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 chief executive 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. A series of failures has done nothing to dissuade him. Last week, Abe offered ownership of a bar of solid gold to anyone at Pequot who could destroy Moby: he nailed the certificate of ownership to the wall in the front office.
October 24, 2008
In case you’re wondering ... before anyone could succumb to the bribe of Uncle Abe’s gold bullion ... I took the certificate off the wall, and hid it.
Abe noticed at once, and was infuriated. “I’ll call the police! You’ve stolen from your own uncle!” he hollered at me, in front of the rest of the Pequot staff. (Quincas looked impressed — at Abe, or me, I’m not quite sure.)
I shrugged. “Go ahead,” I said. “I put it back in your attic safe. If you really want to arrest me for doing that, you’re free to try.” Mott laughed approvingly and immediately derailed Abe by turning to Stu, and asking, “So, what did we decide to do about hydroponics?” He glanced back over his shoulder at Abe. “Sorry, we have a nursery to run, since our boss is uninterested in taking care of his own investments.”
But I’m burying the lead, as we used to say in journalism. (I suppose those still in journalism, those not foolish enough to start working for their crazy relatives, still say that.) The big news of the week is that Richard Moby has struck again, and this time, literally — like, he struck Sammy Enderby’s arm hard enough to break it.
Sammy’s is a little family-run landscaping business. And like Town Garden and some of the other mom-and-pop nurseries, he’s been aligned with Abe in keeping an eye on Moby’s long-term plans.
Sammy’s about 50; very understated, attractive in a shy way, not given to drama. But it was pretty dramatic when he stormed into Pequot’s front office with his arm in a cast, while we were all huddled in there for a coffee break. “Where’s Abe?” he cried, and then, seeing Abe, he held up his cast, and nearly shouted, “Look what he did to me!”
Abe’s eyes popped with an inappropriate level of delight. “Moby?” Sam nodded. “Himself? Personally?” Another nod. Abe looked appallingly gleeful. “What happened?” he demanded. I expected him to start gnashing his teeth.
Sammy lowered his arm and shook his head. “Gotta tell ya, Abe, freaked me out, I don’t even want to talk about it. Just steer clear of the guy, you got me? Understand? Just let him do his thing or it’ll be your arm next.”
“But what happened?” all of us demanded, in various pitches, at the same moment.
Again he shook his head. “I had a problem with him. I heard he was around for the end of the derby, so I went out to the harbor looking for his boat, and I found it docked at the bulkhead. He’s sittin’ there doling out beers to his cronies. So I step onto the stern and say my piece to him, and hang it if he doesn’t stand up, grab me around the neck and judo-chop my arm. It was the craziest thing. I’d be laughing at it if I watched it in a movie, but I hear a crack and next thing you know I’m lying on the sidewalk cryin’ like a baby. Someone called an ambulance and took me to the emergency room, and by the time a cop came to take a statement, Moby was out of the harbor and the police can’t find anyone willing to say they saw him.”
“What was the problem you had with him?” Abe demanded, uninterested in Sammy’s physical woes.
“Abe, it doesn’t matter,” Sammy said. “Just stay away from him. Really. I mean it. ’Cuz he had two or three bruisers hangin’ out with him who’d have done a lot more to me if I’d put up a fight. The guy is scary. You don’t want to mess with him. Just came by to let you know. Gotta go now.”
Abe leapt forward and grabbed Sammy’s good arm with surprising strength and dexterity. “You’re not going anywhere!” he announced. “You tell me what he did that upset you.”
“He broke my arm is what upset me!” Sammy said, shaking Abe off. “It was just business, Abe, really, it dud’n matter. What matters is I handled it bad. Don’t you do that.” With finality, he jerked his arm out of Abe’s grasp. As if suddenly noticing the rest of us, he nodded awkwardly. “Same for all of you,” he said. “I gotta go.” And then he was out the door and back into the raw October air.
There was a pause. Abe glanced around at us (Mott was absent) and his eagle-gaze settled on our cute Brazilian. “Quincas,” he said, “I need your help. What are you doing Saturday night?”
“What time?” Quincas asked.
“Two in the morning.”
The rest of us exchanged wearied glances. Quincas did a bad job hiding a giggle. “I guess I help you, boss,” he said.
Lord only knows what Abe has in mind now. In the absence of Mott, I guess it falls to me to figure it out and nip it in the bud. Argh ...
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Vineyard novelist Nicole Galland’s critically-acclaimed works include Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. Visit her Web site, nicolegalland.com.