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 efforts have so far been failures, but that does not discourage him.
Sorry if last week’s letter was a bit blah. I’d been under the weather but didn’t want to admit it (Yanks do that) but I finally went to the doctor and yep: Lyme Disease. I’m downing antibiotics and feeling better daily, but I don’t trust it, I know it will come back and nip me in the butt again just as I think I’m over it. I’m still too fatigued to bike, so Quincas and Mott take turns giving me rides, but I’m not out in the woods doing my wild-food thing, and that sucks. There are still insane amounts of blueberries out there. Quincas has been improving his English by singing easy-listening song lyrics nonstop; lately it’s been I Found my Thrills on Blueberry Hill. (He’s tone-deaf. It’s adorable.)
I think last week, despite writing in a Lyme-induced haze, I was about to let you know that Abe did not off Richard Moby at the fireworks, because Quincas made such a nuisance of himself to Moby that Moby finally left the park, and Abe couldn’t find him. Now, of course, it’s post-Labor-Day (AND NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON) so all the Richard Mobys have taken their big yachts and motored away, out of reach, back to their corporate lives.
This doesn’t mean things here are without incident. Oh, no. Uncle Abe, I am astonished to report, fell in love - just yesterday. With a woman 20 years his junior, about my age. She’s an herbalist named Kelsea Derrick; she moved here last month, and she came to Pequot to see if we’d be interested in working with her. The moment I saw her, I thought, Oh, no, because she looks like a younger Gwen, Abe’s ex-wife. And just as I had that thought, Abe came outside, saw her, and despite his increasingly-glowering face, you could almost hear something inside of him start dancing. Even Abe has his humanities.
The three of us sat down on the porch, and she gave her pitch. She grows and sells herbs and herb-based stuff like tinctures and cooking rubs, but she also works for folks who want their own herb gardens — she helps them decide what to grow, designs and plants the garden for them, then comes back to make sure they’re harvesting and utilizing everything correctly. I loved the idea of her coming on board Pequot. So did Abe ...
Until, aaaarrrrrrggggghhhhh, he had to go off on his Moby rant.
And Kelsea, bless her, listened respectfully, and agreed it’s a pity that a big corporation is trying to become the Wal-Mart of Island flora. “But I believe it’s better to light a candle than to curse the dark,” she said. “I want to spend my energy doing my real work, and my real work is herbalism and education. It’s not raging against the machine. Now, I’m all for community activism,” she went on, not realizing she’d just lost points. “If you can make Pequot the locus of a Broadway boycott, that’s great, but you won’t find me very useful with it. I just don’t do the angry, take-the-bastards-down stuff very well. I do the mmm-doesn’t-this-rosemary-smell-good stuff.”
She smiled at him; her smile is pretty and uncannily like Gwen’s, and I could see Abe melting. But he didn’t melt too far: instead he stiffened, cleared his throat, bowed his head toward her, and got to his feet.
“Well, Ms. Derrick, thank you for coming by, but Pequot’s mission requires employees to be dedicated to the fight against Moby. If you’re not willing to put half your energy into that crusade, I’m afraid this would be a bad match.” That impossible man! “I’m happy to introduce you to the folks at Town Garden, they’re on board with the anti-Broadway campaign but they’re not as dedicated as we are, and you might be more comfortable there. Becca, give Ms. Derrick their number, would you? Good day.” And he walked back into the office.
Kelsea looked as if she’d been slapped.
“Sorry about that,” I said quietly. “He’s sort of a zealot.”
“Ms. Derrick.” Abe stuck his head back outside. “Please leave Becca your number. Perhaps we can discuss this again off-hours over a drink.” And he disappeared back inside. Kelsea blinked several times.
“Oh my God,” I said, trying not to laugh. “That’s so embarrassing. Please excuse him.”
She turned a little pink. “I’m flattered, actually,” she said — as she hurriedly pulled scrap paper from her purse and began to write her number down.
Hee hee hee.
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 website, nicolegalland.com.