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 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 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 had seen no evidence that Abe’s perception of Moby had a shred of reason — until recently it was revealed that Moby has taken over one Island landscaping business and undercut 5 other ones. Quincas is a Pequot staffer Becca has recently become romantically entangled with.
You know, it’s hard to be an atheist for Easter Week. Christmas is so over-commercialized, it’s almost not even a religious event anymore . . . but Easter. Easter is heavy-duty. Guy comes back from the dead, just at the same time Mother Nature does — what kind of grump do you have to be, not to want to celebrate?
I hate to admit it, but I was that grump. The Easter story is so obviously a take-off on paganism (Greeks, Romans, Scandinavians, Egyptians), why not just celebrate the original version, and have a big ol’ bacchanalia? I can be talkative, and my family is soundly Christian, so I’ve never been anyone’s favorite relative this time of year. I haven’t been home for Easter in at least a decade.
But this year, Uncle Abe’s sons (Ralph, Waldo and Emerson) are spending Easter with their mom, Abe’s ex. Aunt Gwen — a previously intelligent woman — is engaged to Richard Moby. Abe’s sons will be dining with the enemy. Other family relations have made themselves suspiciously unavailable. That makes me Abe’s date for Easter dinner. You can imagine what a great mood I’ve been in all week.
That mood was furthered darkened by Quincas getting inexplicably Catholic on me. He didn’t celebrate Lent, he didn’t seem too interested in Christmas. But he was so into Easter, I was ready to give him a one-way ticket to the White House lawn egg hunt.
Part of it, I realize, is the strong sense of community that Holy Week creates among the faithful, and I appreciate that. And it is, in itself, an event that embraces creativity, which is great — Brazilians do amazing things with woven palm fronds, for instance. The Vineyard is short on palm trees, so Quincas has gotten inventive about using bare branches and bark, and performing a sort of arboreal origami — it’s beautiful, it’s breath-taking, but it’s ART, it’s not SACRED; it would be just as meaningful if he were doing it to celebrate the birth of a kitten, or reconnecting with an old friend on Facebook.
Anyhow — I’m rambling, sorry, here’s the anecdote I want to share with you about holy week. Earlier today I was arguing with Abe in his kitchen. Abe wants to call his sons on Easter, but he refuses to talk to Gwen or Moby (whose home they will be in), so he decided he’d call each son in turn via cell phone, just as he expected dinner to be served. I was suggesting he entertain other options for bestowing his paternal blessings. He was not taking kindly to me. He told me — as if defending his behavior — about three other nurseries who’d lost long-time clients to Moby’s “Local Vineyard” landscaping business.
“You know, Abe, I hate to say it, but he is allowed to be a successful businessman,” I said. “What he did to get a foothold here was disgusting, but now that he’s here, he has the right to compete. I know everyone’s screaming that the country’s gone socialist, but the free market still exists.”
“It shouldn’t under these circumstances!” Abe hollered, crimson with rage. “He has an unfair advantage over everyone else! He’s never going to make money for his business here, he’s just trying to elbow his way in as a lark! It’s his little project! He’s having fun seeing if he can pull it off, that’s all — his motives are not capitalist, they’re not productive, they’re not pro-business or pro-consumer! They’re just selfish and narcissistic, and he’s getting his jollies by making Gwen’s ex-husband look like a pitiful failure!”
“Well thank heavens Gwen’s ex-husband isn’t helping him out with that!” I snapped. “How wonderful that Gwen’s ex-husband is being a bigger man than Moby could ever be, by having the decency to say happy Easter to his sons’ host when he calls them!”
“Never!” Abe shouted, as if he were on a storm in a heath broadcast by Masterpiece Theatre.
I’m good at walking away from most conflicts, but Abe gets under my skin, more and more these days. We really might have come to blows if it has lasted much longer, but all of a sudden —
“Feliz Páscoa!” said Quincas cheerfully, walking into the house without knocking. He carried two rectangular packages, maybe a foot high, wrapped in cheerful paper, and set them on the table. “Two days early — but these are for you on Easter. You will like them — especially you,” he said to me, with a wink. “You can open them right after we have eaten.”
We were both so startled by his appearance and his mood that we were completely distracted from the argument. “We?” I said. “Aren’t you off being a Brazilian Catholic all weekend?” He shares a house with seven other people, all of them somehow distantly related to him by blood or marriage.
He looked slightly surprised. “It’s only you two and that’s no good for celebrating. You come with me, my whole house will have Easter dinner.” He grinned. “It will be the best meal of your life.”
We both blinked. “Thank you,” Abe said at last, and I echoed him heartily.
“The only thing,” said Quincas, oh-so-casually. “I hope you don’t want to call anyone that day. We have no landline and there is no cell phone reception in the house. Otherwise, a perfect day.”
He smiled beatifically at Abe.
And that’s how I became a fan of Easter Sunday.
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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.