In this serialized year-long 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 has a paranoid hatred of 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 is obsessed with “taking down” Moby. Abe has rented a fishing boat for the Derby, knowing that Moby is also fishing. Last week, he was prevented from ramming into Moby’s boat only because his crew (i.e., his nursery employees) mutinied.
ARGH! He’s trying it AGAIN! And this time solo! Abe, I mean.
He took his little fishing rental out this morning, with the sole intent of crashing into Richard Moby. He went out at oh-dark-thirty, before any of us were awake enough to tail him. When he never showed up at Pequot, Mott (on a hunch) made a few calls to some fishing buddies and eventually heard Abe had been spotted out by Menemsha — and so had Richard Moby.
But there was nothing we could do. None of us has a boat, and all the fishermen Mott knows were already out there. We are not yet desperate enough to advertise what a nutjob Uncle Abe really is; we’re trying to keep it in-house.
“How does he always know exactly where Moby is going to be, any time Moby’s visiting the Island?” I lamented to Mott. “It’s like he has a crystal ball.”
Mott sat up a little straighter. “Yes, it is,” he agreed. “And right now would be a good time to crack it.”
Quincas’s Engish is improving rapidly; he knew where Mott was going with this. “We go to Abe’s house!” he prophesied, delighted. “We hack his computer!” And then, reverently: “So we need Fran.” Fran, our 60-something stout-Yankee-housewife-type accountant, is far savvier with anything cyberspacial than the rest of us.
Fran needed no pleading: she handles the money, she’s very aware how seriously Abe’s behavior these past months has been affecting business. She was all for helping stunt Abe’s ability to obsess on Mr. Moby.
Abe lives in a great old house on Tashmoo Ave, just outside of town; we’re familiar faces in the neighborhood and he never locks his doors, so “breaking in” was easy. I gotta say, though: we finally found his computer in the attic, with its requisite creaky floors and cobwebs, and when we gathered around the pale glowing monitor, it did feel a bit as if we were play-acting an episode of Scooby Doo.
All eyes automatically skimmed over the headlines on the screen. Mott cursed the government for giving Wall Street $700 billion in taxpayer money when those same taxpayers were losing their homes; Fran seconded him in her barbed-honey tone; I nodded.
For the first time, I saw caution on Quincas’s face. “Americans are strange,” he announced. “You borrow more than you can pay back and now you’re mad at the ones who help you do that.”
“Honey,” said Fran, “No offense, but you’re not from here. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I’m talking about addiction,” Quincas insisted. “If the government does not control the addict-lenders now, then it will be even harder, later, to help the addict-borrowers. We do stupid things in Brazil, but not that stupid.”
Suddenly, it didn’t feel so much like an episode of Scooby-Doo. I wished it did.
We were saved form further cross-cultural awkwardness moments later, when Abe’s “crystal ball” revealed itself to Fran — who despite her gruff exterior was pink and sheepish about delving into her boss’s private files (not because it was illegal, just because it is so extremely un-Yankee-like to pry).
Mott and I had each suspected it would be something like this: when Abe and Gwen split last spring, Gwen (a trusting and distracted soul) never bothered to change her e-mail; she and Abe had an account together, each with their own in-boxes, but still, the same account . . . and so Abe has been, for the past six months, freely reading her e-mails . . . which include unromantic but highly informative missives from her new paramour, Richard Moby. About things like when and where he’s planning to fish.
So Fran put a stop to that immediately by changing Gwen’s e-mail password (and then leaving Gwen a voice-mail message explaining all this, urging her to get a new e-mail). Then we all hustled back to Pequot, where Mott used his radio to try to get a message out to Abe that there’s an emergency back at the nursery and we need him to come in right away.
Several boats have reported hailing him but he’s ignored everyone so far. It’s been seven hours. We’re all hovering around the front office here at Pequot, killing time, waiting to hear something. It’s both dull and nerve-wracking —
And now just nerve-wracking. Even as I wrote that sentence we got conflicting reports from two boats out there, one sending out a Mayday signal and one announcing there was an accident. A sailor-friend of Mott’s is meeting us at the dock so we can sail out there and see what’s going on for ourselves. Must run — more later —
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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.