In this serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns home after years in Manhattan to help her eccentric Uncle Abe keep his landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. Abe loathes Richard Moby, chief of the off-Island landscaping business Broadway. He is irrationally convinced that Moby wants to destroy Abe personally, and Island-based nursery businesses in general.
I believe one definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, but expecting different responses. In that case, count me crazy. Last week was not the first time I declared that Abe was now back to normal. What a surprise: this week is not the first time I’ve been proven wrong.
I told you Abe broke his leg in a couple of places, but they set it at the hospital and let him go. Sammy Enderby did not press charges for breaking and entering. Abe was grateful, embarrassed, and all in all he seemed ... tamer.
Then last weekend, when the weather was so nice, he decided to clean out his gutters. Have you ever tried climbing up and down a ladder with one leg in a cast? Go ahead, try it sometime. No, really. I bet it’s a gas.
I got an enraged, wheezy cell-phone call in the late afternoon: Abe had fallen off the ladder and landed on the driveway on his cast, which cracked and shattered, plus he’d dislocated his shoulder. He lives out in the woods so there were no neighbors, and so, he asked, could I please come help him up, so he could make an appointment with the chiropractor about his shoulder?
“Your shoulder? What about your leg?” I nearly shrieked.
“I’ve got some plaster in the garage somewhere, I’ll redo it myself,” he grunted. “I watched them do it the first time.” Yankee men. Honestly.
An hour later, he had been brought by ambulance — flailing his one good arm and one good leg, exercising the colorful language of his whaling ancestors — back to the hospital. I followed, of course. They re-set his leg, and put him on sedatives because he would not stop hollering about my “betraying” him by calling the ambulance. Long-suffering niece that I am, I passed the time in the waiting room trying to count the number of steel beams comprising the frame of the new hospital. Then I followed him into his room, and stayed with him as he finally seemed about to drift off.
But he woke right up when visitors arrived: the couple who run Town Garden, the little nursery that, way back in the spring, had signed on to Abe’s anti-Moby campaign. They haven’t been acting nuts for the past six months like Abe, but they’ve been in regular contact with him, keeping an ear to the ground for evidence of Moby’s take-over-the-Island intentions. They were looking pretty nervous.
As his wife virtually huddled and cringed behind him, Mr. Town Garden delivered the following, clearly rehearsed: “Abe, my friend, Sammy Enderby explained to us the, um, details of how you ended up with your leg broken. We’ve talked about it, Emma and I, and, and, we ... we feel that you’ve lost a little perspective. We’re really not comfortable ... joining with you in any enterprise when your zealousness seems to outweigh your san ... your reason. So, while we continue to share your concerns about Mr. Moby, we ... no longer wish to consider ourselves in a confederacy with you on that topic.”
Abe, somewhat fuzzy-headed from the sedatives, stared at them for a moment. Then he looked over at me. “Becca, my coat, please,” he said. The woolen pea coat was on the back of my chair. I hoisted it by the collar, and tossed it to Abe on the hospital bed. He pawed it as if seeking something, as he responded: “Ellis, if that is your feeling, I feel betrayed, and there is only one response that I can fairly give you.” He glanced up, his hand still groping inside his coat.
“I’m sorry you feel betrayed. Please don’t feel the need to respond more than that, right now,” said the husband. Abe looked down at the coat again.
And then three things happened at once.
First, the husband and wife left. Second, they were replaced, immediately, by Mott, whom I’d called from the waiting room. The switch happened so quickly that if you’d looked away from the door and then back to it (as Abe did), Mott’s presence was startling.
The third thing that happened was Abe found what he was looking for in his coat, which was: a pistol. He pulled it out, aimed it at the door and pulled the trigger just as he realized he would be shooting Mott.
The bullet hit the wall right behind where his head had been. The sound, in that small room, was horrific, and shrieks of terror echoed from the hallway.
I don’t remember the next five minutes very well. Within seconds, a stout hospital staffer named Mike had run in, grabbed the pistol from Abe’s amazed grasp, and shot him up with something that knocked him out. I just don’t remember the rest of it. Except that Mott, having recovered himself, hovered over Abe’s now-catatonic form, fighting back tears.
“Foolish old man,” I heard him mutter. “Screaming we should all beware of Richard Moby. You’re worse than he is now, and worst of all to yourself. I say, let Abe beware of Abe.” He turned and walked brusquely from the room.
We’re waiting to hear what the hospital plans to do to Abe.
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. 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 Web site, nicolegalland.com, for more on Moby Rich.