The theme of growing up is one of the most persistent themes. It reinforces the idea that life is all about change and how we adapt to it. We are also shown throughout the story that with maturity comes responsibility.
Roy Eberhardt just moved to Florida and is being bullied by Dana Matherson. One day on the bus, Roy sees a running boy. He tries to get off the bus, but Dana grabs him by the throat. Roy gets free by breaking Dana's nose, but cannot catch the running boy and is hit in the head with a golf ball. Roy was sent to the vice-principal's office and the vice-principal suspends Roy from the bus for two weeks and tells him to write an apology letter to Dana. He tries to call a truce with Dana, but Dana refuses.
Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House Corporation intends to build a pancake house in Coconut Cove. The bulldozers have already been parked on the construction site, but work is delayed over and over again because of bizarre but effective acts of vandalism that occur in the night. Roy learns this is the work of the running boy he only knows as "Mullet Fingers", whom he befriends. His step-sister, Beatrice, tells Roy that Mullet Fingers was sent off to boarding school by his mother, after she married Beatrice's father, but ran away and lives in the swamplands. His motives for the vandalism are honorable; Mullet Fingers wants to save the endangered burrowing owls that live on the site from being killed when the bulldozing begins.
The construction manager on the site denies the existence of the owls. Roy attempts to help Mullet Fingers prove the owls are on the site, including loaning him a digital camera. In his current events presentation, Roy tells his history class about the owls and how the pancake company will bury them, and encourages them to join him in protesting at the ground breaking the next day.
Roy and Beatrice and other students attend the ground breaking, where they expose the company's greed and dishonesty to the entire town. Although Mullet Finger's pictures were unidentifiable, a live burrowing owl flies out, proving that owls still live in the area. Kimberly Lou Dixon, an actress who acted as the company's spokesperson, is a bird lover and joins the demonstrators. The young people succeed in exposing the illegal acts of those in power, including illegally removing an environmental impact statement from the official file. They save the birds and their habitat. The president of Mother Paula's All-American Pancake House blames former employees and promises to preserve the property as an owl sanctuary.
Mullet Fingers, in an effort to escape his vile family situation, climbs out of a bathroom window and is accidentally mistaken for a burglar. When Mullet Fingers' mother spitefully tells the police that he stole a ring from her, he is sent to the same juvenile detention center as Dana. Mullet Fingers escapes the jail using Dana as a distraction. At the end, Roy discovers that Mullet Finger’s real name is Napoleon Bridger.
Napoleon Bridger "Mullet Fingers"
The construction site was the future home of the 647th Mother Paula’s pancake house. But Roy finds out that Mother Paula’s didn’t have a construction permit or a permit to kill the owls. The dump has mostly cars and trucks, but there are a few garbage piles. Mullet fingers sleeps in an old ice cream truck. There is a small cluster of trees and bushes in the course where Roy first meets Mullet fingers while he was collecting the poisonous Cottonmouth moccasins. The rest of the story takes place in town.
Conflict & Resolution
About The Author
Carl Hiaasen was born in 1953 and raised in Plantation, Florida. Hiaasen was the first of four children and the son of a lawyer, Kermit Odell, and a teacher, Patricia. He entered Emory University just after graduating high school in 1970, where he contributed numerous satiric pieces to the school newspaper. In 1972 he transferred to the University of Florida, where he wrote for The Independent Florida Alligator. Hiaasen graduated in 1974 with a degree in journalism.
He was a reporter for Cocoa Today (Cocoa, Florida) for two years, beginning in 1974, and then was hired by the Miami Herald in 1976, where he still works.
Hiaasen lives in Vero Beach.
Beatrice Leep: Hey, cowgirl.
Roy Eberhardt: Yeah?
Beatrice Leep: I'm really glad that... You know what, I'm just gonna call you "Roy" from now on. If that's all right with you.
Roy Eberhardt: And what's wrong with Ling Ho?
[She laughs and hits him with a pillow]
Mullet Fingers: You've got to start thinking like an outlaw!
Mayor: Mother Paula's is going to be a shining example of my six-point economic development plan, bringing to Coconut Cove over *twelve* new jobs!
[about Dana, after Roy broke his nose]
Roy Eberhardt: I wrote him a note, that should be the end of it.
Garrett: A note? That's adorable. What did you say? "I'm sorry I smoked you. Please don't break every bone in my body. Please leave me one good arm so I can feed myself"?
Roy Eberhardt: You're hysterical.