This serialized, real-time Vineyard novel, Moby Rich, began in last Friday’s Gazette and will continue every Friday, here on page two-A, for a year. For those of you who, in the happy hubbub of Memorial Day weekend, missed chapter one of Moby Rich, here is a synopsis: Our narrator (“Call me Becca”), a 40-something Vineyard native, has just returned home after decades in Manhattan. A family crisis has led to her repatriation: her uncle Abe has been dumped by his wife, Gwen, and Abe requires assistance to keep their nursery/landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. Although a magazine editor by trade these days, Becca has been corralled into assisting him, and arrives the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, amazed at how the Island has changed in the past 20 years. Chapter one is available in full online at mvgazette.com. All chapters will be available to subscribers online as they appear in the newspaper.
Well, the start of my employment has been delayed a week. Abe and the whole Pequot staff is off-Island dealing with some wholesale nursery that’s trying to swindle Abe. Or so Abe believes. At least I think that’s what’s going on.
I showed up at the nursery (it’s near the you-pick-’em strawberry farm I took you to that time) for the first time in close to 20 years all the times I’ve been home to visit, I never went to the nursery. Maybe I was afraid sense-memories would enthrall me and I’d never want to leave. Greenhouses have an amazing scent, fully clean and yet fully dirt at the same time. Do you know what I mean, city-dweller? But the nursery is more than the greenhouses, of course – it’s the old rickety wooden barn with rows of hoes, shovels, forks, it’s the converted lemonade-stand where the cash box and the manual credit-card processor live, it’s the open field and the trucks and the Bobcat and the stacks of palettes and the shed full of fertilizer bags and piles and piles and piles of pots everywhere. Right now everything is bright and brisk: the throngs are descending but not here in full force yet.
But what about the staff? When I arrived on my bike, there was only one car, looking like some off-Island suburbanite’s: cherry-red sedan, very spiffy, nothing like an “Island car.” (Subaru Outbacks are the new “Island car,” by the way.) I heard a scuffling in the barn and headed over to check.
The exact moment I turned into the building, a blast of music came out of nowhere, so ferociously loud that I yelped in shock – and couldn’t even hear myself yelp. I stared into the barn and in the dim light, saw about the last thing I’d ever expect to see at Pequot Nursery: some dude break-dancing on the barn floor. Then I looked again and thought maybe he was doing capoeira, that dance/martial art thing that always looks like the dancers are relying on special effects. On the floor of Pequot Nursery, this guy definitely looked like a special effect. He was not big, my height or shorter, dark complexioned, well-muscled but very lean, like a panther masquerading as a human being.
He hadn’t heard my little yelp over the music, and so he capoeria’d himself around the floor for a few seconds before he twisted one half of his body around the other half at an impossible angle, saw me standing alarmed in the doorway, and leapt up, grinning. He nodded energetically as he reached out to turn the music off.
“Becca? Becca?” he said, getting his breath.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Becca? You Becca?” he kept asking.
“Alright, yes. Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“I? Quincas,” he said with a friendly gesture to himself. That provided zero insight into his break-dancing in my uncle’s barn.
“Where is Abe?” I asked.
“Abe, he’s off,” he said heartily, with a confident smile and dismissive wave of his hand. I hoped he didn’t mean off the deep end.
“Off where?” I asked, after a beat. I suddenly felt like such a city-wimp: scrawny, pale and awkward.
“Er fighting,” Quincas said, sobering a little. Oh dear God, I thought. “He says, tell Becca, back tomorrow.”
“Who is he fighting?”
“Gwen and” A comically expressive I-don’t-know face, before concluding, “the man.”
“He’s fighting the Man?”
“Big Nursery man. Good fight!” Quincas assured me. “Abe he’s right, Big Nursery man, he’s wrong.” A pause, as I tried and failed to make sense of this. “Abe is good. But Abe mmm maybe louco?” He tapped his head and grinned.
“Maybe,” I said, strangely reassured that some things don’t change. “What are you doing here?” He looked confused by this question, so I tried, “Where is the staff?”
“Workers,” I said.
“Me! I’m a worker.” He wiped barn-floor grit off his palms onto his jeans, then held out his hand. “Quincas,” he reminded me. Then he added, as if it were obvious, “Brazilian.” I shook his hand and smiled warily. I cannot imagine what would inspire my uncle – eccentric, yes, but a traditional Yankee penny-pincher – to import help all the way from South America. Last I heard we had 23 percent unemployment in the off-season, plus Irish showing up in droves working cheap under the table. A Brazilian? Poor guy’s gotta be a fish out of water.
“Where’s Mott?” I asked. (Mott’s worked at Pequot since I was in high school.)
“Mott and everyone else, with Abe. To stop fight from growing more big.”
I didn’t press him for details, because I can’t digest any more weird news this week. Like did I mention the billionaire who’s been buying acres of protected habitat and moving it whole-hog to his backyard? Conservation areas are being strip-mined so this guy can have an instant “native” lawn. That’s right up there with folks vandalizing ancient stone walls so they can have some of the “real” Vineyard on their turf – man, talk about artificial authenticity.
The day after I arrived, traffic hit soooo hard, but it got better after the weekend. The Season has begun, and now it is really, finally, spring: most of the oaks are leafed out, a wonderful bright green – same color as some little caterpillars that are suddenly popping up all over the place.
I’ll write again when I know the scintillating details about the fight with the Big Nursery Man.
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.
As 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 MVCS, 508-693-7900, extension 374.