Peer Review by FantasyOtter12 (United States)

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Hurricane Season

By: Ibex

My papa says the old boat in our garage came with the house, and he also tells me he only plugged all the leaks and repainted it because he figured he would take my brother, Thomas, fishing when he got a little older. But I don’t believe him. The boat and the house were a package deal, sure, but my papa doesn’t like fishing, and I know what the boat is really for.

A few years ago, when we visited family in Tennessee, I heard Papa talking to Uncle Jack about the boat. The boat had been in our garage for years, cast aside and rotting with no use. Papa had always regarded it with disdain, perhaps telling himself that he would fix it up and sell it to someone who would use it, but never gathering the motivation to do so. But now he spoke to Uncle Jack about the boat with such fervor that I almost thought he was Pastor Andrews preaching the Gospel on Easter Sunday; the boat, it seemed, was our savior, our lifeline, our salvation. At least, that was how he presented it to Uncle Jack.

“You see, Jack,” he said, “The boat might be old, and it’s a little rotting, but with a bit of fixing up, it’ll do us good when a storm decides to strike. And a storm will strike, Jack, I can promise you that. In a couple years, we could be up to our necks in water with nothing to save us but the boat. I at least need to plug the leaks in the hull.”

“I don’t doubt that you and Cheryl could find yourselves in the midst of a hurricane, but James, you must listen to reason,” Uncle Jack replied, placing his hand on my father’s shoulder. “It’s no longer safe to be living just outside of Charleston. People are moving out of the area just like they’re moving out of Miami and Houston. You really ought to take Cheryl and the children and move to someplace safer. Heck, come and join us in Chattanooga. Then you won’t have to worry about floating in a moldy boat.”

My Papa shook his head, “You know Cheryl and I love Mount Pleasant too much to leave. And besides, Willow will be entering high school in a year, and Thomas middle school. It's too late to move now.” Papa looked into Jack’s eyes like a begging dog, “Please, Jack. Do me a favor. You know all about boats. Can’t you come by for just a week or two to help?”

There was a tense silence. Finally, Uncle Jack sighed, “Fine. I’ll bring the family for a visit and we can work on the boat. But remember, you’ll always have a home here in Chattanooga, no matter what happens.”

My father nodded, “Thank you, Jack.” As they embraced, I crept back upstairs to the bedroom I shared with one of my cousins. I had a feeling my father wouldn’t have wanted me to hear that conversation, had he known I was just around the corner.

Several years later, having just finished my sophomore year of high school, I sit on the front porch in the rocking chair, watching Papa inspect the boat. It’s painted white now, and it doesn’t leak like it used to. Uncle Jack helped him install new benches and a little compartment for supplies. Still, he murmurs to himself.

Mama pushes open the creaky, screen door and shuts it softly. She stands beside me, arms folded across her chest, her face grim. She watches Papa solemnly. Somewhere not far away, a Carolina wren sings sweetly. For the moment, the world is peaceful, wrapped in summer’s warm embrace. Nothing could go wrong here.

“James?” my mother calls, and Papa looks up at her expectantly. “Can you come inside for just a minute?” The air suddenly turns cold and stagnant with worry. My mother only talks in that tone of voice when something is dreadfully wrong. My Papa wastes no time in following her through the front door, his forehead creased like the sand dunes of a desert and sizzling with sweat. Once they’ve gone inside, the air returns to its warm, fluid state, and the birds start chirping again. But still, even in the heat of the Southern summer, I can’t shake the chill of my mother’s voice; goosebumps ripple up my arms in waves of shivers.

Later that evening, after dinner and icebox pie, my parents call me and my siblings into the living room for a family discussion. Thomas and Maddie squeeze next to me on the couch. Mama and Papa sit in the identical armchairs and look towards each other.

“Should I tell them?” Papa asks. Mama nods, and Papa clasps his hands together, weaving his fingers in and out of each other, “Well, kids, there’s a hurricane out at sea, and the weathermen are worried it’s going to move in our direction.”

This isn’t news to us; South Carolina gets hit by hurricanes and tropical storms every year. It’s just a fact of life. But the shaking of my parents’ arms and the evident fear in their eyes tells me that this is no typical hurricane.

My siblings see this in our parents as well. My sister’s eyes grow wide with fright, “Mama, are we going to die?”
I laugh, but Mama looks absolutely mortified, “No! No, we are not going to die! We are going to be fine.” She glances at Papa for support.

“That’s right,” Papa assures Maddie. “We are not going to die. The weathermen think the hurricane might be bad enough that everyone will need to evacuate, but we’ve already arranged with Uncle Jack and Aunt Lilly that we’ll stay with them if we need to leave.” He stands up and walks over to us, kneeling by the couch and patting Maddie’s knees, “It’s going to be okay. It’s all going to be fine.” But even he doesn’t seem so sure.

This is the closest to realistic fiction I've ever gotten (technically it's cli-fi, but with the way things are going, I don't think any of this is too far off), since most of my work teeters on the line between fantasy and allegory, mostly just fantasy. (This novel was pre-planned before this month.) Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Peer Review

I absolutely love cli-fi, and you've done such an impressive job here!! Hurricane Season suggests the plot and gives the readers insight into the story before they even begin.

You don't mention the main character too much, which I get, since it's told from her perspective. I think it could be really interesting if you find a way to tell us the main character's age, and change the story based on how someone of that age would view the story. If this connects to you personally, (I've never gone through a hurricane or had to evacuate) you could include more emotion in certain parts of the scene. Why is the father so intent on getting the boat fixed?

I think the boat scene at the beginning could be more descriptive, which you have done an exceptional job of throughout the rest of the story. The beginning scene kind of set the mood, place, and time period for the whole story, and for most of those elements the reader just has to guess based on details you provided here and there. I think you could add a little suspense dispersed throughout the story at some of the climaxes, adding a solitary sentence about how quiet it was, or something outside in nature that reflects how the conversation is going inside the house.

At first, before southern tropical storms were mentioned, I could see the story taking place in a swamp kind of landscape, with rain and lots of humidity, all based off of the first paragraph, which is awesome! One of my favorite parts of this piece were "Once they’ve gone inside, the air returns to its warm, fluid state, and the birds start chirping again. But still, even in the heat of the Southern summer, I can’t shake the chill of my mother’s voice; goosebumps ripple up my arms in waves of shivers." This describes so many things soooo well in such a short excerpt!

I can tell you've been working on this story for a long time! It was a pleasure to give feedback here, and the piece was so nice to read. The ending was very dramatic, I liked it a lot.

Reviewer Comments

If you have any questions about my feedback please ask!! Best of luck in the competition