In this year-long serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns home after two decades 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, Broadway. Convinced that Moby wants to destroy Abe personally, and all Island-based landscaping/nursery businesses generally, Abe is obsessed with “taking down” Moby. Repeated failures (most recently, his totaling a fishing vessel in an attempt to sink Moby’s boat) have done nothing to dissuade him from this venture.
Did I write something naïve last week, like, “Uncle Abe has given up on trying to git that thar Moby varmint”? Of course he hasn’t. Of course he hasn’t. Of course he hasn’t.
Abe came striding into work a few days ago with something framed in one hand, a hammer in the other, and a nail between his teeth. Without a word, he gestured Fran to step away from her desk. He stood on her chair, and tucking the frame under his arm, hammered the nail into the soft pine wood of the wall with three strokes. Then he removed the framed thing from under his arm and hung it on the nail, stepped down from the chair, and turned to face us all. We’d all been talking, but his strange entrance had silenced us, and now we all stared from him to his handiwork. It appeared to be a document, something very official-looking, with calligraphy and stamps.
“That is a certificate of ownership of one gold bar,” he announced. “I own it.” A pause, as he let that sink in. “I will transfer ownership of it to whoever here can get rid of Richard Moby.”
The reactions were immediate and varied. Fran blinked rapidly in flummoxed disbelief; Quincas gaped, then laughed uncontrollably (he finds Abe endlessly amusing); Harp (the mason) and Dag (the equipment guy) both opened their eyes wide a moment, then exchanged awed, disturbed gazes; Stu (pot-head nursery manager) said “Whoa,” very, very slowly; Mott made a sound of disgust and shook his head; I said, before I could stop myself, “You can’t do that, Uncle Able! That’s like soliciting a hit man!”
His response was icy with disdain. “I’m not suggesting anybody kill him, Becca,” he clarified. “Just get rid of him. Drive him away from the Island permanently, or put him out of business. Remove him as an entity that I have to be aware of.” He looked around at us, satisfied he had everyone’s rapt attention. “You’re all clever, and all in different ways. I trust that one of you, or some of you in tandem, can come up with something. I’m reasonable enough to acknowledge that none of my approaches has been working.”
And he walked through the office into his own, closing the door.
Breaking the stunned silence, Stu could not help but make the observation, “That would buy a lot of weed.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, honey,” Fran snapped, “You already grow enough to keep you stoned 24-7.”
“Yeah, if you’re really that invested in the drug culture, you should invest it all in pharmaceutical stocks,” Harp said. “With the state the country’s in, you know pills aren’t going out of style.”
“Honey, it’s gold,” Fran pointed out with an air of sarcasm. “You keep it. Just the way it is. Don’t mess with gold. You wait this whole economic crappola out, and then you still have the gold, and it’s worth even more, and then you liquidate it gradually for retirement.”
“Maybe that’s what you would do,” Harp said peaceably. “I’d put it all in stocks.”
“You are both cold-hearted capitalists,” said Dag — he hardly ever talks, but has the most beautiful, velvety bass voice. “I’d get my lady some nice jewelry, and then I’d buy a house, free and clear, no mortgage, no debt.” He smiled. “And then I’d sleep like a baby every night, because I wouldn’t be worrying about the price of gold or what happened in the stock market, I’d just have my happy lady and the roof over my head, and life would be good.”
“I like that,” Quincas said. “Except I send money home to Brazil to my family. Then I buy a house with many bedrooms so my friends come to work in America and pay me rent and then I don’t have to work.” He nodded, satisfied with his financial acumen. “Becca, what do you do?” When I made a disgusted face instead of answering, he turned toward Mott.
“Give it all to Michael Hoyt,” Mott said.
“Who is that?” Quincas asked, so intrigued you could imagine he was wondering if he should indeed do this.
“Chapman, Cole and Gleason,” Mott said tersely.
“The funeral home?” Fran asked, confused.
Mott nodded. “It’ll be it a down-payment on the cost of burying you all if you’re fools enough to take up Abe’s offer.”
That was easily the wisest answer yet. But that certificate hangs there still above Fran’s desk, and it would be a lie to say it’s not distracting to us all.
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. For more information, 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.