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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Conclusion: Uncle Sam and Kotex

November 28, 2012
The lady behind the counter pushed the unbagged box of Kotex in my direction, oblivious to the fact that she held my quivering soul in her hands.   

    

My voice was squeaky as a mouse. “Excuse me..?”

     

“Yes, something else you need?” she asked sweetly.

     

“Could you put this in a bag, pleeeeze?”

     

I should have selected a smaller box. Kotex came packaged in different sizes, but unfortunately I’d selected a box large enough to supply an army of Amazons.

     

“Sorry, Hon’, no can do.”

     

“But you don’t understand. I need a bag!” I pleaded.

     

“We don’t have bags that size. Now please move along so I can help these other nice people.”

    

With that, I was dismissed.

     

I headed for the door with a box the size of a steamer trunk. Ricky met me outside, and before he could shoot me down I cried, “They didn’t have any bags big enough!” I didn’t expect him to laugh, but he did. I noticed his full pockets. 

     

“Shit, you got enough for a herd of elephants. Why didn’t you get a smaller box?”

     

I just glared at him. 

     

“Let’s get that thing home, and fast,” he said, his voice sounding like a field commander.

    

So off we went with our unwieldy cargo, like soldiers at the front hoping to avoid getting shot. But luck was not with us that day; we were spotted by the enemy. Heading our way were the pimply masters of mayhem—future thugs of America. Their leader, Chris Ferris, was huge like the dilapidated carnival wheel he shared a name with. To make matters worse, he was the inventor of a playground game called Let’s-see-just-how-hard-we-can-throw-this-ball-at-a-fat-kid, one of the few games I figured prominently in. There was no use trying to escape Chris and his marauding band. They were on us like jackals on Bambi.

     

“Well, well, well. Just what do you candy-asses have here?” Chris hissed, snatching away the big blue box, which looked much smaller in his beefy arms. “I didn’t even know you girls were old enough to min-strate.” His cohorts snorted approvingly.

     

I’d never heard the word min-strate before and assumed that Chris, like Ricky, had older sisters and presumably knew what he was talking about. Ricky, who only came up to Chris’ shoulders, was determined to defend his manhood. 

     

“At least we’re not cocksuckers like you assholes, so get lost!” Ricky’s words were like a match tossed into a pool of gasoline. Although I certainly knew what an asshole was, I had no idea what “cocksucker” meant. Ricky’s dad was in and out of jail on drunken driving charges and often had colorful things to say when loaded. Ricky probably picked up the word from him.

     

Chris just sneered and began tossing the big blue box back and forth among his cronies. I was dead meat if I returned home without the precious goods. I jumped about like a chubby marionette, but they easily kept the box out of my reach. When they tired of the game, Chris hurled the big blue box up onto Drug King’s metal awning. Then Chris and company laughed and walked away. Why weren’t there ever adults around when stuff like this happened? Whenever bullies were around, the world turned into a comic strip without grown-ups, like Peanuts. No adults saw this incident, or so we thought.

     

Out of nowhere, Uncle Sam came lurching up to us. He’d seen the incident, and from his elevation he was in a position to do us some good. After all, he was nearly looking down on the awning where the big blue box was resting. At that moment, Uncle Sam wasn’t just some carnival freak in a gaudy costume with ladders in his pants; he was my potential savior. He wobbled over to the awning and picked up the box. This was when I learned that Uncle Sam was an evil man.   

      

“...And just what do we have here?” he slurred, his words echoing those of Chris Ferris.

     

“C’mon, Uncle Sam, pleeeeze hand it down.” I gave him a beseeching, basset hound look.

     

“For chrissake!” Ricky moaned, “This guy’s not Uncle Sam!” Ricky was a lot smarter than me, and he’d already correctly assumed this guy wasn’t going to help us.

     

“How ‘bout you kids hand up a sawbuck and I’ll pass this down?”

     

“How much is a sawbuck?” I asked.

     

Ricky rolled his eyes at me. “Shit, don’t you know nuthin? A sawbuck is ten dollars.”

   

That was more than the Kotex cost in the first place. We certainly didn’t have ten dollars. I continued to plead with Uncle Sam to no avail, and after Ricky called him an old fart and a wino, he replaced the box on the awning and staggered away, but not before flipping us an uncooperative finger gesture.

     

We didn’t have enough money to replace the Kotex. Ricky generously offered to trade in the goods he’d stolen for a cash refund so we could buy another big blue box, but we quickly realized this wouldn’t work since he didn’t have a receipt.

    

Around this time I remembered there were smaller, cheaper boxes of Kotex to be had at Drug King. We counted out our change and realized we didn’t have enough money for even a modest-sized box. My dilemma left me with only one option. I knew what I needed to do.

       

There comes a time in every boy’s life when his manhood begins to ring like a tiny clapper in a bell. This was one of those times. We went back into Drug King. Ricky and I parted ways because the mission was my responsibility; it wasn’t something you could ask even your best friend to do. I was on my own. I returned to the Kotex section and quickly grabbed a small box, concealing it under my shirt. Then I raced madly for the door. 

       

Shoppers looked startled at the sight of me dashing by with a partially concealed box of Kotex attached to my chest like a third nipple. I was terrified and felt like I was going to join Ricky in the piss-on-yourself club. I didn’t see the store security guard reaching out for me. Ricky, with a con’s keen vision, had already spotted him. I was spared capture when Ricky thwarted the guard by tipping over a looming product display of something designed to alleviate anal itch.

       

We reunited outside on the street, with another unbagged box of feminine napkins. I kept the stolen blue box pressed to my chest as we hurried away, in case the security guard decided to pursue us. For the first time, I noticed Ricky looking at me with respect. I’d just pinched my mother some Kotex; I felt like I’d just crashed an exclusive club.     

       

As we passed the back of the shopping center on our way home, we heard the sound of breaking glass. At first I thought it was Chris Ferris’ gang, but on closer inspection I saw it wasn’t. Propped against a wall was Uncle Sam, lurching about up on his stilts.

    

Even though this guy unwittingly helped me earn the respect of my best friend, I still hated him. He was now totally loaded and reciting something—I heard the word “Nantucket.” As we approached we could smell whiskey from the broken bottle. Uncle Sam was too blitzed to recognize us from our previous encounter.

       

He spotted us and bellowed, “You kids got any money for your Uncle Sam?”

      

“We don’t have any money for a stinking wino!” Ricky said.

      

“C’mon, it’s thirsty work, keeping the country going and all...”

       

Ricky wasn’t impressed. “Fuck off!”  

       

Uncle Sam decided to try me. “Whatcha hiding there? Is it money? C’mon, give your Uncle Sam some money.”

       

“Why should we give you money?  You could’ve helped us back there but you didn’t.”

       

“Helped you? How?”

       

 

“Don’t you remember? We asked you to get something down from the Drug King awning.”

       

His droopy fake whiskers couldn’t conceal the smile. “Oh, yeah. You’re the two squirts who were getting bullied.”

       

“Bingo!” Ricky said snidely. “The fog finally clears.”

       

“Yeah, I remember now.  You had that big box of Kotex.” He started chuckling. His mean laugh ended with a wheeze.

       

“Shut your pie hole!” Ricky demanded.

       

Uncle Sam snorted. “What kind of ass-wipes get sent out to buy Kotex?”

       

Without a good answer, we just stared at him until he forgot we were there, until he unzipped his elongated Uncle Sam pants and let go with a long stream of piss. It twinkled in the early moonlight as it cascaded downward.

    

I guess I could have shown this pathetic figure some sympathy. After all, even King Kong got sympathy after falling off the Empire State Building and he’d trashed New York. Instead, with the Kotex pressed tightly against my chest, I walked over and kicked the stilts out from under Uncle Sam.    

  



Comments

48 Comments
I hope your mom appreciated all the effort you went to in order to get her Kotex. Of course if the store wanted to bust you for shoplifting you could have told them to get the other box of Kotex off their roof.
By: PT Dilloway on November 28, 2012
you're a good son to buy your mama her pads. what did she threaten you with to get you to do it?
By: sherilinr on November 28, 2012
Great story, told with panache. Well worth the wait for part two.
By: Suldog on November 28, 2012
What kids get sent out to do. Uncle Sam is a piece of work too. I was thinking he was going to help you and should have known better. Great story, and it finally sounds like you and Ricky belong together. I'm just saying. Have a terrific day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on November 28, 2012
And what did mom say when you got home? Did she want change? Seems to be the next question.
By: Comedy Plus on November 28, 2012
A fitting end to the trials and tribulations (or so we thought then) of a moment in your past. Funny how we remember these events of our youth. Bravo for standing up to the drunken bully.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 28, 2012
You surprised me, too--I was SURE Uncle Sam was going to help you!! WELL TOLD!
By: fishducky on November 28, 2012
You tell a fine story, Stephen. You have quite the talent to bring your readers into the moment. While I was there, I was thinking you'd have had Ricky Delgado (how I love that name) get on your shoulders to retrieve the box. Great story right down to the last kicker.
By: Hilary on November 28, 2012
Bullies come in all ages and stages, don't they? Great ending.
By: messymimi on November 28, 2012
If you didn't kick him off those stilts I would have lots all respect for you. Well done and well told!
By: Cranky on November 28, 2012
whew you earned some stripes that day.....did your mom ever know what you went through?
By: Kathe W. on November 28, 2012
Epic story!
By: Dana the Biped on November 28, 2012
In the storied annals of feminine protection, this has to be one of the top tales, ever. Well told!
By: Shelly on November 28, 2012
I would have kicked his stilts out from under him the FIRST time he didn't help. :) S
By: scott park on November 28, 2012
Oh Stephen. This is story just got more and more painful as it went on! This could have resulted in years of expensive therapy for you. Jeesh, I hate it that I'm laughing.
By: Kerry on November 28, 2012
good lord what a lot of trouble for a box of kotex. and i have to say the bullies were one thing but uncle sam...what a horse's ass. i did not see you kicking out his stilts from under him but i think it's fair to say everyone has his limit and you'd clearly been pushed past yours!
By: lime on November 28, 2012
That was a great story. I know you have said you lost track of Ricky but if he isn't in jail, he is probably a warden. He seems not to know when to "not throw the match into the gas." as you so vividly pointed out. Did you tell your mother of the problems involved getting her her products? The only thing that would of made me happier is as soon as Uncle Sam tried to fleece you for a sawbuck if you and Ricky would of each taken a stilt and flipped him on his drunken ass.
By: Cheryl P. on November 28, 2012
Wow! I guess you fixed him! Great story!
By: Eva Gallant on November 28, 2012
Wow! I guess you fixed him! Great story!
By: Eva Gallant on November 28, 2012
omg. what a story. you have a rare gift indeed. excellent :)
By: Fran on November 28, 2012
What a story! That's better than the time the Ladies Auxiliary barfed all over the Benevolent Order of Antelopes.
By: Val on November 28, 2012
What a great story. Ricky was such a good influence on you. Without him, you might still be a wimpy little kid. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 28, 2012
This episode was like an unending nightmare, until the end, which I really liked. PS Thanks for your support. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on November 28, 2012
Great story! I feel like I should apologize to you for laughing so hard.
By: Pixel Peeper on November 28, 2012
Ooh that was nasty! Timely theme on bullies. Lots going on here with regard to bullies. I did not predict an ending for this one. You keep us guessing in your stories.
By: Red on November 28, 2012
Your story made me want to laugh, cringe and cry, simultaneously. It is also a timely piece as we confront the problem of bullies. Well done!
By: Tom Cochrun on November 28, 2012
Awesome story. Well worth the wait of the second day. I'd have knocked Uncle Sam down too.
By: Brett Minor on November 29, 2012
You should send this story to the makers of Kotex. I bet they'd make you famous.
By: Michael Offutt on November 29, 2012
Vengence! Hopefully your Mom didn't ask for the change...
By: Cat on November 29, 2012
Aha! You were not deserted by Ricky after all and you got your revenge on the nasty stilts-man after stealing Kotex for your mom. Goodness! Quite a finish! I hope that was the end of your life of crime. Can you imagine if you got caught and sent to juuuvie!? What are you in for, kid? Swiping Kotex for my mom. ROFL!! Well, it gave you a great story to tell. :) :)
By: Rita McGregor on November 29, 2012
Man, I thought for sure Uncle Sam was going to help you! And then having to not only buy Kotex, but you had to steal them, as well. That is so funny! And your mom couldn't even appreciate your hard work, since you couldn't exactly tell her you stole her Kotex!
By: Kianwi on November 29, 2012
Congrats on kicking the stilts out. Yup, should have done it when he walked away up front. Too bad you couldn't do that to Ferris.
By: joeinvegas on November 30, 2012
I like stories with heroes..sorry.
By: annmariepipa on November 30, 2012
Holy smokes! What an adventure on such a simple, albeit embarrassing, errand. Your line: "Rickyâs dad was in and out of jail on drunken driving charges and often had colorful things to say when loaded" explaining the word use really cracked me up. Great post! :-)
By: Lexa Cain on November 30, 2012
Have you ever thought about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and all. But think of if you added some great pictures or videos to give your posts more, "pop"! Your content is excellent but with images and videos, this website could certainly be one of the most beneficial in its field. Amazing blog! pink ribbon north face http://www.northfacepinkribbonclearance.com/
By: pink ribbon north face on November 30, 2012
Great story Stephen, well-told as usual. For a moment I thought you were going to pad it out!
By: Bryan Jones on December 2, 2012
I hope your mom was happy and appreciated all your efforts and everything else that came with it :)
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