In this serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns home after many years in Manhattan. Her uncle Abe requires assistance to keep their landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. In the first few chapters, Becca reacquainted herself with Island life and through Mott (the general manager) met Quincas (a Brazilian) and the rest of Pequot’s staff. Last week, readers were introduced to Uncle Abe and his hatred of Richard Moby, the chief executive officer of Broadway, an off-Island landscaping business.
June 20, 2008
I keep replaying in my mind what happened at Pequot today. I can’t believe it. I’m shocked. The whole crew acted cracked in the heads. And I was one of that crew!
Remember I told you my uncle Abe has an obsession with this off-Island wholesale nursery, Broadway, where his ex-wife started to work after they split? Abe wants to take that place down. He absolutely has it in for Moby, the CEO. He’s gotten it into his head that Broadway is determined to undermine and buy out every grower on the Island — nurseries, landscapers, even farmers. Some of the farming families — like the Athearns at Morning Glory or the Allens of Allen Farm — have been farming for centuries. Other businesses are of more recent vintage, but they’re all committed to Island living and lifestyle. If a corporation moved in and tried to start agribusiness here, it would fail. The land is far too expensive and the growing season too short for it to make financial sense to do what Abe accuses Moby of wanting to do. So let’s just put this on the table right now: Abe is mistaken. Abe is paranoid. Unfortunately, Abe is also possessed.
And today at Pequot, he really wow it defies verbs. First he literally chased off a potential new client, Monika Mitchell Ressler — didn’t you work with her in that theatre on the West Side? — put up a “Closed” sign and called an emergency meeting of the whole staff to talk, yet again, about Moby. Only somehow this time, he convinced everyone, including me, that his quenchless feud is neither mistaken nor paranoid, but rather makes him the leader of a necessary crusade against Broadway’s encroachment. The guy’s a better speaker than Barack Obama.
Here are some of the things that Abe claims Moby is up to. He says he has evidence:
FIRST, Abe claims Broadway has an agreement with other wholesale nurseries not to work with Vineyard growers, in exchange for not competing with them in off-Island locales, so Vineyarders are stuck with Broadway and anything Broadway wants to do. Broadway — says Abe — will then find ways to deliberately disrupt those landscapers’ businesses. This will include strong-arming Plantation Nation (the only shipping company that transports large-scale floral freight) into refusing to work with particular nurseries — which will effectively make it impossible for those nurseries to function.
SECOND, Broadway will deliberately send bug-infested plants to the Island; the bugs won’t be in an active state until the plants are in the ground, at which point they’ll wake up, leap out and eat everything around, native and otherwise, leaving the entire Island in need of new flora — which it will by then only be able to get from Broadway.
THIRD, Broadway will launch an “educational” campaign on the Island, designed to inflame the sentiment of Vineyarders against the “jacked-up” prices of Island growers – and therefore induce them to be sympathetic to Broadway as it begins to make inroads. Broadway’s ultimate goal, says Abe, is to be the Wal-Mart of Island flora.
I’m not going to bother discrediting Abe’s theory, because as I type these words in the calm of my room, it is obviously gonzo. Mott insisted as much, when Abe was presenting all of this to us. But Abe talks louder than Mott, plus Abe writes the paychecks, so he got the last word. I have to admit, he was convincing in the moment. He had specific examples of all of the above; he says he has witnesses.
And then came the real insanity: his call to arms. In the divorce, Gwen took with her Pequot’s next project, the only new project Pequot had on the books for the next six months because it was so huge. So Abe proposed that we all continue to be paid, but our workdays will now consist in part of assembling a case against Broadway, that could then be taken to the New England Nursery Association (or better yet, the federal Department of Agriculture!). Stu will keep focused on the nursery, Quincas has some caretaking upkeep, but the rest of us must be committed to “rescuing the Island.”
We were all so moved by Abe’s passion, we agreed — even Stu and Quincas, who I’ve heard laugh at his rantings before. The one exception was Mott, who I hope doesn’t follow through on his threat to quit. I think he’s staying around just to talk sense into Abe. I’ve already called him and apologized for getting caught up in the fervor, told him I agree with him that Abe is being paranoid, but everyone else seems terribly excited to have a crusade.
“It was a long winter,” said Mott. “They’re bored, they want some drama. If there’s one thing Abe provides, it’s drama.”
Will let you know how this develops. Oy. So much for my bucolic summer frolicking among the greenery.
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Vineyard novelist Nicole Galland’s critically-acclaimed works include Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. Visit her Web site, nicolegalland.com, for more on Moby Rich.