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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Brontosaurus Ribs

December 28, 2012
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.

  

"Ten.”

    

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.

 



Comments

27 Comments
Did the same thing years ago CC. Ordered way too much and more than we could pay. Probably less than half of your order, but still shocking. I never understood why prime rib at a resturant is relatively resonably priced, but so expensive to order and cook at home. I now only eat it at the resturant.
By: cranky on December 28, 2012
Oh no....that's funny. I can just imagine the horror. I recall all too well when $187 was half my rent or more. What a prime rib lesson. And yes, we had prime rib, for ten with leftovers for my hubby; about 5 big ribs and just about $100. But, Yum. Happy new Year.
By: mindy on December 28, 2012
OMG- I have not cooked prime rib for years- but you did exactly what I would have done- begged forgiveness from the butcher! Have a Happy New Year!
By: Kathe W. on December 28, 2012
Bwahahahahahahaha. Now this was a great event in your lives. I'm glad you returned that side of beef. You'd still be eating on that baby. Well not really, but what a story. Have a terrific day and weekend. :)
By: Comedy Plus on December 28, 2012
We often make prime rib for large dinners. The chef at Lawry's was nice enough to give us instructions. TWO PEOPLE PER RIB!. Those suckers go a long way!!
By: fishducky on December 28, 2012
Thankfully the butcher felt he had enough of a market for the remainder and was kind enough to take it back. That kind of error of judgement is common when first starting out in the world. And I can still easily err on the side of excess when trying to determine how much to buy for a group.
By: Hilary on December 28, 2012
I just learned something new. We did have prime rib but my daughter bought it and prepared it. AWESOME!!! If I would have been hosting it would of been the ham. I have never bought prime rib. We have had cows butchered from our farm and the butcher cuts the meat down to the size of feeding two people. Even when we do that we share the meat. as I am not much of a meat eater ...I would of NEVER known that you bought prime rib by the rib count.
By: Cheryl P. on December 28, 2012
That's interesting. I think I would not have made that mistake because I research everything before I go and do it. Usually I take the time to converse with the butcher, ask questions, and rely upon their expertise. Maybe I'm different but that's just how I roll.
By: Michael Offutt on December 28, 2012
When I was young, turkey was standard fare for Christmas. It was usually a repeat of the Thanksgiving dinner. Now it depends upon how many are invited to our house. We have a ham if there's a small number, prime rib when we have a big bunch. I don't really like to cook less than seven ribs.
By: Uncle Skip on December 28, 2012
Why do contractions show up with a \ before the apostrophe?
By: Uncle Skip on December 28, 2012
What a nice man God bless him. I've never made prime rib. We had a turkey on Christmas Eve. The Hurricane made it. It was her first time and it was the best turkey I've ever had. She is on her way home to California today, so I think New Year's will bring chocolate milk and graham crackers. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 28, 2012
That was very understanding of your butcher. It's that what life is all about?....a learning process? We were one of the 70% who had prime rib for Christmas. Mmmmmmm! S
By: scott park on December 28, 2012
I'd have no idea how to order prime rib either. Though I'd rather have babyback ribs. Yummy.
By: PT Dilloway on December 28, 2012
I'm guessing the friendly butcher had no difficulty selling what you couldn't use Ribeye steaks are about as popular as prime rib
By: Ivan Toblog on December 28, 2012
enjoy your new year's day dinner :)
By: Fran on December 28, 2012
I've never eaten prime rib, nor have I cooked prime rib. The only experience I have with prime rib is that my husband, before I met him, was thrilled to find his partial plate in a mouse hole on the night he was going to his company dinner, because he knew he couldn't chew the prime rib without his teeth.
By: Val on December 28, 2012
LOL! I bet that wasn't the first time the butcher had someone order too much meat. It must happen all the time.
By: Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous on December 28, 2012
Never knew how to order prime rib...by the rib. We had a big turkey breast on Christmas - pretty much the same as what we had for Thanksgiving.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 28, 2012
I haven't cooked prime rib in a long time...now I'm craving it!
By: Eva Gallant on December 28, 2012
An hilarious memory. I'm sure the butcher got a kick out of telling his pals about the guy and gal whose jaws dropped when they got their $187 bill and load of beef. You made the right call, or you might still be working on that order. Best to you and Mrs C in the New Year.
By: Tom Cochrun on December 28, 2012
The errors of youth are legion. That would have been enough meet to keep you fed fro three months.
By: Red on December 28, 2012
Very funny indeed. We've never had prime rib for a holiday. If anyone suggests anything besides the usual turkey, he is reminded of the duck story and shushed.
By: messymimi on December 29, 2012
I don't think I've ever eaten Prime rib. We usually have turkey at Christmas, but I'm not much of a meat eater at any time.
By: LL COOL JOE on December 29, 2012
Thank goodness you had the good sense to tell the butcher your mistake. Being the dope I am, I wouldn't have. And would have had ribs for Valentines. And St. Patricks Day. And Easter. And probably Memorial Day.....
By: Al Penwasser on December 29, 2012
we had gammon this year - purely because Herself didn't want to go shopping too close to christmas, we dont have a freezer and it was the meat with the longest date on we boiled it for about 2 hours and it was actually very nice we had to open a can of tuna for the cats though, as they shouldn't really eat pig
By: dont feed the pixies on December 30, 2012
I am a coward when it comes to buying meat. When buying Turkey crown for Christmas lunch, when the butcher asked how much I used my stock reply: "Enough to feed 7 hungry adults.! I've not yet had an experience like yours, but I do recall our neighbour getting confused over his pizza order - he ordered 4 "mega-pizzas" believing each would be 12-inch. Turned out each had a diameter of 36" and it required 2 delivery men to carry them!
By: Bryan Jones on December 30, 2012
I would have had no idea how to order them either. Glad he was able to take back the unneeded part.
By: Brett Minor - Transformed Nonconformist on December 30, 2012

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