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 fears and detests Richard Moby, the CEO of an off-Island wholesale nursery, Broadway. Convinced that Moby wants to destroy Abe personally, and all Island-based landscaping/nursery businesses generally, Abe has been obsessed with “taking down” Moby. A series of disastrous attacks and an ineffectual “smear campaign” did nothing to dissuade Abe. Becca and other Pequot staff members had seen no evidence that Abe’s perception of Moby had a shred of reason — until the last two weeks, when it was revealed that Moby has taken over one landscaping business and undercut five other ones. Quincas is a Pequot staffer Becca has recently become romantically entangled with.

April 3, 2009

Dear P:

I really wish I were giving Quincas his due when I write to you. He’s an absolute doll. We have so much fun together, without worrying about what it “means.” He continues to treat Uncle Abe as if Abe were a fascinating television show, enjoying the melodrama of Abe Being Abe whether it’s rational or not, and regardless of Abe’s mood. I wish I could take such a cheerfully dispassionate approach to him, but he’s my uncle, my closest surviving adult relative, so he gets under my skin.

And I feel responsible for him.

Like Wednesday. Here’s what happened on Wednesday, and all I can say is: thank God it was Wednesday.

I was surprised when I came in from lunch, to see Quincas sitting in Abe’s office, in Abe’s chair, with the door open, enjoying hot coffee from Abe’s personal mug. “What are you doing?” I asked, pleased to see him but alarmed he might be punished for touching the sacrosanct Abe mug.

“I am playing Abe,” Quincas announced, grinning. “Abe asked me to answer his phone all afternoon and he said, stay in my office, make yourself at home.” He gestured to the mug, the chair, the desk. “So, home.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “What’s he up to now?”

“He’s not up,” Quincas said. “He’s down. Down-Island!” He chuckled loudly, pleased with his ability to pun colloquially and in English.

“That’s cute, Quincas. Doing what?”

“Just like the first time I met you, last June,” Quincas grinned. “He’s having a fight with the Big Nursery Man.”

I tried not to panic. “Your English is much better now than it was 10 months ago, so this time you can tell me what you mean.”

Quincas chuckled again. “The commission is meeting.”

“The county commission? No, they met last Monday, about the animal shelter.”

“Yes, and also right now,” Quincas nodded. “About Richard Moby.” As I blinked, he went on, grinning: “Abe left messages everywhere so each commissioner thinks all the other commissioners agreed to an emergency meeting about some emergency. So they all show up believing somebody else knows what the emergency is. But there is no emergency waiting for them! The only thing waiting is — ”

“— Uncle Abe,” I said in a sepulchral voice.

Quincas clapped his hands together. “Yes, and the six landscapers Moby hurt. Becca, he is such a clever man, your uncle! Why are you frowning?”

“What is he planning to do?”

Quincas shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s Abe. Use your imagination.”

I groaned under my breath. “What time did he ‘summon’ everyone?”

Quincas glanced at the wall clock. “I think they are starting about just now.”

“May I borrow your car?” I asked. (I only have a bike; Quincas has a red four-door sedan I find entirely un-Quincas-like, but he loves it.)

His eyes lit up. “Can I come too?”

“But you have to answer the phone,” I replied, slightly snarky.

“He’s not going to fire me. . . How’s he going to find another Brazilian louco enough to put up with him, when so many of us are leaving?”

That jolted me for a second. “Alright, fine, you drive,” I said, brusquely.

You would not believe how fast we got to the county courthouse. I felt a heart-thump of anxiety seeing Abe’s pickup in the lot by the movie theatre.

I don’t remember how I know which room the commissioners meet in, but we raced toward it. Quincas got there just before me and opened the door for me, just as Lenny Jason’s voice came echoing out of the room: “It seems you have assembled us under false pretenses, and frankly, for the most ridiculous purpose . . .”

“Ridding our Island of a menace is not ridiculous!” I heard Abe thunder.

“It’s free enterprise,” said another voice I didn’t know. “The guy sounds like a scumbag, but county government can’t legislate morality. We can’t pass an anti-scumbag law. How would we enforce it?”

“Please don’t encourage Abe to keep talking,” said Lenny’s voice. “Abraham, we’ve all known you forever and we like you, really, and we like all these fine people you’ve brought with you as quote-unquote witnesses — but buddy, you are in serious trouble if there is no decent explanation for your behavior today.”

By now Quincas and I were in the room, and in a glance I assessed: Abe was radiant with fury, but all the other gardeners and landscapers looked like they want ed to disappear.

At the scuffle of our entrance, all eyes turned toward us. “I can explain!” I said to the commissioners, without stopping to think, and having no explanation in mind.

“Yes?” said Lenny, after a silence.

And then the gods were kind, and I suddenly remembered it was Wednesday. The first of the month. “It’s a prank! April Fools’! Hey, you really pulled it off, Uncle Abe!”

. . . And before Abe could object, the entire room erupted into chaos, at the end of which Abe and the others were allowed to leave, even though the commissioners knew perfectly well that Abe had not really been playing a prank.

Quincas now thinks I am just as theatrical as my uncle and we should go into vaudeville together. Quincas is studying American history but does not own a television, so he doesn’t realize there is no more vaudeville.

Although today came pretty close.


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Vineyard novelist Nicole Galland’s critically-acclaimed works include Crossed: A Tale of the Fourth Crusade. Visit her Web site,