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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A Magic Fish

December 30, 2013

This short piece of fiction was inspired by a recent trip to the mall.

 

The mall was choked with shoppers returning Christmas presents and looking for end of year deals. My sister had gifted me an unsuitable sweater and I’d come to return it. With the refund tucked into my wallet I worked my way to the mall exit. The aisles were jammed with sullen children, screaming babies and tired parents. Maneuvering around them required patience which at that moment I sorely lacked. I dodged into a pet store to calm my nerves and build up energy to slash my way through the jungle of shoppers to reach my car.

    

A rude young boy pushed past me with a crinkled dollar clutched in his hand. He pressed his nose to a tank swarming with goldfish advertised at a dollar each. An older man approached to wait on him. They didn’t appear to notice me but I was well positioned to hear their exchange.

    

“Can I help you, young man?” he asked politely.

    

“Are you Chinese?” the boy blurted.

    

“My parents were born in China, but I was born in San Francisco.”

    

The boy appeared to think about this for a moment, and then said, “I’ve spent all of my Christmas money ‘cept for this dollar. I guess I’ll take one of these crummy goldfish.”

    

“Have you owned a goldfish before? They require care to thrive, clean water and of course fish food.”

    

The boy rolled his eyes. “My sister got one for her birthday but a couple of days later it was dead. She said I could have the fishbowl and what’s left of the food.”

    

“I see,” the man said. “Do you know anything about goldfish?”

     

“I know they’re pretty darn cheap if you can buy ‘em for a buck.”

    

The salesclerk smiled. “Goldfish originated in China about a thousand years ago.”

    

The boy didn’t look as disinterested as he had a moment earlier.

    

“Can you imagine how long a thousand years is?”

    

“King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table lived a long time ago. Was it around then?”

    

The man nodded, oblivious to others impatient to be waited on. “Back then someone spotted a little grey fish in a creek with a fleck of gold on it. The fish was scooped up and placed in a pond with another fish with a single golden fleck and before long babies were born with two spots of gold. The process continued until, after much careful breeding, a fish was created that was completely gold in color. So you see it took ages to create the first of these tiny miracles. It’s true that today they aren’t expensive, but they certainly aren’t cheap.”

    

The man carefully netted one of the fish and placed it in a plastic bag with water. Before handing over the fish he leaned toward the boy and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper. “You might want to keep it a secret, but these fish are special in another way. They possess the magic of good luck. Take care of it; feed it properly and keep its bowl clean. The longer this fish lives the stronger the magic.”

    

“What happens if it dies?”

    

He pretended to shudder. “Let’s not think about that. Besides, I have a feeling you’re going to take good care of this fish. Aren’t you?”

    

The boy nodded. After visiting the cash register, he left, carefully cradling the bag containing his new pet.

   

I smiled at the salesman and searched for a nametag. He wasn’t wearing one. “That was clever of you,” I said. “That fish didn’t stand a chance until you fibbed and told him it was magical.”

    

“I didn’t fib,” he explained. “That little fish is going to teach our young man responsibility, patience and kindness. What’s more magical than that?”

    

A few weeks later I again found myself in the mall. The post Christmas crowds were gone. I remembered the man in the pet store and decided to pay him a visit. I passed by the yapping puppies and meowing kittens, grumpy parrots and disinterested rodents until I came to the fish tank, still advertising goldfish for a dollar apiece. The clerk without the nametag was nowhere in sight. When another salesman approached I said, “I’m looking for an older Asian fellow who was working here a few days after Christmas.”

    

“I’m the manager,” he said, “and no one on our payroll meets that description.”

    

“What about seasonal help?”

    

“Sorry. Maybe you’re confusing ours with another store.”

    

“Is there another pet store in the mall?”

    

“No. Maybe you were at a different mall. But since you’re here, is there any way I can help you?”

    

I shook my head and turned to go, but I was halted by an impulse fluttering through my mind. “Yes, there is something you can do for me. I need a goldfish.”

 

 

 

 

 

        



Comments

23 Comments
It may be fictional, but you spun it perfectly that it is believeable. Miracles happen everyday. :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 30, 2013
i loved it.
By: TexWisGirl on December 30, 2013
One of your best...should be published somewhere!
By: Cranky on December 30, 2013
Can I preorder a book of your stories?
By: fishducky on December 30, 2013
This reminds me of the lesson the kid in The Karate Kid learned the hard way. That was indeed a very inspired way to teach. S
By: Scott Cody Park on December 30, 2013
What a special story. I truly believe in miracles no matter how small.
By: cathrina constantine on December 30, 2013
Beautifully written, as usual. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 30, 2013
What a neat story. Love how your mystery man molded that cranky little fellow into a caring pet owner. Truly magic.
By: Akansas Patti on December 30, 2013
If you aren't planning on writing a book of childrens stories-please do as this would be a great start - you have a true gift! Happy New Year!
By: Kathe W. on December 30, 2013
What a wonderful story, indeed! If you hadn't mentioned that it was fiction, I would have believed it really happened.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 30, 2013
A very good story. If i didn't have all these cats, i might be inspired to go get a goldfish.
By: mimi on December 30, 2013
Your endings catch me every time. A surprise ending makes for good story.
By: red on December 30, 2013
What a wonderful story. Perhaps you should write children's books as well. Seems like there is a lesson there with a sweet story mixed in.
By: Cheryl P. on December 30, 2013
I'd believe it.
By: Val on December 30, 2013
A great moral tale!
By: John on December 31, 2013
Neat little feel-good story. Wishing you a super-successful 2014.
By: Bryan Jones on December 31, 2013
A thousand kudos for this nice little story!
By: tom sightings on December 31, 2013
That's a goosebump inducing story. Thanks for all your wonderful tales in 2013. Looking forward to lots more in the new year. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on December 31, 2013
Now I have to know if this is true or fiction. The part about the salesman. This is a good story. Happy New Year to you and your family.
By: CiCi on December 31, 2013
Fantastic and magical. Nice work!
By: Bouncin Barb on December 31, 2013
firstly a very happy new year to you and mrs c. secondly, yes, that is magic indeed. great story as usual. thank you
By: Fran on December 31, 2013
I loved this story! Sorry I've been remiss about blogging and visiting lately!
By: Eva Gallant on January 1, 2014
I have no idea how I managed to not read this until today. This is a wonderful story. A marvelous lesson for us all. Magic is alive. It is all around us. And you dear sir are a magician with words, giving hope and a smile. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on January 5, 2014

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