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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A Sucky Situation

January 26, 2015

This is either another skirmish in the war between men and women, or another example of what a bad person I am. You decide.


Books have been written about the differences between men and women, such as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. A recent occurrence in the Chatterbox household illustrates this difference perfectly. Without getting into details, a member of my household recently had an occasion to need a toilet plunger. Decorum and good manners forbid me from identifying the person responsible for this plumbing calamity—BUT IT WASN’T ME!


Anyway, when it was brought to my attention that we had one of the most dreaded happenings a homeowner can experience—a toilet clog—my reaction was simple. I went to grab my trusty toilet plunger to rectify the situation. My plunger and I are good friends and we’ve literally gotten through a lot of crap together. I stopped in my tracks when Mrs. Chatterbox asked, “where are you going?”


“Where do you think I’m going?” I asked. Without waiting for a response I said, “I’m going to the guest bathroom to grab the plunger under the sink to unclog the toilet.”


She confused me with, “Don’t bother. It isn’t there anymore.”


“What do you mean? Of course it’s there. I always return it there after using it.”


“Well, it isn’t there anymore.”


“Why not?”


“Because I gave it to CJ when he moved out.”


Our son CJ had stayed with us for a few months after relocating to Portland, before he got his own place to live.


“Why did you give him our plunger?”


“He didn’t have one.”


“But now we don’t have one. In his current job he makes more money than we do so he can easily afford his own toilet plunger.”


She sighed and shook her head, her way of asserting maternal instinct, the female desire to nurture children even when they no longer benefit from nurturing, her attempt to reduce my desire to hang on to a treasured rubber companion as something base and selfish. (For those of you wondering how many rubber or latex companions I own, let me assure you it’s a small number.)


“What’s the big deal? Go buy another plunger.”


“I don’t want another plunger. I want Johnny!”


“You named our toilet plunger?”


“Whether or not I did is beside the point. You had no business giving him, er it, away. Tell CJ we want it back.”


Her eyes narrowed into a hawkish squint, as often happens when we argue and she feels on higher moral ground. “Let me get this straight; you want me to tell our grown son that he must return a toilet plunger which only costs a couple of bucks, because you love it enough to have given it a name? Is this what you’re telling me?”


I folded my arms defiantly. “Yes, that’s what I’m telling you.”


“Well, I won’t do it!”


So dear readers, was I wrong? Shouldn’t I have been informed about this tragic offense that took place beneath my very roof, where for many months I was allowed to live in a fool’s paradise thinking I was prepared for a plumbing mishap?


Until the dust settles and the responsible party for this transgression admits her foul deed and retrieves or replaces Johnny, no bran will be served at Casa Chatterbox. Not that it matters on my part; I won’t be contributing to the problem since dog houses, such as the one I’m currently residing in, don’t have plumbing.



Do any of these look like a “Johnny” to you?






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She gave away your plunger? That is really odd. Guess no one is using the bathroom at your house right now.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on January 26, 2015
I feel your pain. A plunger is a tool, women should not touch a tool without asking, and...a tool should NEVER be given away! However you should not have argued too strongly and just gone and purchased a new "Johnny." And yes, most plungers are named "Johnny."
By: Cranky on January 26, 2015
You're playing the fool when a women gives away your tool. Time for shopping pick-up Johnny's cousin. A man ain't a man without a tool.
By: Mr. T on January 26, 2015
you are both wrong. she was wrong to give the plunger away and you were wrong to demand that she retrieve it. she should not have given it away even though she didn't know how attached you were to it but if you wanted that particular one so badly you should have gone and retrieved it. or better yet, call said son and tell him to bring it back.
By: Ellen Abbott on January 26, 2015
OMG...you really must get over this. The rugs are now wet!
By: Tabor on January 26, 2015
You are never going to win no matter how right you are......... Give in gracefully, go on take the plunge! :)
By: John on January 26, 2015
There are always silver linings to things. Perhaps one of the new toilet plungers will do the job better.
By: Michael Offutt on January 26, 2015
laughing. :) i have one of those plastic accordion looking ones. works great!
By: TexWisGirl on January 26, 2015
I'm on your side! In the first place, some plungers are worthless and, in the second place, you do not leave your home plungerless. She should at the very least have immediately replaced it. My question is also--why wouldn't she have bought her son a new plunger instead of giving him an old one? When you need one...you need one. Doesn't matter if you haven't needed it for two years--Johnny can suddenly be your BFF of the moment. ;)
By: Rita McGregor on January 26, 2015
Never, ever be without a plunger. If someone doesn't have one, take him/her to the nearest store where it can be procured, and get one. Do not go one minute without one in the house! This i speak from experience, many times over. And by the way, the best plunger, for my money, is the Clog Cannon, which can be purchases at flylady.net, in the Fly Shop. (She used to teach fly fishing, thus the name, and now she supplies housecleaning hints and great tools.)
By: mimi on January 26, 2015
oh! I would be in the dog house if I gave away our "one and only" plunger! As it is we have one plunger per toilet in our house....be prepared is R's motto! By the way- Mrs. C should be the one to purchase the new one since she gave Johnny away. You could call it Pablo the Perfect Plunger. Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on January 26, 2015
I'll bet you name other things too - we have a whole houseful of named objects that I would not DARE to give away!
By: The Bug on January 26, 2015
While you tried to "rectify the situation" you failed in your movement and therefore actually got yourself in deeper. To eliminate the problem I'd just go get a bran new plunger ... or get off the pot!
By: Tom Sightings on January 26, 2015
similar battles have been fought here at Casa de Cuckoos. I even gave away something that I had bought for Sweet Man for Christmas by the following June. I will never hear the end of "well we used to have a _______ but somebody I know gave it away." Sorry about the loss of Johnny
By: Oma Linda on January 26, 2015
This was just too funny and I cracked up that you named the plunger. Consider losing Johnny like a bad breakup. Now you are free to find a younger, better model, plunger that is..
By: Akansas Patti on January 26, 2015
Marriage is an institution where one person is always right & the OTHER one is the husband!!
By: fishducky on January 26, 2015
Well, Mrs C is pretty wreckless as you could just leave the thing plugged! Then what would she do?
By: red on January 26, 2015
As much as I hate to betray my gender, I must say that you are right. Mrs. C should never have given away Johnny. When you have a plunger that works, you should hang onto him tooth and nail. I don't know where our old one went, but new plungers are not worth a crap. They turn inside out! HOWEVER...Mrs. C WAS right about one thing. You can't ask for a plunger back.
By: Val on January 26, 2015
I think the one on the far left.
By: Catalyst on January 26, 2015
Perhaps you can just pour some drain cleaner in the toilet? You can call the drain cleaner "Johnny." Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 26, 2015
Marriage 101: Even when you're write, you're wrong. Learn to live with it :) I'm sure we must have Johnny's second cousin lurking in the under-stairs cupboard.
By: Botanist on January 26, 2015
I'm not sure what makes me laugh the me most. The fact that your wife thought a second hand toilet plunger was the most appropriate moving in gift for your son or the fact that he accepted it ... I'm a little anal about my own loo (pun clearly intended) and I'm pleased to say that It has never required the application of a plunger which possibly says more about it's plumbing than my own.
By: Sarah Mac on January 27, 2015
Oooooh noooooo! You'll never replace Johnny! "They don't make 'em like they used to." :(
By: Scott Park on January 27, 2015
I believe there is a support group in your area for grieving husbands who's plungers were kidnapped. I think you might be surprised at the number of members. LOL
By: Bouncin Barb on January 27, 2015
I'm not so much concerned about the offense, as I am about your next house guest. Do have a nearby out-house? PS I vote in your favor. Mrs. C. overstepped parental love and nurturance by handing Johnny over to your son. She's clearly an enabler. It must cease. Though I wouldn't get Johnny back - who know the crap he's been through in another's hands.
By: Robyn Engel on January 27, 2015
You might have started a new trend.. naming your plunger. How about Lesley ... it's my potty and I'll cry if I want to? Or Lily.. is this the potty to whom I am speaking? No? Fine, be a potty pooper.
By: Hilary on January 27, 2015
I'm guessing you have brought a new plunger home from the big box store by now, but I will tell you that the black accordian one works like a charm, but the best toilet unstopper I have found is a bit of dishsoap and a gallon of hot water. js.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on January 27, 2015
Wait! Neil Young names his cars. His 1948 Buick Roadmaster Hearse was named "Mort", so why not "Johnny on the Spot"? :)
By: Michael Manning on January 28, 2015
Yes, she was wrong to give the plunger away. "Besides, clearing the toilet is a "man thing"
By: Sierra Sue on January 28, 2015
Oh, Mr. C, I'm sorry to say I think you may have lost your mind. Mrs. C is a saint... Although why on earth she would give your son your only toilet plunger is beyond me!
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 29, 2015
Yikes! A house without a plunger is a scary prospect. While I have not taken to naming my tools, I understand the concept.
By: Tom Cochrun on February 16, 2015
You should stand firm on this one, Stephen. A man and his plunger should ne'er be parted!
By: Bryan Jones on February 19, 2015

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