In this serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns home after years in Manhattan to help her eccentric Uncle Abe keep his landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. Abe loathes Richard Moby, chief of the off-Island landscaping business Broadway. He is irrationally convinced that Moby wants to destroy Abe personally, and Island-based nursery businesses in general.
And now back to our regularly scheduled insanity. Remember the “Euonymus issue” from a couple weeks ago? Mr. Moby at Broadway Nursery had sold our friends at Town Garden plants that were supposed to be one kind of shrub, but Abe said they were mislabeled and actually an invasive species that’s illegal to sell. This delighted him because he wants to get Moby in trouble “with the authorities.”
Well, last weekend, while I and a couple other Pequot staffers were looking after the nursery plants (Stu’s got Lyme), Abe pounded into the greenhouse, holding high an unopened envelop from the UMass Extension office. We were wilting in the humidity; Abe looked as if he’d just stepped off an accommodating iceberg. “I have in my hand a piece of paper,” he announced, with something frightfully close to religious ecstasy, “that will expose Richard Moby as the conniving, unlawful, greedy scumbag that he is.” I heard Mott groan behind me; next to me, Quincas nudged my arm and grinned. “I am off to deliver the fatal blow in as public a manner as possible,” Abe concluded, and sailed out the door of the greenhouse. At which point, Mott swore under his breath.
“Okay, Becca, Aquinnah Music Festival now, yeah?” Quincas said cheerfully, as if a channel had been changed on his internal TV. (This was not a date, by the way; get your mind out of the gutter.)
“No, Bec, you gotta go after your uncle,” Mott said. “I can’t — promised to help my sister with her art opening tomorrow.” Then he explained to me what to do — or rather, what to try to prevent.
Resenting my genetic obligations to Abe, I biked through the sticky heat down Barnes Road (never attempt this in summer traffic, by the way, unless you are sheathed entirely in Kevlar, which I was not) and over to the Oak Bluffs harbor. Here the Shark Tournament was in full swing. The harbor was crammed so tight with boats, they could have functioned as an omni-directional pontoon bridge. About 500 people — tourists, locals, kids, and some folks who looked like Hell’s Angels — were crowded on the walkways around the harbor, but especially over by the weigh-in station. On the outskirts of the crowd, near a large white yacht that was docked stern-to at the bulkhead, I saw Abe. (This is where Mott predicted Abe would be. I have no idea how Mott knows these things.)
In the low aft cockpit was a collection of sundry summer-folks — cronies of the owner, who was leaning back in a lounge chair and seemed to be playing almost a caricature of the Tough Rich Guy Who Lives It Up. He had pinkie rings on both hands and I think he was even wearing Bermuda shorts and loafers, though he wasn’t a day over 60. He wore wrap-around glasses that (combined with his almost-lipless mouth) gave his face a shark-like blankness. In one hand was a drink that required an umbrella. His other hand rested on the tanned arm of a lovely woman about his age, who looked just as good in a bikini as the 20-something cronies’ girlfriends perched around the boat.
With both a shudder and a sinking feeling in my gut, I realized that this man must be Richard Moby.
And then with a far greater shudder and infinitely deeper sinking in my gut, I saw that the woman beside him was my Aunt Gwen, Abe’s recently-ex wife. (I knew she’d started working for Moby, but this was clearly not a business meeting.)
And just as I realized these two things, Abe approached the yacht in a radioactive state.
I tried to cross the street to get to them, but I wasn’t near the crosswalk and the traffic, although slow, was aggressive and unrelenting, so I had to watch the initial encounter helplessly, over the tops of Subaru Outbacks, Jeep Cherokees, Minis and the occasional, absurdly misplaced Mercedes.
It was hard to hear them, but I made out Abe greet Moby in a vicious tone of voice, calling him “Dick”; Moby placidly corrected him, saying, “Rich.”
“Oh, you’re rich alright, but you don’t come by it honestly!” Abe crowed, wanting to be overheard by the scores of passersby to and from the shark weigh-in. Gwen grimaced, rose, and disappeared inside the cabin.
“Sorry you feel that way, buddy,” Moby said to Abe in a Teflon-like voice. “What’s the problem?”
I took a step into the road, ignoring an irate Rav4 driver from New Jersey who was in a big hurry to start driving around Circuit avenue in fruitless pursuit of parking.
Abe held up the still-unopened letter from UMass Extension. I knew what it was, of course: official confirmation that the shrub Moby had sold Town Garden was an illegal invasive. Abe waved it threateningly at Moby. “The contents of this envelope will put an end to your shady activities,” he declared.
Moby settled back deeper in his lounger with an expansive gesture. “Dunno what you’re talking about, buddy,” he said, the hint of a sneer teasing one side of his upper lip.
“Don’t play stupid with me, Dick,” Abe warned, nearly frothing at the mouth. I finally reached the sidewalk as he ripped open one end of the envelope and reached in for the paper —
— Oh, crap, I just realized it’s my turn to cover the greenhouse today and I’m late (Stu won’t be back to work for a few weeks because of the Lyme). I’ll have to finish this later. Until then, a final thought for pondering: There are two kinds of people in the world: people who get angry about shark tournaments, and people who get angry about people who get angry about shark tournaments.
Be part of the Your Name Here campaign: any person or business donating $250 or more to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services can get a mention in Moby Rich. Please contact Jan Hatchard at 508-693-7900, extension 374.
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.