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


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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Brontosaurus Ribs

December 27, 2013

First Posted 12/28/11


I recently saw an online statistic claiming that more than seventy percent of American families enjoyed prime rib for Christmas dinner. At Chatterbox Manor we did not have prime rib for Christmas dinner; instead we opted for Honey Baked Ham.


Years ago shortly after we were married Mrs. Chatterbox decided to roast our first prime rib for Christmas. A few days before the holiday we drove to the grocery store and studied the meat behind the counter while waiting for the butcher to call our number.


“How much prime rib should we buy?” she asked me.


It should come as no surprise that I’m a meat-o-holic, although I no longer consume anywhere near as much red meat as I once did. Back then my diet was not much different from that of a T-Rex.


“I think the operative word here is ‘rib,’” I said. “We have four people coming for dinner and you and I make six. Each person should have a rib, and I wouldn’t mind having two or three.”


“Then let’s order ten ribs to be on the safe side,” she said.


I nodded as the butcher called our number.


“We’d like to order a prime rib,” Mrs. C. said.


“How many ribs do you want?” the butcher asked.




He rubbed his beefy face. “That’s a big order, but we’ll have it here for you tomorrow.”


I gave him our name and phone number, not taking a moment to wonder why we had to return tomorrow when the counter was loaded with meat.


The next day we returned for our order. The butcher smiled at us and disappeared into the back of the store. When he returned he was accompanied by another butcher. The two of them were lugging a crate which they set on our shopping cart.


Mrs. Chatterbox’s eyes filled with horror. “What have we done?” she whispered to me.


The butcher swiped a rag over his face, reached into a pocket and handed me the bill. “You can pay this at the checkout line.”


The bill was for $187.50, half our rent at that time.


“Say, how many people you got coming for Christmas dinner?” the butcher asked.


“How many will this feed?” I asked.


“Heck, depends on how much people eat, maybe twenty—twenty-five.”


I couldn’t bring myself to answer that we were only having six people for dinner. We wheeled the massive piece of meat to the cashier, the wheels of the shopping cart squeaking beneath their burden.


Mrs. C. was beside herself. “What are we going to do with all this meat? How are we going to pay for this? We’ll have to return all of our Christmas presents.”


I stopped pushing the cart to consider my options. We were in the medicine aisle in front of the laxatives, which we clearly didn’t need since Mrs. C. appeared about to sh*t a brick. The crate was big enough to hold Rin Tin Tin, or those brontosaurus ribs that flip the Flintstones car at the beginning of each episode. I told Mrs. C. to wait for me in the car.


“What are you going to do?” she asked.


“I’m going to tell the butcher the truth. We can’t be the first people to order more meat than we needed.”


I returned to the meat counter, pulled a number and waited.


“Not enough?” said the butcher when he called my number.


“Actually, it’s too much. Way too much. We’re only having six people over for dinner.”


Relief washed over me when he said, “For six people you only need three or four ribs. Why don’t I cut down that monster and just sell you what you need?”


I nodded and thanked him profusely.


 In a few days it will be New Year’s Day. We aren’t having guests, but we are having prime rib. We just came back from the grocery store where we bought a small hunk of meat. Mrs. Chatterbox and I learned our lesson long ago—just two ribs.






That sounds like something I'd do - but I'd probably be too embarrassed or sheepish to say anything and just buy it anyway.
By: Katy on December 27, 2013
Ha, ha I would probably still be defrosting prime rib being too embarrassed to have return it.
By: Akansas Patti on December 27, 2013
I doubt that you were the first nor will you be the last to "over estimate" quantities. This is a great story. Thanks for the chuckle. If I said been there done that with a twist, I bet you'd understand. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on December 27, 2013
yikes. good save by you and glad the butcher understood your dilemma.
By: TexWisGirl on December 27, 2013
I've found it's usualy the other way around. Something that should serve 4-6 will barefly fill 3. I think that's why God created "fillers"....veggies and bread. ;)
By: Scott Cody Park on December 27, 2013
Oops...my typing fingers have gone spastic on me this morning.
By: Scott Cody Park on December 27, 2013
Oh, I've done something like that. Only I didn't have the brains to admit my mistake. And I wanted to say, "Nobody can beat my meat."
By: Al Penwasser on December 27, 2013
Great story. I guess the butcher was way into the Christmas spirit.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on December 27, 2013
We've cooked a lot of whole prime ribs--for 20+ people. Loved your laxative comment!!
By: Fishducky on December 27, 2013
oh my goodness! I would have done the same thing you did! This year we had a deliious boneless ham from a local grower- no nitrates no chemicals. Best ham we have ever had! Happy New year!
By: Kathe W. on December 27, 2013
I remember reading this before. Mrs. C. about to shit a brick always makes me laugh. Of course, you didn't completely spell out shit, but I have no problem with shit. shit shit shit Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 27, 2013
Well...at least $187 prime rib would have been more tasty than $980 inserts from The Good Feet Store. If only I had sent my husband prime-rib shopping on his way to find the best feet.
By: Val on December 27, 2013
Since my hubby was a chef, I'm laughing my butt off at that one. Prime Rib is my favorite but unless I make it myself, I can't find any place that makes it with quality beef. Soo delicious!
By: Bouncin Barb on December 27, 2013
I remember the story from ... what? ... two years ago. I wouldn't begin to know how to shop for prime rib. Of course, I wouldn't know how to cook it, either. Enjoy your prime rib for New Year's Day - and happy New Year!
By: Pixel Peeper on December 27, 2013
HAHAHAHA!!! Of course, this sounds just like something I would have done!!! Happy New Year!!! ~shoes~
By: redshoes51 on December 27, 2013
My neighbor recently made a similar mistake with pizzas - ordered 8 giants (36") by mistake - the delivery man struggled to get down the drive!
By: Bryan Jones on December 28, 2013
This falls into the 'live and learn' file of life skills. Good one!
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 28, 2013
The good part about such meat is, they can cut it down and sell the rest to someone else who needs it. Good for you, not letting pride take over, i think you would have lost your taste for prime rib if it had cost you all of your other gifts.
By: mimi on December 28, 2013
Another great post, Stephen, thank you. It was an easy mistake to make and I'm glad the butcher sorted it out for you. Your order did sound like the opening to the Flintstones. I've always loved that show!
By: Sharon Bradshaw on December 29, 2013
I have never made prime rib. You would think in all the years we've been married, I would have but we have always had either turkey or ham for the holidays. I would of not known how many ribs to get without looking it up. Seems like a mistake that probably a lot of people have made.
By: Cheryl P. on December 30, 2013
I have heard of someone having a damn good ribbing but this great story takes the cake...or should I say rib!
By: John on December 31, 2013

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