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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Blog Archive

10/2013

Yellow Submarine

October 02, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Maybe it was because he never owned anything new and seldom received gifts, but Ricky Delgado had a keen sense alerting him to new acquisitions on Briarwood Drive. It was 1966 and Dad, David and I had just returned from White Front, the new pre-Walmart, everything-under-one-roof store that had recently opened a half mile from our house. I’d saved my lawn mowing money to purchase The Beatles’ new album Revolver (a whopping $3.99) and hadn’t even had time to play it or remove it from its jacket when Ricky knocked on our door.      “Where’d you go?” he asked, his antennae tweaked. “Get something new?”      Like me, Ricky earned money doing chore ... read more

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Yellow Submarine: Conclusion

October 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  Click (here) if you missed Part I.      We trekked back to White Front. The security guard at the door stopped us. A toothpick lodged in the corner of his mouth bounced up and down when he pointed at the plastic bag in my hand. “What you got there?” he asked.      “I have a return,” I said. “The Revolver album I bought skips.”      The security guard fixed me with a hard glare. “Ask for Gil Rutz in Customer Service. He’ll take care of you.”      We didn’t need to ask for Gil Rutz; he was the only guy behind the customer service counter at the back of the store and the badge pinned to his ... read more

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Four Bits

October 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I’m just going to come out and admit that I’m oddly shaped. My legs are short but my torso is long, so long, in fact, that whenever I’m seated at a group gathering I’m always the tallest person present, that is until I stand. Because my legs are short I experience a problem when sitting that most people don’t have: change is constantly spilling out of my pockets. The last time I gathered up the change beneath cushions in our house the amount totaled $128.00.      Several months ago I was in a particularly nostalgic mood, remembering when movie theaters had velvet curtains that opened and closed, and cars had curb feelers, metal whiskers to alert elderly drivers (probably younger than I a ... read more

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This One Sold #7

October 07, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
        I was looking for an illustration to post and I found this one buried in my picture file.  Created in 1995 for the editorial page of Portland’s main newspaper, The Oregonian, it accompanied an article dealing with the shutdown of the Federal government due to the feud between Republicans and another Democratic president, Bill Clinton. Based on the saying—what’s old becomes new again—I should contact The Oregonian and ask them if they want to run it again.       ... read more

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Truckzilla

October 09, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I thought Mrs. C. had lost her mind when she came home from work, excited at having won two tickets in an office pool for an event so outside my field of interest as to be laughable. “You won tickets to what?” I asked.      She beamed. “Tickets to a truck and tractor pull.”      “What the hell is that?” I asked, hoping the name was a misnomer and this event had nothing to do with trucks or tractors.      “As I understand it, trucks and tractors engage in tugs of war, there’s a demolition derby and other events. You can take CJ. He loves cars and trucks. It will be a great bonding experience for the two of you. And Truckzilla w ... read more

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Karma

October 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Not all countries are blessed with an abundance of conveniently located restaurants. On a recent trip to India our tour bus drove many miles through desolate territories before stopping at roadside eateries deemed acceptable by our guide. At one such stop on our way to ride camels in the Great Thar desert Mrs. Chatterbox had an interesting conversation with the only member of our group whom she didn’t like, highly unusual for a woman who generally enjoys everyone.      The restaurant was dusty and swarming with flies when we entered. The menu was all in Hindi but I managed to order chicken cutlets while Mrs. C. stuck with her tried and true favorite—French fries. By this point in our trip she’d had ... read more

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Not Yet Perfect

October 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
      Some of you have e-mailed to ask how my books are coming along. Slowly but surely I’m progressing. I’m nearly through a collection of The Best of Chubby Chatterbox and I’m also working on a collection called The Ricky Delgado Chronicles. My progress is uneven but I’m determined to complete these books and make then as perfect as possible. When I consider their lack of perfection I’m reminded of other projects where perfection was not achieved.   The Bent Pyramid of Sneferu shows that Egyptian architects struggled to achieve the purity of design that is the hallmark of later pyramids.       The Bi-bi Ka Maqbara was intended to surpass the Taj Mahal but falls sh ... read more

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The Ceiling of the Seventh Heaven

October 14, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Today is Columbus Day and I’ve no doubt many of my fellow bloggers will be airing opinions as to whether or not Columbus was a hero or a villain. I think it fair to say that never was the world changed so much by a person who didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing, but instead of dwelling on this I want to relate an experience from a trip Mrs. Chatterbox and I made to Granada, Spain.      Mrs. C. and I had traveled to Granada to visit the legendary Alhambra, a place once described by a poet as a pearl set in emeralds, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together peacefully for nearly eight hundred years, a site of remarkable technical innovations and scholarly achievement ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #30

October 16, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
                    Although my writing has yet to reflect it, fantasy has invaded my artwork over the years. Many of my conceptual illustrations play on familiar tales like The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs and Jack the Giant Killer, and I’ve created several paintings that visualize an imaginary world much different from that depicted in my published illustrations. This painting was created a few years before Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy premiered but it does have a Middle Earth quality to it. I’ve yet to come up with a title for this picture. I’m open to suggestions.         ... read more

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The Power of Music

October 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Regular readers know that my grandfather played a significant role in my life, but until now I haven’t mentioned that Grandpa and his two older brothers were orphaned when Grandpa was five years old. They’d been living on Terceira, a poverty-stricken island in the Azores and no relatives had the resources to take in three hungry mouths.      One brother was sent to live with distant relatives in Lisbon, another was shipped off to São Paulo, Brazil, and my grandfather came to America and settled in California’s Santa Clara Valley. The three boys had been very close and once they learned how to write they communicated with each other regularly. One of the things written about most was their deter ... read more

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Good News and Bad News

October 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My dad was a professional mechanic who always kept our cars running like well-oiled clocks. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit Dad’s mechanical ability, which skipped a generation to take root in CJ, our son. CJ is a remarkable mechanic who treats cars the way accomplished musicians treat their instruments. He can diagnose what’s wrong with an engine by listening to cars whizzing past on the highway. He does a great job of keeping our vehicles in proper running order, but he leads a busy life and isn’t always around.   For routine servicing we’d been bringing Mrs. Chatterbox’s BMW to the dealership where we purchased it nine years ago. Mrs. C. says the car belongs to both of us but it really belongs ... read more

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The Other Woman

October 21, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 12/5/11     Rick said it best in Casablanca: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine.” Like Ilsa, my femme fatale had no idea I was here when she flew into town.      I read about her arrival in the newspaper. Titian’s La Bella had arrived in town for an exhibit at the Portland Art Museum; her smiling face filled an entire page. I hadn’t seen her in years, but she’d fluttered through my thoughts too many times to count. She’d aged well over the years, not that it mattered; I’d always had a thing for older women. Still, no expense had been spared keeping her preternaturally in her prime, no easy task since she was over ... read more

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President Raisin

October 23, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
A few days ago I had a discussion with my eighty-eight year old mother about the current state of American politics. Mom, in case you’ve forgotten, is about as fond of the Federal Government as a bootlegger during Prohibition. I don’t need it pointed out that this was a stupid thing to do. I stay away from politics in my posts because my blog is designed to entertain and uplift, not cause strife, but Mom doesn’t go anywhere or do anything in spite of my offers to drive her anywhere she’d care to go. I run out of safe topics to talk about and frequently stray into dangerous territory.      So there we were discussing politics, with Mom blaming the Democrats in general and Obama in particular for ... read more

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Man Up!

October 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    Years ago when I worked in a jewelry store the manager required all of his sales associates to pierce ears. I hated the idea of holding a needle-loaded gun to someone’s ear and firing so I managed to be busy when customers came into the store asking for this service.        But one time I couldn’t get out of it. A leather-clad biker chick, with spiked hair and smelling of exhaust and Pabst Blue Ribbon, came into the store wanting an ear pierced, even though she already sported a dozen earrings on each one. “I want a gold stud up here at the top,” she said, pointing to the place.      “Up in the cartilage? Won’t that hurt?” I asked, hoping she'd ... read more

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Ouch!

October 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t usually do follow-up posts but Al Penwasser (check out his hilarious blog here) left this comment on my last post Man Up! Al reminded me of one other instance where someone asked me for a piercing. Al commented, “Coulda been worse. She coulda wanted you to pierce something other than her ear.” The following happened a few years after the first piercing incident when I’d become manager of the jewelry store.       Jerry was one of my best customers. He and his lovely wife Mary Anne had purchased a small fortune in bling from me over the years. I was polite with all of my customers but over the years I developed a real fondness for Jerry and Mary Anne. It helped that Mary Anne was a ... read more

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The Ghost of Kilarney Park

October 28, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This story, a true tale from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope, has become a Halloween tradition here at Chubby Chatterbox. I hope you enjoy it:   *********       Haunted houses belong in the realm of goose bumps, foggy nights and old neighborhoods, not pristine suburbs with freshly asphalted streets, unblemished sidewalks and immature trees. But a ghost lingered across the street, in a house where a man died.      I was only two when our neighborhood suffered its first fatality. Kilarney Park (later to be swallowed up by the Silicon Valley) had just opened for occupancy and neighbors had yet to come together with barbeques and meet-and-greets. It didn’t help that none of the parents o ... read more

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Conclusion: The Ghost of Kilarney park

October 30, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Haunted houses and Halloween go together like dots on dice, but the haunted house on our street never did anything to attract trick-or-treaters. So why was there a light burning on Verna’s porch?      My feet began pulling me to the light. My head swirled with thoughts of murder: rat poison, asphyxiation, throat slashing, but I was more interested in candy than my safety.      I inched up the front steps to her porch and peered into Verna’s kitchen window. She was seated at her kitchen table, her head resting in her hands. Her back was to me and I couldn’t see her face, but I could hear her crying, a raspy soul rending sound, not the depraved rant of the undead or the wailing tir ... read more

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Out of Hell

October 31, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t normally post on Thursdays and I don’t usually post fiction, but here’s a fun story to celebrate the holiday.     *************   A shiver runs through me when I think back to the time when Tammy, my wife of five years, came to the conclusion that the gray tabby who’d lived contentedly with us since we bought her on our honeymoon, was lonely. Tammy convinced me that Sausalito, “Saucy” needed another feline to keep her company. On Halloween of ’79 we decided to purchase a kitten.      We soon discovered it wasn’t the right season for kittens. We were about to give up our search when we spotted a Siamese kitten for sale in the classifieds. We call ... read more

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