Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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America's Great Pastime

August 9, 2017

Summer is the time for reruns, which this is, and sports. Many bloggers have great tales to tell about their athletic prowess. I’m not one of them. But there was a time when I was coerced into participating in a baseball game. Those of you who know me are right to assume it didn’t go well.

           

Mrs. C. and I were attending one of CJ’s Junior League baseball games, minding our own business and enjoying the fresh air when I was tapped on the shoulder by a coach who’d wandered over from a distant ball field. He asked me, “Your boy playing in this game?”

           

“I nodded and pointed at twelve-year-old CJ.”

           

“He looks like a fine player. I’m Coach Patrick.” He tipped his hat at Mrs. C. and pumped my hand with a huge lumberjack paw. “Those are my Beaverton Pirates over there.” He pointed across the park to the largest baseball field, one with real bleachers instead of space for folding chairs. Coach Patrick continued. “We’re set to play the Beaverton Tigers but our umpire has the flu. I was wondering if you could act as umpire so we don’t have to cancel the game.”

           

“I don’t think it would be fair since I have a kid in the league,” I explained.

           

“Yes, but he isn’t on either of the teams in question.”

           

I’d never umpired before and, in spite of the fact that I’d watched quite a few of CJ’s games, most of the rules were a mystery to me. It seemed unmanly and unpatriotic to admit I wasn’t all that familiar with the rules of America’s great pastime.

           

Mrs. C. made her opinion clear. “Go ahead. How hard can it be? If the pitcher throws a ball inside of the strike zone, it’s a strike. If the ball is outside that zone it’s a ball. C’mon, you know this stuff.”

           

Coach Patrick was impressed with Mrs. C’s enthusiasm. “We could use your help, too,” he said. “You can ump the bases. I know you’re a woman but being a base ump isn’t that hard, unless you think you can’t handle it.”

           

Mrs. C’s feminist hackles were bristling, but she kept her cool and said, “I don’t think so. I’m here to see our son play and he’d be disappointed if we missed his game.”

           

Her reluctance took a hit when CJ, overhearing us talking while warming up for his game, grew excited about the prospect of his parents rising from their folding chairs to participate.

           

“C’mon, Mom and Dad. It would be awful if those kids had to cancel their game. You guys can do it. And I don’t mind if you miss my game.”

           

What were we to do? How was it that Mrs. C. and I were the only parents in attendance that summer evening? Where were all the other moms and dads?

           

With CJ goading us on, Mrs. C. and I followed the coach across the park where scores of fathers sat in bleachers waiting for the game to begin, men who looked like they’d grown up with nicknames like Killer or Bruiser or Crusher, macho men who probably had baseball rules tattooed on their biceps.

           

What’s wrong with these guys?” I asked. “Why can’t they serve as umpires?”

           

“These men all have sons on the field,” Coach Patrick explained. “We need impartial people to ump the game, and we really appreciate you two helping us out.”

           

While Mrs. C. assumed her position behind the first baseman I picked up the umpire’s mask, along with a brush near home plate. I stole glances at the men in the bleachers as I brushed off the plate. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I was determined to run a tidy game. I felt strangely powerful as I shoved spare balls in the pockets of my dockers.

           

“Batter up!” I yelled, assuming this was the correct way to start a game. A batter took his stance in the hitter’s box, a kid big as Brutus from the Popeye cartoons, probably already shaving. Had Brutus spun around and clubbed me in the head with his bat it couldn’t have been worse than what followed.

 

 

 

Conclusion on Friday

 

 

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Comments

19 Comments
Kudos for stepping up to the plate. [big grin]
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 9, 2017
Oh, I'm already cringing... Better you than me!
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 9, 2017
My greatest athletic achievement was in 5th grade the basketball team my dad coached won the league championship among the Lutheran schools in the area. I think I played maybe 2 minutes of garbage time and scored 0 points all season. Umpiring or refereeing is a thankless job and sometimes even dangerous these days.
By: PT Dilloway on August 9, 2017
Oh my goodness me....cannot wait for the finish!
By: Kathe W. on August 9, 2017
Oh, Lord. This will probably turn out almost as badly as it would if I were involved. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 9, 2017
Somehow i have the feeling that you two knew just enough about the game to get yourselves into hot water with both coaches. That's what would happen to me.
By: messymimi on August 9, 2017
Dammit--I don't want to wait!!
By: fishducky on August 9, 2017
Admiring both for your courage. Can't wait to see where this on goes.
By: Arkansas Patti on August 9, 2017
How about "one" goes.?
By: Arkansas Patti on August 9, 2017
THis can't end well, I would have turned it down, LL parents can be brutal and I have very thin skin.
By: cranky on August 9, 2017
No good deed goes unpunished! I'm glad you're still here to continue the tale.
By: Val on August 9, 2017
I don't like the sound of this :)
By: Rick Watson on August 9, 2017
I was an umpire for my daughter's softball league. All went well until . . . I'll tell you next time.
By: Tom Sightings on August 10, 2017
couldn't have been too bad as you are still here to tell the tale.
By: Ellen Abbott on August 10, 2017
Ack! A teaser. I don't like teasers, but you made us have to read your blog tomorrow.
By: Kate on August 10, 2017
Oh dear. Here I am venturing out to read blogs for the first time in a long time and you've given me a cliff-hanger. Toss a ball at me when part two is out!
By: Hilary on August 10, 2017
Oh boy. The pressure was definitely on. That alone would have made me say "no."
By: Michael Offutt on August 10, 2017
Oh Lordy, this is not looking like a position I would have wanted to be in.
By: Jimmy on August 11, 2017
See, I definitely couldn't do this. I didn't know the umpire had to wear a mask. And the only reason I know what "umpire" means is because I recently googled synonyms for "mediator." Ha.
By: Pixel Peeper on August 19, 2017

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