In this serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns to help her eccentric Uncle Abe keep his landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. Abe is convinced that Richard Moby, the CEO of an off-Island wholesale nursery, wants to destroy Abe personally and all Island nursery businesses generally. Abe is obsessed with “taking down” Moby. His efforts have so far been failures, but that doesn’t discourage him. Last week, a colleague nicknamed Cherry Bomb tried to warn Abe away from Moby. A drunken Abe implied he would kill Moby with a firework.
Maybe it’s just August. Life is crazy now, people lose perspective, and I’m hoping Abe’s escalating nuttiness is due to the general frenzy of days.
Quincas, however, thinks it’s ‘shrooms. There are crazy amounts of mushrooms popping up everywhere — shapes and sizes and colors right out of Dr. Seuss. I counted 16 varieties biking from the main road in to Pequot. Some of them, Quincas hypothesized in slowly-improving English, are hallucinogenic, and, hey, Abe’s a botanist, right? He knows which are the “fun ones.” So Quincas thinks Abe’s been looped all month and confusing fantasies with reality. (Quincas doesn’t watch television but Abe is his favorite reality TV show.)
In any case: Abe-sober swears he was talking nonsense when Abe-drunk said he’d kill Richard Moby with fireworks. But Mott and I keep an eye on him now. I was on duty for Illumination Night.
The whole point of Illumination Night is to cram thousands of people into an area far too small for them all, and then make them wander around in different directions at different speeds in the dark without looking where they’re going. Strollers, wheelchairs and toddlers are added for bonus points. In this setting, I had to follow Abe without his noticing, since he resents it.
I found it suspect that Abe even wanted to go to Illumination Night — it’s not his thing. I found it more suspect that, pushing stiffly through the swarm, he was making a bee-line toward a side-street on the other side of the Tabernacle.
Then I saw Cherry Bomber working his way through the herd of homo sapiens touristica. Bomber being as short and round as he is, in the dim light he looked a bit like a pinball losing inertia while straining to get over or under obstacles — beer bellies, cell-phone zombies, oblivious adolescent “BFFs” traveling five abreast. But he was clearly trying to reach Abe. Using the skewed variables of Crowd-based Geometry to my advantage, I intercepted him before he intercepted Abe.
“Hey Bomber,” I said, trying (lamely) to sound casual.
He looked both relieved and desperate when he saw me. “Becca, what is up with that uncle of yours?” he demanded. “Richard Moby is on the porch of one of these cottages, visiting some Republican friends of his — ” (On the Vineyard, “Republican” is one of those required delineating adjectives like “Brazilian,” “terminally ill” or “artist.”)
“And that’s where Abe’s heading?” Bomber nodded. “You’re thinking intervention?” Bomber nodded again.
Together we were an efficient crowd-cutter: I held my hands out before me as if diving or praying, and Bomber, hands on my back, propelled us forward ruthlessly. We were rude but efficient, and reached Abe before he’d turned off down the alley.
I chucked Abe on the shoulder; he swung around and after a blank moment, pretended to be pleased by our appearance.
“Don’t I owe you a drink, Abraham?” said Bomber, reaching for Abe’s elbow. “Let’s go down to the harbor.”
If he’d been there alone, I’m sure Abe would have declined the offer and resumed his trek. But I was watching, and he wanted to throw me off the “Abe is obsessed” scent, so he smiled, patted Bomber’s arm, and walked back in the opposite direction with him. Bomber gave me a thumbs-up as they disappeared into the sea of bobbing heads. Crisis averted. For Wednesday, at least.
But Mott was on Abe-duty Thursday, and he called me from the Fair mid-day, disturbed. The connection was bad and half his words were lost in the message, but the gist was: Abe at fair; Pequot Nursery wins ribbon for an exhibit Stu, Mott, Quincas and I put together; Bomber following Abe around begging him to “forget about it” but Abe determined to “see it through”; something about the fireworks; Quincas asking Abe for ‘shrooms; Abe threatening to fire Mott if Mott doesn’t stop tailing him.
Now it’s Friday and: TONIGHT ARE THE FIREWORKS. So whatever noodle-brained scheme Abe has, it either happens or not, tonight. As with the music festival, the whole Pequot gang will gather at Fran’s house, but I’m not sure how we’re going to keep Abe there. Will write ASAP to let you know if I’m genetically at risk for homicidal tendencies, or mere insanity.
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 details, call 508-693-7900. Vineyard novelist Nicole Galland’s critically-acclaimed works include Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. See nicolegalland.com.