THE DEGREES OF BARLEY LICK

Watch for it in 2021 from Running the Goat, Books & Broadsides 

Premise: A kidnapper takes an eleven-year-old boy from a summer camp on Vancouver Island and leaves a single set of coordinates plugged into a handheld global positioning system (GPS) for the boy’s distraught father to find. There is no known motive and no ransom request.

The Degrees of Barley Lick is a coming-of-age story told through the eyes of the protagonist, 16-year-old Barley Flick, who is adrift since the recent death of his father. Barley lives in Cloverdale, a suburb east of Vancouver with his mother and struggles with the fact that she has a new boyfriend.

Set in 2006, the story opens with Barley set to compete in GeoFind, a geocaching competition to determine the best geocacher in British Columbia and Washington. Barley wants to honour his dead father by winning first-place.

But several things stand in his way.

First of all, Phyllis Henderson, Barley`s ex-girlfriend and main competition in GeoFind; and then Fred Newton, Barley’s mother’s new boyfriend who wants Barley to interrupt the GeoFind contest to help with an RCMP investigation that involves geocaching, and finally the government of the United States when they reinstate something called Selective Availability, which scrambles satellite signals so people can no longer find accurate coordinates using a hand-held GPS, putting an end to not only the GeoFind contest, but also to Barley’s ability to find the clues leading to the kidnapped boy.

The Degrees of Barley Lick runs 84,000 words and is written in the third person, past tense in Barley`s point of view. The story follows Barley as he changes from a self-absorbed youth into a more mature young adult who realizes everything is not always just about him. He begins to accept Newton into his life and comes to the understanding that by doing so, he is not being disloyal to his father’s memory.

The Degrees of Barley Lick  is written with the reluctant teen reader in mind and deals with serious issues like kidnapping, the dissolution of a happy family after an unexpected death of a parent and the misunderstandings between youth that can lead to alienation. The story also offers some redemption when Barley and Phyllis once again become friends, and Barley no longer feels the need to be so defensive towards his mother or Newton.

Geocaching remains a popular international sport with more than three million geocaches worldwide, and some of the geocaches mentioned in the book are real. I imagine the book to be popular among those who love hiking and the outdoors and those participating in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards.

THE DEGREES of BARLEY LICK

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Cover Reveal and Excerpt

“Geocaching is a cross between treasure hunting and high-tech orienteering,” said Phyllis Henderson, 2005’s GeoFind champion. “Picture a tiny bucket hidden completely out of sight in an area the size of British Columbia and you have to find it, by yourself, using only latitude and longitude. You can use GPS, but that only gets you so close to the treasure. You have to go the last eight or nine metres on your own. If you’re in the middle of a dense forest, and the bucket is well camouflaged, you need clues.

To win the GeoFind contest, you have to be the fastest to decipher and follow the clues to find the treasure. GeoFind basically involves a bunch of teenagers running around in the woods like crazed maniacs searching for objects of no value, just for the thrill of the hunt. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had.”

               ― Phyllis Henderson, Cloverdale Reporter, June 1, 2006

An Intruder in June, Cloverdale, 2006

 

Barley Lick jumped out of his friend’s car and sprinted through the raindrops past the six-foot grizzly bear carving and up the steps of the pink stucco storey and a half on 62A Avenue. If he was quick, he wouldn’t miss any of the hockey game. He laid his Coke on the porch railing, balanced his pizza on a raised leg so he could dig out his key to open the door. That’s when he noticed the oak door was ajar. Hmmm. It wasn’t like his mother to leave it open. In fact, every night since last December, she had locked the door with the deadbolt.

Cautiously, Barley pushed the door, his heart pounding out a warning—the upper and lower portions beat individually like separate organs. He heard a muffled sound and his heart rate rose.

Barley Lick dropped his pizza, dropped his drink, and grabbed one of the pink golf clubs from the bag in the entranceway. Brown liquid hissed onto the floor, a syrupy river seeping into the seams of the hardwood. 

He yelled like a blackbelt in karate, took two running strides, and raised the five-iron poised to strike.

A huge man, a stranger, had someone pinned on the couch.

And that someone was his mother.

Was she gagged? In peril? Barley would protect her against this … this …this sexual predator. No one could hurt her. No one. She was all Barley had. After what happened to his father.

That was when Barley took note of two sets of middle-aged eyes turning towards him. Not quite in unison. One a split second ahead of the other, but in both sets, he saw the same recognition and horror taking hold.

This wasn’t an intruder attacking his mother. It was some nerd in a tartan vest.

“What the hell,” Barley said, lowering the club.

With the speed of a mousetrap, Mary Jane Lick snapped to a sitting position and began smoothing her hair with her fingers.

Could this really be his mother? His forty-five-year-old mother?  And who was the massive mound of male hormones?

The vest guy jumped up, tucked in his shirt tail, and turned to face Barley, revealing ruddy cheeks, a salt-and-pepper mustache, and a receding hairline. He was a mountain of a man. At least 6’4’’ and 250 pounds.

Barley’s mother cleared her throat. “I, uh, I thought you were working.” She looked like a sheepish teenager.

“Mr. Franklyn let us go early.” Barley averted his eyes.

His mother’s face was flushed. She began again. “Barley, this is my friend, Fred. Remember I was telling you about him?”

“No.” Barley let the single word hang there between them.

The mountain moved into Barley’s field of vision, smiling, showing pointy incisors. He extended his right hand.

Barley laid down the golf club but could not bring himself to offer his hand in return. It was just too gross.

The mountain lowered his arm.

“Barley Lick, show some respect. Shake hands with Fred.”

“Pfft. Me, show respect? Dad’s only been gone seven months and you’re getting on like…” Barley didn’t finish the sentence, even in the silence of his own mind. “This guy better get out of our house before...” Before what? Barley had never thought of himself as a violent person.

“I’m sorry, Fred,” said Barley’s mother.

“It’s OK, MJ. I’ll see you tomorrow after work.”

MJ? He’s calling her MJ?

The mountain straightened his vest—my God, it really was tartan—and started towards the door.

He slipped on his loafers, and with one quick glance back at Barley’s mother, was gone.

Barley waited until he heard the door click before he spoke. “‘MJ’- Mom, no one ever calls you MJ besides Dad.” He looked out the window to see an older-model, silver Mercedes pull away from the curb.

Mary Jane Lick sunk down into the couch like a deflated balloon. “I know, Barley, but your father’s....” She didn’t finish.

“He’s what, Mom?” Barley knew his mother had trouble saying the word.

She turned to him with a look so pained etched in her cheeks that Barley knew he should stop shouting and go to her. But he couldn’t. He felt like someone else had inhabited his body. That it wasn’t him speaking. “He’s what, Mom? Oh, that’s right, he’s dead. Dad is dead and you brought some loser home with you. What were you thinking?”

Barley knew what he was thinking—that his father was spinning in his grave. That it was way too soon for his mother to have a boyfriend. That he had to get himself out of that room. Otherwise, the deluge of tears he was fighting back was going to break free.

“I’m going to bed.” Barley didn’t even clean up the pizza and drink. His mother could do it. He stamped up the stairs, and slammed the door to his room so hard the windows shook.