In this serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns home to the Vineyard after many years in Manhattan. Her uncle Abe has been dumped by his wife Gwen, and Abe requires assistance to keep their landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. In the first few chapters, Becca reacquainted herself with Island life and through Mott (the general manager), met Quincas (a Brazilian), and the rest of Pequot’s staff.
June 13, 2008
Well, it’s finally begun. At the crest of that oppressive heat wave, Abe suddenly re-appeared, with a chip on his shoulder the size of an asteroid.
You never met Uncle Abe during your visits here (I wanted to spare you), so indulge me a moment in description. Start with Abe Lincoln, but give him saltier hair. He’s 6’5”, lanky, with a strong-boned, squarish face and intense eyes — blue, and piercing as an osprey’s. He has lines on either side of his mouth because his neutral expression is a grimace, even when he’s in a good mood.
(Gwen used to soften that about him. When he was scaring customers by glowering at them without realizing it, she’d sidle up to him behind the counter and gently press her finger-tip upward between his eyes, to remind him to stop grimacing. It made him sheepish. I don’t think anything makes him sheepish anymore.)
Unlike Lincoln, this Abe has a voice to match his stature and personality (but Katie Ann Mayhew he is not, alas). He can holler in a hurricane and be heard 100 feet away, so goes the rumor. I can certainly vouch for his ability, 25 years ago, to holler in a town meeting and be heard over everyone’s telling him to shut up, including the moderator on her microphone. (Who, now I think of it, was Fran, his accountant. Small world, this.)
See, Abe’s a typical Yankee contradiction: he claims to be a libertarian and yet he wants to exert a lot of power in local government. And he does — he has, from time to time, been a selectman, and served on boards and committees (we’re just mad for boards and committees around here). When he first got involved in civic matters, the Island hadn’t been discovered yet (by Clintons, I mean). Those were the days when, if you said you were from Martha’s Vineyard, people would demand in amazement, “People actually live there?” — as opposed to nowadays, when the assumption is that if you live here, you are rich. Abe, and others in all six towns, have ridden that raging wave of development over the past 35 years. It makes him very recognized, both revered and reviled, and very defensive about pretty much everything. More than anyone I know, he thinks the future well-being of the island rests in his hands. He wants to be Prometheus but is so much closer to Sisyphus (oh dear, my Oberlin degree is showing). All in all, he is a grand, ungodly, godlike man, to steal a phrase I read somewhere.
But to me, he’s usually just Uncle Abe. And when I saw him for the first time in person a few days ago in the greenhouse, where I was helping patchouli-scented Stu fix the irrigation system in the wilting heat, that’s all there was to it at first – a sweat-sticky hug and a happy reunion.
Then within five minutes he was obsessing about the “Big Nursery Man” who, I have finally discovered, is one Mr. Richard Moby, the owner of Broadway Nursery. Broadway is a wholesale “landscaping center” off-Island that (drum roll please!) Abe’s newly-ex-wife Gwen has started working for!
I’m pretty sure that wherever Gwen took her design talent, Abe would rail against them. Unfortunately, she happened to choose a company that is not only from off-Island, but is a large corporation (CEO Moby has reportedly never been inside an actual greenhouse). Topping the list of Things Abe Hates are: (1) off-Island companies taking locals’ business and (2) large corporations. He has convinced himself – and he nearly convinced me this afternoon – that Mr. Moby is planning to deliberately, methodically put all Island-owned landscapers/nurseries/growers out of business, by means diabolical and Machiavellian. Abe wants all Vineyarders to unite and create an embargo, or something, against anyone doing business with Moby’s Broadway. He believes this is the only way to prevent the Island’s visual character from turning into “McVineyard.”
Abe’s a good talker, and some of his examples, if there is any substance to them, are pretty scary. But that’s a big if. In the middle of his rant, Mott and Quincas (the cute Brazilian guy) walked in. Abe kept orating. Mott rolled his eyes after about three words; Quincas grinned and winked at me; then in unison they turned and left, Stu joining them with a giggle as he reached for a bag of tobacco (sic) in his back pocket. They’d all heard this already. Abe kept ranting, oblivious. So I guess this is some on-going obsession of Abe’s that the staff has grown immune to. Frankly, I’m relieved that he’s obsessing on something other than Gwen! Let’s see if that is still true a week from now
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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, for more on Moby Rich.