In honor of my recent Hoot obsession, I thought I'd delve deeper into the characters of Beatrice and Mullet Fingers and take full advantage of the fact that the back story of Lonna and Mullet is not further explained. This is set before Roy moves to Coconut Cove. It is also movie-verse, featuring the boat that substituted the ice cream truck that was Mullet's hide out in the book.

Disclaimer: Hoot is the property of Carl Hiaasen, who is not I.

Family Enough

Beatrice Leep ran down the street in a frenzied rush. She flew down the street, feeling her bare feet slap the asphalt with every step. She felt sweat running down her face and ignored it as she leapt over shrubs and dodged around mailboxes. Her cheek throbbed and her legs burned with lactic acid, but Beatrice kept running as fast as she could.

Finally, the boat docks and the ocean came into view and Beatrice heaved a sigh of relief.

Almost there, she thought.

Sliding in the sand as she came to a stop, Beatrice collapsed against the side of the boat anchored on shore. Breathing heavily, she felt her eyes water. Beatrice felt her eyes water and mentally berated herself when the tears finally fell. Wiping her face in frustration, she couldn't tell the tears from the sweat.

Get it together, she told herself. Don't let her get to you like this.

"Damn it all!" she growled, pounding her fist on the side of the boat.

"Hey, Bea, don't take it out on the boat," said a voice from above.

Beatrice scrubbed her face with her sleeve as her step brother hopped down from the deck. Mullet Fingers crept forward and sat down next to his sister. He had a pretty good idea of what Beatrice was upset over, but wanted to hear it from her.

Beatrice attempted to collect herself but stilled when she felt a comforting hand on her shoulder. She leaned into the touch and soon found herself wrapped into a hug.

Mullet Fingers could tell you how to start a fire with just a stick and a stone, tie every variety of knot for any circumstance imaginable (and do it himself with his eyes closed), and tell you how to catch a gator with your bare hands. But comforting his crying sister? That was another matter entirely. So he set his hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently like he had seen mothers do with their children around town. Before he knew what was happening, he found himself hugging his step sister, albeit a little awkwardly. Beatrice didn't seem to mind and gratefully clung to her brother.

Mullet Fingers noticed a red spot on Beatrice's cheek and gently pressed his fingers to her face. She flinched and he withdrew his hand like he'd been burned.

With increased concern and a touch of rage, he asked his sister the question that was hanging in the air. "What happened?"

"Lonna and I had a disagreement after I got home from school," Beatrice mumbled.

Mullet Fingers released her from his embrace and she lay back against the boat once more. His blood was beginning to boil. He knew that this had something to do with Lonna.

"So she hit you?"

"To sum it up, yeah. I slugged her in the mouth and then ran here. God, Mullet, she was screaming at me like I'd just shoved a knife down her throat. She wouldn't dare tell my dad, though. He'd kick her out faster than you ever ran away." Beatrice laughed at the thought. "I just want to forget about it."

To say Mullet Fingers was angry would be an understatement. Beatrice seemed to have collected herself and was staring at her feet. He just kept glaring at the bruise forming on his step sister's cheek. Sure, Lonna smacked him around quite a bit before the marriage to Leon his subsequent runaway. For LonnA to take on his older sister, in all her strength and attitude, and make her break down like Beatrice just did...he would not stand for it. He'd yet to tell Beatrice much about his time with Lonna before Leon. He figured what better time than now.

"Beatrice, I should tell you a little more about Lonna. Obviously, she ain't the gentle, mothering type. In fact, I'm glad you knocked her around a little. It was way overdue," Mullet Fingers began.

Beatrice grinned at this and curiously set her chin in her hands as she listened. She knew that Mullet Fingers and Lonna had never gotten along, but had never uncovered just what offset the two.

"Anyway, my mother used to do a little more than spank me when I acted up. She would get angry with some boyfriend or something would go wrong at work and she'd come home in a rampage. Most of the time I'd steer clear and spend my time in the bog near the house when she was home. Other times I wasn't so lucky, if you get what I mean."

Beatrice could hardly believe what she was hearing. Lonna had abused Mullet Fingers. It wasn't so much that she couldn't believe that Lonna had been abusive, but that Mullet Fingers hadn't told her before.

"Why didn't you tell someone?"

"Who would believe me, the delinquent son? When Lonna married your dad she couldn't hardly lay a finger on me with him around. Lonna shipped me off to military school when she realized that I was fighting back and that I had someone new to fight on my side: you. So she did what she could to keep us separated and keep me quiet." Mullet Fingers paused and watched as Beatrice took in his story.

Beatrice had long forgotten the bruise on her cheek and was instead feeling her cheeks flush with anger. No wonder he ran away, she thought. Beatrice had thought that the tension between Mullet Fingers and Lonna was definitely fishy, but she had reasoned away her step brother's desperate escape attempts. She had attributed the runaways to Mullet's wild nature; he was the boy who couldn't be tamed. Mullet Fingers was the boy that could wrangle with sharks and gators and come out without a scratch. Yet he had been abused by his own mother. The realization struck Beatrice like a soccer ball to the face. She suddenly had new insight into Mullet Finger's strange scrapes and bruises she'd spied at the wedding. She felt like crying, weeping for her remarkably unfortunate step brother. But Beatrice didn't.

Mullet Fingers grinned his wiry smile her way and leapt up from his seat in the sand. He offered her his hand, which she took, and hoisted her to her feet. "But, hey," he assured her, "She ain't gonna get me out here. You're the one I'm worried about."

Beatrice smiled fondly at her brother and ruffled his sun-bleached mop with her hand. She'd always been jealous of her brother's carefree attitude. He was one wild boy, but he still needed looking after. His tanned body was lanky and thin and she worried about him getting enough to eat. But he could get by on his own. Not that she was going to let him do it on his own, though. Family's gotta stick together and Beatrice was the only family he had.

Mullet Fingers brushed her hand away and chuckled as she began to berate him for his weight and health. Bea was back, he confirmed to himself.

"Hey, Beatrice?" he interrupted her tirade. She raised her eyebrows in acknowledgment. "If Lonna ever makes a move toward you again, let her know just how hard you can kick. I think she'll leave you alone after that smack tonight, though."

"It's a promise," she laughed. "Now, let's head up into the boat. It's getting dark and I know you have some of that special bread I made you left and you're gonna eat every last crumb!"

Mullet Fingers and Beatrice scaled the side of the boat as the owls began to peak out of their nests in the trees. They both knew they'd be okay. They had each other and that's all they really needed to get by.