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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High Tech

February 20, 2013

I know I speak for millions when I admit to struggling with today’s ever-changing technology; I wouldn’t have been able to create this blog without my son’s help. Years ago I attempted to write a spy novel and most of the gadgets I invented for my spooks are now in the hands of high schoolers. But I can recall a time before smart phones, iPads and laptops, when I was ten and thought the coolest gadget to own was a walkie talkie.

    

An ad in a ratty magazine I pinched from our barber shop offered a genuine wireless walkie talkie for only $1.39, a reasonable price for a device sure to make me the coolest kid in the neighborhood. I had 90 cents hidden in a cigar box under my bed. Not enough, so I hit up my older brother David for the rest. 
    

“Hell no,” he said. “Real walkie talkies cost a bundle. If this thing costs less than two bucks it must be a piece of crap.”
    

“But look at the ad,” I said, handing it to him. “It says, ‘No Wires.’ C’mon, I promise I’ll pay you back.”
    

His answer was still, “N-O!”
    

Danny Holloway across the street was my age. He financed the rest with a fifty cent piece his grandpa gave him for his birthday, after first extracting the promise that I’d let him keep one of the handsets at his house, which only seemed fair.
    

I filled out the tattered order form and dumped the $1.39 into an envelope, addressed it—which would have been easier before sealing all that lumpy change inside—and dropped the envelope in a nearby mailbox.

    

Then I waited.
    

And waited.
    

Waited some more.
    

It felt like an eternity, but in just over three weeks a parcel arrived for me. I’d expected a hefty package, but this one was light as a box of Q-tips. I tore it open. Inside, I found a walkie talkie constructed from two tin cans connected, not by wire, but with stretchy string. David was right. What a rip off!
    

I slinked across the street to show it to Danny. He tried to put a positive spin on it. Examining one of the cans he admitted, “These sure don’t look like the walkie talkies in war movies, but they still might work.”
    

He held on to a can while I carried the other one back to my side of the street. With the string stretched tight between us, I yelled into mine, “Testing, one…two…three…” We were close enough to hear each other without listening devices.
    

Just as Danny was about to say something, the tin cans shot out of our hands. With a loud clattering sound, the cans and string wrapped around the bumper of the police car we hadn’t noticed cruising down our street. The cop inside must have though he was under fire. He hit the brakes and jumped out with his hand on his gun.
    

That day I learned $1.39 isn’t enough to purchase coolness, but it is enough to teach you how to run like hell! 



Comments

28 Comments
And sometimes that lesson trumps coolness!
By: Shelly on February 20, 2013
Bwahahahahahahaha. I can see this happening to you. I really can. Have a fantastic day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on February 20, 2013
Oh lord that's hilarious! And yes, I can visualize it perfectly :)
By: The Bug on February 20, 2013
oh hahah my first out loud laugh of the day...hee hee... I remember sending money for a device that would make our Black and White TV a color TV....grr it was a piece of flimsy multi colored plastic-kinda like saran wrap. Phooey. Should have known since I ordered it off the back of a comic book!
By: Kathe W. on February 20, 2013
Would you be interested in buying a spaceship for only $19.99, plus shipping & handling? If you order within the next 10 minutes, I'll double your order!! (Just pay separate shipping & handling.)
By: fishducky on February 20, 2013
Oh, those days of being able to order from the back of magazines. Decoder devices, x-ray glasses, through the wall listening devices and more. Also, what a great time you invoke, reading "different" magazines at the barbershop. What and education that was.
By: Tom Cochrun on February 20, 2013
That is a cracker of a story Stephen. Love it!
By: John on February 20, 2013
Great story, Stephen. Brought back memories of some of my coupon clipping days.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on February 20, 2013
My friends and I used to stand on either side of a street at dusk and pretend to be having a tug of war whenever a car would come by. Of course, the car would stop, and we would run. Sorry you got ripped off. I guess "no wires" didn't mean no strings.
By: Snowbrush on February 20, 2013
A dollar thirty nine was a small amount to learn the lesson that people will lie to sell you something. I used to love sending off for things as a kid. Even if it was pure junk it was fun getting a package in the mail.
By: Cheryl P. on February 20, 2013
Well, Beaver, you should have listened to Wally. Did you ever order one of those sea monkeys and expect it to arrive wearing a crown?
By: Val on February 20, 2013
That is so awesome. I bought the x-ray specs out of a comic book once. Same disappointing experience.
By: Brett Minor - Transformed Nonconformist on February 20, 2013
This is such a great story.....run like hell has a price, a buck 39....gotta love it. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on February 20, 2013
ROFL! It's a good thing i had swallowed before i hit the punch line!
By: mimi on February 20, 2013
Too funny. I'll bet you also bought those x-ray glasses from the ads in the back of comic books.
By: Hilary on February 20, 2013
I should know by now not to eat cookies while reading your blog. How do I get all these blasted cookies crumbs out of my key board???
By: Pixel Peeper on February 20, 2013
To this day, mail-order businesses exist and deceive. A sad commentary on society... unfortunately you were duped. If memory serves me correctly, comic books had ads where you could order all these cool things. I never did, as my allowance wasn't much and what I did have went to bazooka chewing gum or other goody.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 20, 2013
What a great story! I never had enough money to send away for that stuff, and now I'm kind of glad :)
By: jenny_o on February 20, 2013
Funny. Reminds me of an incident I was involved in -- with some water balloons in 7th grade. I'll have to dig it out of the memory bank.
By: Tom Sightings on February 20, 2013
oh, the lessons of youth....they do make an impression!
By: lime on February 20, 2013
Ha! Too funny. Did you order the X-ray glasses too? ;)
By: Diane Laney Fitzpatrick on February 21, 2013
I'm laughing. What were the odds that the car would happen to be a police cop? When you and Danny are involved, they were high. Fun story! xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on February 21, 2013
Hilarious. Nowadays I'm sure there probably would have been a class action lawsuit filed and you could have gotten your $1.39 back after about ten years of litigation.
By: PT Dilloway on February 21, 2013
That's about as high-tech as I'm capable of comprehending today, Great story! :) S
By: scott park on February 21, 2013
What a great story and memory! Thanks for sharing
By: Ellen Fishkelta on February 21, 2013
Yikes! I can imagine how fast you ran! That poor policeman must have had quite a shock!
By: Patricia on February 21, 2013
What a funny, funny story. I thought the coolest thing I ever owned were sea monkeys. Except those bastards didn't live in a castle or wear crowns. I would've like to own a pair of X-Ray specs, though. Especially after Pam in the 7th grade started wearing more than training bras.
By: Al Penwasser on February 21, 2013
I remember buying stuff from the back of comic books. Yup, similar experience, it looked so cool in the ad but when it showed up it was really bad.
By: joeinvegas on February 21, 2013

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