In this serialized novel set on the Vineyard in real time, a native Islander (“Call me Becca”) returns home after many years to help her eccentric Uncle Abe keep his landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. Abe has a paranoid hatred of Richard Moby, the CEO of an off-Island wholesale nursery. Convinced that Moby wants to destroy Abe personally, and all Island-based landscaping/nursery businesses generally, Abe is obsessed with “taking down” Moby. His efforts have so far been failures, but that does not discourage him.
Something amazing happened this past week. There’s been a group of Amish here for a traditional barn-raising at the Ag Society. When I expressed an interest in seeing them do their thing, Abe said he had business in Menemsha, and offered to drop me off at the fairgrounds on his way.
We got to the fairgrounds, and he stepped out of the truck with me to gaze in admiration. The building is up already! Those fellows work fast — on Monday they framed the whole thing in maybe three hours. So by today there was little to see except a sizable, hefty animal barn that hadn’t existed four mornings earlier.
“I guess I’ll go to Menemsha with you, then,” I said, and Abe, after a meditative grunt, nodded in agreement.
It never occurred to me to wonder, “What has a botanist got to do in a fishing village?” We’ve all relaxed our guard over him since Labor Day. He goes days at a time without even mentioning Richard Moby, and he’s been very well behaved, almost docile. (He never did follow up with the herbalist-lady, Kelsea Derrick, but I think it’s because he’s shy. Shy is a very promising emotion for a “louco”; it suggests he has enough self-consciousness not to be totally out of control.)
I have the blood of Island fishermen in my veins, but I inherited none of their inclinations. So I was (until this morning) unaware that the Derby — 63rd Annual Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, THE Big Event among blown-in-the-bottle Vineyarders — starts on Sunday. This Sunday.
This means that everyone with their own fishing boat has filled the tank and gotten the bait and checked the gear and bought the ice (and beers) for the coolers and so on. It means that folks without their own fishing boat have buddied up to their boat-owning friends as grateful crew. It means folks without boats or boat-owning friends have either hired charters or rented boats. And that means — as we discovered once we got to Menemsha — if you’re looking for a fishing craft this month, you are SOL.
“Why do you want a fishing boat, anyhow?” I asked, when I realized this was Abe’s goal. (The give-away was when he asked at the Texaco station about renting a fishing boat. Wow, I’m really sharp sometimes.)
“Used to fish the derby all the time when I was a boy, in my uncle Herman’s boat. I’m feeling nostalgic for the good old days.”
“Do you know how to drive a boat?” I asked, scampering to keep up with his long stride down the dock.
“Mott does,” he said.
“Piloting a boat is not in his job description,” I quipped, but he ignored me.
After querying the entire daytime population of Menemsha, which took about an hour, Abe grudgingly accepted that we would not be heading back down-Island pulling a boat-trailer on our hitch. But somebody suggested Maciel Marine, so on our way back to Pequot we detoured there. Bored with the logistics of boat rentals, I stayed in the truck listening to Ray Charles cassettes (yes, cassettes; Abe does not go in for new vehicles).
Eventually Abe came out of the office, looking satisfied, and announced he had rented a 20-foot Something-or-Other.
“Now we just need gear and bait,” he said, steering the truck back toward Five Corners. “We’ll be chasing bonita.”
“Chasing them?” I asked. “Not, like, catching them?”
“Oh, we’ll try to catch them, of course — we try all things, we achieve what we can, as my uncle Herman used to say. But the fun is in the chase.”
“Sounds scintillating, but I need to get back to Pequot,” I said. “Gather ye fungi while ye may.”
He dropped me off and then drove away without a hello to anyone. I told Mott the whole thing, including the detail of chasing bonita.
That made Mott apoplectic. “That mad old man!” he said through gritted teeth. “The bonita’s a pretext. I’ll bet you anything Moby’s back here to fish the Derby, and Abe got wind of it somehow and he’s planning some mischief with the boats.” He groaned. “I thought we were over that Moby nonsense.”
“Abe’s expecting you to pilot,” I added.
“Of course he is,” Mott grumbled. “He knows I won’t let him go out there on his own, when he’s obviously up to something stupid. You and Quincas better come with. We’ll have to mutiny.”
Isn’t that exotic, knowing the next time you hear from me I’ll be a mutineer? Argh, it’s enough to make me miss my desk-job!
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. For more information, 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 website, nicolegalland.com.