In this serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns home after many years to help her eccentric Uncle Abe keep his landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. Abe has a paranoid hatred of Richard Moby, the chief executive of an off-Island wholesale nursery. Convinced that Moby wants to destroy Abe personally, and all Island-based landscaping/nursery businesses generally, Abe is obsessed with “taking down” Moby. His efforts have so far been failures, but that does not discourage him. He recently implied, while drunk, that he would kill Moby at the Oak Bluffs fireworks display.
Okay, I won’t keep you in suspense: Abe did not manage to “off” Richard Moby at the fireworks. He intended to, but disaster was averted by Quincas, Pequot’s Brazilian laborer. His English is atrocious, his sense of propriety non-existent, and his motives suspect, but the guy deserves a medal in my book.
The fireworks are the moment of greatest human density all summer. The whole Pequot staff, plus Cherry Bomber, had a prime viewing spot from Fran’s porch overlooking Ocean Park, but we were all too worried about what Abe was up to, to enjoy it. Mott (himself an abstainer) tried to get Abe drunk and distracted, but Abe wouldn’t drink; he was determined to leave the porch and wander the twilit blanket of humanity that was Ocean Park. So I begged niece-ish privilege to wander with him, but he claimed to be in a solitary mood (in a crowd of 15,000) and wanted to be on his own. Bomber suggested we tie him to the sofa for the evening, but Fran didn’t have rope, and nobody, even Bomber, was willing to start an act of aggression toward Abe, who’s a foot taller than most of us.
So Abe went off into the darkness unaccompanied, as we all tried to reassure ourselves we were het up for nothing. The melodrama has been fun to get caught up in, but sheesh, he’s not actually going to kill another human being, right?
Suddenly, Quincas — who’d had a beer or six — got an amazing expression on his face. “I can make it okay!” he announced gleefully. “Come watch me, Becca! This will be so great!” He grabbed my hand and started to drag me down from the porch. I glanced to Mott for guidance; he gave me a resigned “might-as-well” gesture and grimaced.
Quincas dragged me into town, across Circuit avenue and into the quiet Camp Ground (which two nights earlier had been as densely packed as Ocean Park was now). We ran to the alley where Abe had been heading on Illumination Night — the alley where a friend of Moby’s had a cottage. Quincas called out “Mr. Moby? Mr. Moby?” in a familiar, sycophantic tone, until somebody in one of the cottages, believing him to be a Moby-crony, told him where Moby and his cottage-dwelling friends had settled to watch the fireworks. After cheerful thanks, Quincas led me at a run back through the Camp Ground, back across Circuit avenue, and back to Ocean Park. Maybe Quincas was a tracker back in Brazil; I could not imagine finding any individual in such a throng, but he located Moby in under a minute.
“Watch, Becca,” he said with a grin, a few yards behind a party of about a dozen. He moved me over to the side, and then approached Moby and his gang.
“Sr. Moby!” he began, bowing at Moby’s feet. “Eu tenho olhado em toda parte para você!Papá! No ultimo, eu encontro-o!” (I don’t speak Portuguese so this might not be spot on.) He kept repeating “Papá!” and trying to hug Moby in his low-slung chair.
Moby was appalled, and signaled one of his goons to pull Quincas off him. But Quincas, plucked into the air by his T-shirt, went slack and somehow just fell out of the shirt, so that he was now bare-chested (okay, I admit it: yum) and unhindered, nearly on Moby’s lap. “Papá!” he said again, happily, squeezing his own taut bicep and then Moby’s thicker, more flaccid one, as if implying they were built alike. He burped in Moby’s face, and then made to hug him again.
Moby, in disgust, scrambled to stand, and his cronies reflexively did likewise. As they collectively backed away, Quincas kept up the “Papá!” schtick, getting in Moby’s face to demonstrate they had the same hair! Ears! Hands! Nostrils! He was too spry for the goons to grab him again, and when Moby hollered for a policeman, the cop didn’t believe that one small man (who suddenly looked angelically cowed) could be causing that much grief to an entire group — especially since the group was now tromping on everyone around them, and so complaints were springing up against them.
Eventually, like an irksome collie, Quincas had shepherded Moby’s crew all the way back to the edge of the park. Latecomers had already claimed Moby’s prime spot and anyhow his mood was ruined: he was freaked out by Quincas.
Somebody suggested they retreat to his yacht down the harbor to watch the fireworks with an obstructed view, and he agreed. They high-tailed it out of the park. Quincas did not follow. He turned to find me and grinned, pleased with himself.
Back at Fran’s house after the fireworks, Abe eventually wandered in, listless and frustrated-looking. I don’t know what his plan was, and frankly hope I never know. I’m just glad Quincas made sure Moby wasn’t around for it.
Now if we can get through Labor Day weekend safely, we’ll be graced with the sanity of fall ...
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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.