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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April 21, 2017

On Monday I published a post about Ginger, the pet who tugged hardest on our heart strings. If you missed it, check it out (here). There was more to the story. I wasn’t present when the events of this tale unfolded, but Mrs. Chatterbox filled me in on the details.


It was 1997. Our beloved pet Ginger, who’d lived with us for nearly ten years, had been put to sleep when her organs shut down two years earlier. Mrs. C. was shopping at Macy’s. After entering the lingerie department and browsing through a few racks, she spotted an uncomfortable looking man, fidgeting while holding what was presumably his wife’s purse. Mrs. C. isn’t in the habit of looking at strange men (unless they’re first-string firemen in the grocery store.) According to Mrs. C., the man looked familiar, very familiar, but she couldn’t place him.


Mrs. C. has a terrific memory when it comes to faces. She’s the one who should have been a portrait painter. She browsed through the department, her eyes constantly glancing at the man. When she figured he’d become aware of her attention, she approached. “Do I know you? You look awfully familiar.”


“Do you live on Allen Street?” he asked.


She shook her head.


“Do you shop at the Albertson’s on Hall Boulevard?”


Another headshake. “Where do you work?” she asked.


“The Portland Animal Shelter.”


Mrs. C. told me she suddenly remembered where she’d seen him before. “I’m sure you don’t remember, but twelve years ago my little boy and I were at the shelter, the day after Thanksgiving. We were all set to adopt a purebred golden retriever but you guided us over to a cage where a dog had been waiting nine days to be adopted. The dog was going to be euthanized that evening. You told us she might not look like much but she was a very good dog and we’d never regret adopting her. We took your advice.”


Like I said, I wasn’t there, but it’s easy to think he suspected the dog he’d recommended hadn’t worked out, that Mrs. C. had been festering over it all these years and was still unhappy about it, intent on giving him an earful. Nothing could have been further from the truth.


“You were absolutely right about that dog. She was more of a soulmate than a pet. We loved her dearly, up until two years ago when her kidneys failed.”


“I remember you and your little boy.”


Mrs. C. later told me she thought he was just being polite. C’mon, in twelve years he must have helped thousands of people pick out dogs and cats. It was inconceivable he remembered them. She was shocked when he added, “I recall you didn’t even have a leash with you to bring the dog home. Your little boy wanted to use his belt as a leash, but instead we lent you one to walk the dog to your car.”


Evidently, this was all true.


“I want to thank you for guiding us to Ginger,” Mrs. C. said. “She was a wonderful dog, a marvelous companion.”


He grinned. Perhaps he wasn’t accustomed to being thanked for his efforts to blend animals with families. “There was just something about that dog,” he said. “She wasn’t the prettiest dog we ever took in but it was plain she had a huge heart.”


I’m sure Mrs. C. could have stood there for hours telling “Ginger” stories, how Ginger was always underfoot during gift giving occasions, how we’d gotten into the habit of placing the sticky bows on her head until she had a permanent sticky spot between her pointed ears. But the man’s wife had emerged from the fitting rooms. He said goodbye and departed with her.


Yes, Ginger had been a very good dog. As for the man who delivered her to us, I never laid eyes on him. Like Mrs. C., I would have thanked him for the guidance that brought so much affection and entertainment into our family.


He was a very good man.





 Ginger and CJ (1985)






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