The serialized, real-time Vineyard novel Moby Rich continues here every Friday. Previous chapters are available to subscribers online at mvgazette.com.
June 6, 2008
I’m finally employed! Uncle Abe is still away, but I’ve started on my duties. I’m prowling woods and fields with camera and sample-bag, seeing what’s edible this time of year. I can just imagine what you’d say, you tragically white-collar city-slicker, if you could see me fearlessly hack my way, Indiana-Jones-like, through relentlessly icky caterpillar webs, undaunted by genocidal oak pollen, outmaneuvering cocky skunks, checking obsessively for deer ticks all for that priceless stash of lamb’s quarters, chicory and dock, “unavailable in any store!” But my quest is about more than just the greens. It’s about that holiest of Holy Grails: Health Insurance, which I will certainly need once I get Lyme disease from prowling woods and fields. ( Borrelia burgdorferi , they call the little bugger; such a pretty name. It’s enough to make me shoot Bambi)
A few days ago, about the time I got tired of plucking caterpillars out of my bra, Mott suggested I meet the rest of Pequot’s crew. I asked him about Quincas’s weird story re: Abe fighting the “Big Nursery Man,” but Mott said he’d better let Abe explain it himself when he came back. “That old Abe,” he muttered, with exasperation and affection, “He’d strike the sun if it insulted him.”
Mott’s the general manager of Pequot — he’s been around since Pequot was created, and he can do everyone else’s job with his eyes closed. He’s salt-of-the-earth and he hasn’t aged a day in 30 years — he is permanently 60. He looks exactly like James Taylor. Only shorter. And not emaciated. And with a lower voice. OK, so not exactly like James Taylor. But his presence reminds me of when I’d hear a busker in the subway crooning, You’ve Got a Friend, and suddenly Manhattan seemed less cold and impersonal. He’s like the perfect uncle. Enough about Mott or you’ll accuse me of having a crush on him.
So I went in to meet the rest of the staff, since even the relative old-timers are new to me. Quincas — the break-dancing Brazilian — does manual labor, sometimes finds other Brazilians to do it with him. Yes, other Brazilians! How about that! Turns out there is an entire Brazilian community on the Island now. (Where’d all the Irish go?) I love the image of crusty Yanks embracing multiculturalism. I mean, I assume that’s what they’re doing, I just haven’t seen it yet. A lot of Island families go back to Azorean seamen who worked on Vineyard whaling ships and then settled here (I’m descended from some on my Medeiras side). They didn’t keep the Portuguese language alive, or maybe it’d be easier for the Brazilian community to integrate here. But it probably runs deeper than language, since the Azoreans sort of morphed into blue-collar WASPS. Anyhow:
Besides Mott and Quincas, there’s Harp, a member of the Wampanoag tribe in Aquinnah (note to self: stop calling it Gay Head). He does the skilled manual labor, like stonework and irrigation systems. Abe lured him away from Schofield, Barbini and Hoehn, the surveying company, and I think these days he’s ruing his change of vocation. Stu (30’s) is a washashore who runs the nursery and I’m quite sure smokes a lot of dope (big give away: he wears patchouli). Fran (maybe in her 60’s) is the office manager and accountant; she’s thickly built and mildly terrifying — she calls everyone “honey” in a tone that leaves you unsure if it will be followed by an endearment or sarcasm. Finally there’s Dag, a huge quiet black man about my age — at first I thought Abe had gone really paranoid and hired a bodyguard, but turns out Dag’s the equipment guy. And that’s it, except for Brazilians who work occasionally with Quincas.
The problem is, Gwen did all the landscape design. Abe’s a botanist and historian, so he knows all the plants, and how they were used, but he hasn’t got any design sense — which is really the heart of the business. So they’re stalled for new projects until they get a new designer, and to Mott’s frustration, Abe’s not looking for one. He’s too pre-occupied with his fight with “Big Nursery Man” whatever that is. I hope to learn in the next few days. The suspense is killing me. I’ll let you know what I find out. Meanwhile, give my regards to Broadway. (I’ll still take pollen over bus exhaust.)
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.
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.