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 CEO 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 newest scheme involves renting a fishing boat to participate in the derby, knowing that Moby is also fishing it.

September 19, 2008

Dear P:

So now Abe has this little boat for the month of the derby. He ordered Mott — his general manager, not his first mate — to pilot it, and Mott wearily agreed; the option was letting Abe go out on the open sea by himself, unmonitored, and that was obvious folly.

Of course, the boat needed crew, and Mott drafted from the Pequot staff — Quincas and myself, plus Stu (our pot-head greenhouse manager). That made the little boat crowded, too crowded to fish for bonito . . . but of course, we weren’t really fishing for bonito, we were fishing for Richard Moby.

Mott had figured this out and warned us three, but Abe maintained the fiction that we were chasing bonito. That’s a good cover for a boating accident because pods of bonito feed together in an absolute frenzy, and pods of fishermen, in smallish, quickish boats, see the commotion, move in toward them, get ready to cast . . . and then suddenly the bonito, like a flock of manic gulls that just heard about a more attractive garbage dump, zoom off perhaps a mile down the beach ... and the little fishing boats zoom after them, eager to cast into them while they’re in their next feeding frenzy. Generally speaking everyone’s responsible and respectful about traffic management, but there is the occasional drunkard or off-Island speed-freak, and in turbulent waters it can get dangerous.

So Abe was hoping to smash into Moby’s boat in the midst of such turbulence and make it appear to be an accident. He went through the pretext of baiting three rods with metal lures, and assigned them to Quincas, Stu and me, none of whom have ever fished from a boat. (Quincas has never fished in his life, and I last fished when I was 11, for perch in the Tisbury Great Pond.) While the three of us stood there stupidly holding the rods, Mott grumblingly steered wherever Abe told him to. The feeding frenzy had died down, and the bobbing boats were trying to figure out next where to rush off to. Abe stared at the other fishermen through a telescope, which was unduly melodramatic given that all the boats were close enough to recognize each other easily. The bonito had headed down-Island and so the boats were puttering in that direction, waiting for more information.

I realized Abe was trying to make sure we stayed as far as possible from the biggest boat — a sleek white thing called Broadway II, with about eight rods but people crowded on its deck who seemed more interested in taking pictures of the North Shore than in fishing. This wasn’t Moby’s yacht, but it was obviously his “other boat.”

And then The Call came in on the radio saying the bonito were by the entrance to Tashmoo, and zoom, off we all went, serenity turned into the smashing, bashing cavalcade of motorboats across the Sound. Quincas almost fell overboard and considered this hilarious. Abe, who has marvelous balance for such a lanky, aging land-lubber, kept glaring through his brass telescope and directing Mott exactly where to go.

The boats stopped suddenly and every crew (except ours) rushed to get their lures in the water, roiling from the feeding frenzy. We found ourselves perpendicular to Moby’s boat, a few hundred yards ahead.

Abe ordered, “Full ahead!” to Mott, who responded with a look of unsurprised disgust.

“No, Abe,” he said, and slowed the boat.

And then — oh, my God — Abe abruptly shoved the telescope into Mott’s side right under his ribs; Mott collapsed groaning to the floor of the boat; Abe grabbed the wheel with one hand, and the throttle with the other. For one long suspended moment there was only the sound of the engine revving up beneath us — and Moby was so close ahead of us. I tasted metal in the back of my mouth (I always thought that was a literary convention to describe fear, but wow, it really happens). Our boat picked up speed —

Suddenly Quincas, with the agility and speed of a cartoon character, seemed to come flying over my head (I know that really didn’t happen but I cannot remember it any other way) and landed on Abe’s back like a monkey; he hung all his weight on Abe’s right side so that Abe staggered for balance away from the controls; I lunged to the console; I had no idea what anything was, but managed at least to steer the boat in a wide arc away from Moby, and then just turned off the ignition.

We lurched about and then relative silence shrouded us. Abe did not struggle under Quincas’s weight; I believe common sense returned and shamed him. Mott groaned again and sat up, massaging his side. Stu stared at all of us, appalled, clearly wanting to get stoned again as soon as possible.

Moby’s boat, complacent and oblivious, cheered as one of her rods got a bite.

I’d love to say “the end!” but the derby’s on for three weeks more ...



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Vineyard novelist Nicole Galland’s critically-acclaimed works include Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. Visit her Web site,