Moby Rich told the story of native Islander (“Call me Becca”) who returned home after many years away, to help her unstable Uncle Abe keep his landscaping business, Pequot, afloat. Abe had a monomaniacal fear and loathing of Richard Moby, the CEO of an off-Island wholesale nursery, who unscrupulously took over one Island landscaping business and undercut five others, provoking Abe to try to “destroy” Moby. To complicate matters, Moby was engaged to Abe’s ex-wife, Gwen. Quincas, a Brazilian who worked for Abe (under the table), has been Becca’s love-interest. In the final chapter, published last week, Quincas’s plan to con Moby and Abe into a truce backfired on one level, but worked on another: following an explosive boating accident, Moby and Abe found themselves working together to keep Quincas, Becca and Abe’s three sons (soon to be Moby’s three stepsons) from drowning.
All seemed destined to end well, until they got to shore — where Quincas was immediately arrested for being in the country illegally.
Congrats on the teaching position in Bethesda; I guess this will be the last letter I send to you in New York. Glad I can end at least end this year-long correspondence on a (cautiously) positive note.
The difference in Uncle Abe this week has been almost incomprehensible. I hope, and suspect, that those who know Richard Moby are saying similar things about him. Despite his blunder, Quincas really did force them to see each other in a new light; I guess it’s pretty near impossible to jointly save the lives of people you both care about, without it putting your own squabbles into some perspective. Abe and Moby have met in person and talked every day this week, at Abe’s kitchen table, where I get to witness much of it. I’m not saying it’s warm and fuzzy (that would not be Yankee, or manly). But it’s constructive. They don’t talk about Gwen — Gwen, I’m sure, will remain a touchy subject between them for years to come.
No, instead they talk business (which is Yankee, and manly). After all the fury and accusations on Abe’s side, after all the slimy underhanded tactics on Moby’s side . . . they’re talking! They are — ready for this? — actually learning from each other. Abe gets to play the role of Outstanding Model Citizen of Small Community. Moby listens — after all, it’s a community he’s trying to break into, and who better to learn the ropes from than Abe? Moby, for his part, gets to play the role of Savvy Businessman, who adeptly evolves his plans and ideas to adapt to a new market in a changing world. Abe listens, too — after all, he pretty much destroyed Pequot Nursery over the past year; he needs advice. When he thinks Moby is being an unethical creep, he challenges him. When Moby thinks Abe is being an “idealistic snob,” he challenges Abe. The debates get lively. But they are debates, not arguments, and the ultimate goal is to establish ground rules. For all I know they’ll end up going into business together. But I’m not holding my breath.
So that’s all good. And here’s something else.
I was frantically trying to get word of Quincas, and of course so were all his housemates. Nobody was helpful. Nick Walker, the trooper I grew up with who arrested Quincas, was incommunicado, didn’t even answer his cell phone. For days.
But earlier in the week, he drove up here. I met him at the door clutching a Swiss Army knife, wondering if he’d arrest me for carrying a concealed weapon, especially if I threatened him with it. Which I wanted to.
“Hey, Becca,” he said.
“Where is he?” I demanded. “Is he in Brazil? Is he in detention somewhere? What have you done with him? He’s allowed a phone call, isn’t he? How come nobody who knows him has gotten a phone call?”
“Well, first off, he was pretty sick,” Nick said, avoiding my gaze. “He swallowed a lot of sea and he was shell-shocked from almost drowning.”
“What happened to him?”
“I decided to take him home first, dry him out, warm him up. And by the time he seemed fit for detention, well, y’know, it was after 5 on Friday, and I was off the clock for the weekend. And he wanted to talk. He used fraud to lure two American citizens out onto the open ocean, as a result of which two boats were destroyed and several people nearly drowned. Even if he were here legally, he’d be in a truckload of trouble now. He knew how much trouble he was in, and he wanted to tell his story to somebody sympathetic.”
“And he figured you’d be sympathetic?” I demanded sarcastically. “Because you were so sweet and gentle when you handcuffed him?”
“Because I told him I’ve known you since kindergarten,” Nick said gently, risking a glance at me. “Because I told him we’re old friends and I was just doing my duty.”
“Yep, he’s a sucker, he’d buy right into that. So now I suppose you have pages of testimony that you can use to send him to jail for years?”
Nick grimaced. “I didn’t record a word. I was spellbound, frankly. He told me how Abe’s been acting all year, and how he thought he could patch things between Abe and Moby, and he pointed out that he sort of succeeded. Plus it sounds like he did a lot of defusing of bombs over the course of the year. I decided . . .” He paused. “I decided in the big picture, he’s made a contribution to the community. ” A pause. “I could not in good conscience rid the Island of somebody who cares so much about keeping it sane.”
I heard myself gasp. “So what did?”
He nodded back toward his pickup truck. The passenger door opened.
Quincas got out.
Nick winked at me. He turned and walked back to his truck, bumping fists with Quincas as their paths crossed. He got in the truck and drove off.
“Hello,” Quincas said, with a sheepish smile. “Did you miss me?”
And so my summer begins.