most certainly one of those good guys.

Source: A. Petrusso, Critical Essay on Flush, in Literary Newsmakers for students, Gale, Cengage Learning, 2009.

Frank Cottreel Boyce

In the following essay, Boyce finds Flush a satisfying political novel for young readers.

If I summarise this book, it will sound like something the Children's Film Foundation might come up with if Greenpeace had gone to them for some agitprop: a gambling mogul saves money by discharging toilet waste from his floating casino on to an unspoilt beach in Florida. And he woulda gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for them pesky kids (and a cistern full of food dye). When you read it, though—which you definitely should—Flush is convincing, urgent, tense, funny and, well, pretty much perfect really.

You don't come across many political novels these days and when you do, you're often glad that there aren't more of them. But Hiaasen has somehow pulled it off, and I've been enviously trying to figure out his secret. The plot is tight and nippy, with a couple of good twists at the end. All of the characters are beguilingly convincing.

When the hero's little sister, Abbey, goes missing in the middle of the night—unleashing panic in the family—it turns out she's been trying to video the wrongdoers. She is found walking the lonesome roads in her special reflective

WHAT DO I READ NEXT?

  • Hoot, published in 2004, is Hiaasen's first book for young adults. Like Flush, Hoot features an environmental theme. Set in Coconut Cove, Florida, Hoot explores a group of teens and their efforts to save an owl sanctuary while dealing with their problems at school.
  • An adult novel by Hiaasen, 2004's Skinny Dip, also focuses on environmental themes. Centered around Chaz Perrone, a biologist only out to make a buck, Hiaasen describes how he tries to kill his wife, Joey, when he believes she has picked up on his scam. Because he fails to do so, she and a friend taunt him with the help of the man who rescued her.
  • The Earth Is Painted Green: A Garden of Poems About Our Planet, published in 1994, is a collection of nature-inspired verse divided by season and written by a number of diverse authors.
  • The Fire Bug Connection: An Ecological Mystery, written by Jean Craighead George and published in 1993, is a young adult novel in which the heroine, Maggie Mercer, solves the mystery of why certain fire bugs she collects die instead of molting into adults.
  • Nobody Particular: One Woman's Fight to Save the Bays, written by Molly Band and published in 2005, is a comic book-format biography that outlines the author's fight to protect the bays in east Texas from pollution coming from nearby chemical plants.

trainers, her bare legs covered in insect repellent. That mixture of heroic recklessness and fastidious caution is funny because it's so real. The story starts when Abbey's father—Paine—realises what's going on at the floating casino and, on impulse, rams the boat and sinks it. He's

arrested and electronically tagged and loses his fishing licence. Paine Underwood may be an ecological hero but to his family he's “Paine-in-the butt”—a man with anger management issues. He's wayward and impulsive, a likeable liability who is annoyingly proud of his own wrecking ability. “That's a seventy-three-footer. You've got to know what you're doing to sink one of those pigs. You ought to go and look.” His son Noah, the one who is left to pick up the pieces and save his dad's neck and marriage, says: “Maybe later.”

Paine Underwood is angry because he loves the Florida Keys. And so does Hiaasen. I've rarely read a book with such a casually persuasive sense of place, and of the beauty of a place. It has moments of genuine poetry, as when Noah, desperately trying to escape some heavies at night, accidentally swims into a sleeping manatee, “a wall of blubber—mossy and slick.”

Maybe part of Hiaasen's secret is that he doesn't care about “The Environment” as much as he does about Thunder Beach. This is a book that thinks local and acts global. It's also a great book about boats. Noah's dialogue is shot through with fishing metaphors and jargon. It's as though Arthur Ransome had suddenly got into direct action. Hiaasen's enthusiasm for the place and its ways gives the book a background warmth which is unusual in a thriller. In a lot of ways it's an angry book but it's the anger of a fierce, protective love. And I suppose that's his real secret—that he really means it.

Source: Frank Cottreel Boyce, “Down the pan,” in Guardian Unlimited (online), December 10, 2005, p. 1.

Margo Hammond

In the following article, Hammond compares the book to Hiaasen's adult works.

Are there subjects that are inappropriate for young adult literature?

Carl Hiaasen offers one answer to that age-old question in his latest tale for kids: You can't go wrong by including poop.

Human excrement lies at the heart of Flush, Hiaasen's second foray into kid lit (his first, Hoot, is this year's Read Around Pinellas pick), but not just because poop is a subject that makes most kids laugh. In Flush, Hiaasen is deadly serious about the stuff: It is polluting the waters of the Florida Keys.

Lately, Thunder Beach, where the local kids go swimming and sea turtles lay their eggs, has been registering high levels of toxicity. Paine Underwood is convinced that it is because Dusty Muleman's casino boat has been illegally dumping human waste in the marina. Paine is so convinced Dusty's boat is the culprit, in fact, he has sunk it, an act that has landed him in jail.

“What Dusty's doing can make you real sick at both ends. Hospital-sick, Dad says. So it's not only disgusting, it's dangerous,” Paine's son Noah, the preteen narrator of Flush, tells Abbey. Abbey is Noah's baby sister. She's “all right,” Noah tells us, “not nearly as irritating as most of the girls at school.”

Noah, however, is not only worried about pollution. He is also concerned that his father's anger issues are threatening his parents' marriage. He's already overheard his mom use the D-word with a lawyer.

So what do these red-blooded American kids do? They devise a sure-fire plan, of course, that will vindicate their father and prove that Dusty is indeed a polluter: Operation Flush.

Hiaasen clearly had a lot of fun writing this book, alternating between his two alter egos: a grown man capable of sinking boats in righteous anger and a clever kid who figures out how to thwart evildoers. Although written in simple language for the preteen crowd, he neither dumbs down his prose nor reins in his imagination.

As with his adult novels, he offers up his usual array of bizarre characters with delicious names: Lice Peeking (a permanently soused trailer park denizen); Mr. Shine, the rodent-faced lawyer who usually looks like he's on his way to a funeral; Miles Umlatt, a thin and blotchy newspaper reporter whose “nose was scuffed up like an old shoe;” and a mysterious pirate with scar on his cheek shaped like the letter M.

Hiaasen also provides his usual sufficiently outrageous, but utterly believable (given its South Florida setting) plot, involving greedy entrepreneurs who don't care a whit that they are destroying Florida's environment.

Flush, in fact, is ever bit as wacky as Hiaasen's adult novels such as Skinny Dip and Striptease. It simply leaves out (it's for kids, remember) the bad language…

Okay, there is Shelly, “a large lady with bright blond hair and a barbed-wire tattoo around one of her biceps.” She is Lice's girlfriend, and when Lice disappears and she suspects foul play, she joins the kids in their plot against Dusty.

Will kids like Flush? It certainly has the ingredient I looked for in a novel when I was Noah's age: kids who are smarter than the adults around them and an ending in which the bullies get their comeuppance. This one has the added bonus of a great description of a Florida sunset from a boat:

“The sky was already turning rosy as we raced toward the west side of the islands, where we'd have the best view…The bay was even smoother than the ocean—it looked like pale blue silk. We stopped at Bowlegs Cut, drifting out through the markers on a hard falling tide. Frigate birds soared overhead, and a pod of dolphins rolled past us, herding mullet…In the distance, somewhere beyond the Gulf of Mexico, the sun was dropping through a coppery and cloudless heaven. None of us dared to say a word, everything seemed so crystal-still and perfect…Abbey was kneeling in the bow, aiming her camera as the last molten slice of light dripped out of sight.”

Source: Margo Hammond, “A fun Florida Flush,” in tampabay.com (St. Petersburg Times), September 18, 2005, p. 1.

SOURCES

Bowser, Betty Ann, and Billy Causey, “Extended Interview: Billy Causey,” Online NewsHour, http://www.pbs.org (December 2004).

Carter, Betty, “Review of Flush,” in Horn Book Magazine, Vol. 81, No. 5, September/October 2005, pp. 579–80.

Hiaasen, Carl, Flush, Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

Nicklin, Emmy, “Review of Flush,” in Nature Conservancy Magazine, http://www.nature.org (January 11, 2008).

Review of Flush, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 252, No. 26, June 27, 2005, p. 64.

Richardson, David L., “Review of Flush,” in Reading Today, Vol. 23, No. 3, December 2005, p. 34.

Shoemaker, Joel, “Review of Flush,” in School Library Journal, Vol. 51, No. 9, September 2005, p. 204.

Swope, Sam, “Moonlighting,” in New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com (September 15, 2005).

Welch, Dave, “A Kinder, Gentler Carl Hiaasen, Still Pissing People Off,” Powells.com, http://www.powells.com (September 29, 2005).

Wysocki, Barbara, “Review of Flush,” in School Library Journal, Vol. 52, No. 1, January 2006, p. 81.

Zvirin, Stephanie, “Review of Flush,” in Booklist, Vol. 101, No. 22, August 2005.

FURTHER READING

Hiaasen, Carl, Paradise Screwed: Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen, Berkley Books, 2002.

In this book of syndicated columns from Hiaasen's writing for the Miami Herald, the author touches on issues such as overdevelopment and greed in south Florida.

Olien, Rebecca, Kids Care!: 75 Ways to Make a Difference for People, Animals & the Environment, Williamson Books, 2007.

This book offers simple suggestions for children to affect the world around them.

Taylor, Elizabeth, “Writing for Young People Isn't Much of a Stretch for Author Carl Hiaasen,” in the Chicago Tribune, December 15, 2005.

In this interview, Hiaasen discusses his two novels written for a young adult audience, including his motivation for writing them.

Williams, Joy, Florida Keys: A History & Guide, 10th ed., Random House Trade, 2003.

Written by a native of Florida, this book offers information on the history and legends of the Keys.

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