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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An April Fool

April 1, 2015

 

I’m no Stephen Hawking, but I pride myself on being reasonably intelligent, so I was surprised at how easily I was duped.

           

In the nineties, I had an illustration studio in downtown Portland. In case you don’t know, Portland, Oregon, is divided by the Willamette River, which connects to the mighty Columbia before flowing into the Pacific Ocean. I read somewhere that Portland is the sixth largest port in the USA, in spite of being a hundred miles from the ocean. Setting the stage for one of the greatest mental lapses of my life, I was hard at work on an illustration assignment. On my radio was local talk show host Rick Emerson. I hadn’t been paying close attention, but eventually his conversation seeped into my head. He was mentioning a unique occurrence: the draining of the Willamette River.

           

My interest was eventually piqued, and I listened more closely. Rick mentioned that every twenty-five years the locks on the river were closed so the riverbed in downtown Portland could be cleaned of abandoned cars and other accumulated debris that were a danger to navigation and detrimental to wildlife. Since I was all about protecting the environment, I figured this a good idea, and didn’t consider the fact that I’d never heard about locks near Portland.

 

 

 

           

Throughout the day, callers dialed Rick’s program, and those that followed, making inquiries, asking the very questions I was asking myself. Such as; What about the fish? Won’t they be trapped when the river is drained?

           

Rick and other radio hosts were ready with answers, such as, “Volunteers have been organized and are standing ready to collect fish in plastic tubs, until the fish can be returned to the newly cleaned river.”

           

Dozens of questions were phoned in from inquisitive callers. A panel of environmentalists were on the air, along with River Control personnel and conservation experts. That day, I learned the history of the Willamette River, including the true fact that the river’s course had been altered several times over the last 100 years to accommodate the growing city.

           

Perhaps a red flag should have waved in my head when the captain of a 1200 ton freighter called to ask what the hell was going to happen to his 400 foot ship when suddenly there was no water beneath it. The radio host took a commercial break and addressed the captain’s concerns off air. Hmm….

           

My studio had large windows, but no view of the river. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were both commuting downtown at the time and sharing a car. That evening when she picked me up, I informed her I wanted to make a detour over one of Portland’s many bridges to see the drained river.

           

She looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “Drained river?”

           

I explained what was happening, repeating what I’d been listening to all day on the radio. She smiled and steered the car in the direction of the Morrison Bridge. As soon as we drove onto it, I glanced down and noticed typical river traffic, with the water at normal depth.

           

“Do you know what day today is?”

           

I shook my head. I’d been too busy working on an illustration to notice.

           

“Today was made for people like you,” she said, grinning. “It’s April Fool’s Day.”

           

My ego took a severe hit that day. I ran a hand over my forehead, imagining the feel of letters embossed on my forehead: G-U-L-L-I-B-L-E!!!

 

Have you ever fallen for a prank? Care to share?

 

 

           

 

Happy April Fool’s Day to all my friends, and fellow fools.

 

 

 

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Comments

29 Comments
The English have made an art of April Fool pranks -- the most famous being a BBC documentary about how the Italians grow spaghetti on trees! You wouldn't believe how many people fell for it!
By: The Broad on April 1, 2015
good one! :)
By: TexWisGirl on April 1, 2015
Good one! I've got mine -- "Don't Worry, I Can Hold It" --up today at http://sightingsat60.blogspot.com/2015/04/dont-worry-i-can-hold-it.html
By: Tom Sightings on April 1, 2015
I am gullible all the time. I tend to believe people and even thought I have been embarrassed over the years, I still will fall for a stupid trick. You are in good company.
By: Tabor on April 1, 2015
Wow, now that's an elaborate prank!
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 1, 2015
I don't think you were gullible; you just sound like a very trusting person. I wouldn't fall for this story today at all because I've become a very untrusting person. I regularly listen to conservative news sources (not because I'm conservative) but to see what lies are being told. So in a way, I've got this mental shield or what I call a "bullshit detector" in place most of the time. The draining the river thing would have pinged my bullshit detector pretty hard. I guess I have republicans to thank for that, as they've built a "bullshit mountain" over the years.
By: Michael Offutt on April 1, 2015
Don't feel bad. I didn't know Portland was 100 miles from the sea. That little tidbit may come in handy for Trivia Crack, though.
By: Al Penwasser on April 1, 2015
Pretty good gag!
By: Catalyst on April 1, 2015
I trust NO BODY on April Fools Day!!! HAR!!! NOBODY!!! ~shoes~
By: Redshoes51 on April 1, 2015
I am gullible with a capital G! Endless times I have believed April Fools jokes... as a kid living in the Bay Area of California I was told a new bridge was being built near the Dumbarton Bridge and it would be called the Smartbarton Bridge ....really? l believed it! Happy April Fools Day!
By: Kathe W. on April 1, 2015
I too am a bit gullible. Needless to say, I hate April 1.
By: cranky on April 1, 2015
My mom always said that I was too gullible, but I prefer to think of myself as being trusting. Yeah, that sounds much better. By the way, it ain't no April-Foolin'. I be back.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on April 1, 2015
It was in October, not April, but Orson Welles fooled a lot of people with his"War of the Worlds"broadcast!!
By: fishduckyf on April 1, 2015
When i was about 12, some very good friends from my neighborhood told me their father had been transferred, and they would be moving to Texas, which was true. Then one day they knocked at the door with the exciting news that the transfer had fallen through and they weren't moving. As i grinned and laughed, they yelled, "April Fool!" and i was crushed. It was an awful afternoon, and their moving day was worse.
By: mimi on April 1, 2015
That's a good and obviously elaborate trick.
By: Tom Cochrun on April 1, 2015
That was one monster prank and you certainly were not alone in being fooled. Got a feeling that captain was not amused.
By: Akansas Patti on April 1, 2015
Good April Fool's jokes are well told. Yes I've been taken in a time or two.
By: red on April 1, 2015
Your post reminded me of the biggest prank ever. Orson Welles - War Of The Worlds - Radio Broadcast 1938 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs0K4ApWl4g
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 1, 2015
That was an amazingly well orchestrated prank. I fall for pranks all the time, not one so well planned, though. I would've fallen for that one too.
By: Robyn Engel on April 1, 2015
I cannot recall a prank on such a grand scale as the river-draining. Bravo.
By: Val on April 1, 2015
Ha! That was great! My mom & dad loved to get us kids when we were young. Daddy would set the clocks ahead an hour - boy were we made when we found out that we had an extra hour before the bus came. And when we were in college mom had us convinced that she was pregnant. Yep, we were gullible.
By: The Bug on April 1, 2015
That was a fantastic prank...multi-layered and well presented. Ha ha ha.
By: Cherdo on April 1, 2015
The only prank I can remember was my grandpa telling me he'd been born in 1859... I was in first grade, and it took me a while to figure out that while he was my elder, he was not THAT elderly. To this day I am not sure WHY he said it.. But, yes, I believed it for a long time... Cat
By: Cat on April 1, 2015
That was quite the elaborate prank! I'm gullible, too. It's a drag sometimes :)
By: jenny_0 on April 1, 2015
Agreat tale, certainly had me chuckling. I would be the same!
By: John on April 2, 2015
have I ever fallen for a prank? are you kidding? I must be the most gullible person on the planet.
By: Ellen Abbott on April 2, 2015
Wow...that radio prank must have taken quite some planning! I don't think I've ever encountered such an elaborate prank, but I'm pretty sure I would have believed it, too.
By: Pixel Peeper on April 2, 2015
Not I. I'm a New Yorker...
By: Mitchell is Moving on April 3, 2015
I've been caught out a few times but, in all honesty, I can't recall any - perhaps I've erased these painful occasions from my memory bank!
By: Bryan Jones on April 3, 2015

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