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 Unholy War: Part Two

February 11, 2015

 

If you missed Part One, check it out (here).

 

***************************************

A Skirmish

           

I’d become a regular churchgoer without being pushed into it like many kids my age.

           

Most of the Catholic kids in Killarney Park lost interest in God after their First Communion. The exceptions were those of us who decided to become altar boys. I didn’t really want to be an altar boy, and best friend Ricky Delgado struggled in vain to talk me out of it, but Father Hinklemeyer had given a powerful fire-and-brimstone sermon that convinced me service to the Church was necessary for God to forgive my eleven years of sinning. I was never sure what these sins were, but I figured Hinklemeyer knew what he was talking about.  

           

If my mother thought this a betrayal, she kept it to herself. Then, word of a Father Hinklemeyer sermon ignited the flames of war. Although she never set foot in St. Lawrence the Martyr Church, I was caught in the crossfire of her battle with Father Hinklemeyer.  

           

It began with me sitting beside the altar, my altar boy clothes blooming out over my husky body, making me look like a large black-and-white piñata. I had been absentmindedly looking at the badly painted rendering of St. Lawrence on the back wall of the church. A parishioner had donated money for it, probably after a really good bingo night. Handsome St. Lawrence looked sweet and far too passive for someone in the process of being roasted alive on a red-hot gridiron. Father Hinklemeyer was droning on and on, perhaps speaking mostly to God since many of the parishioners looked bored and a few were snoring. That was when he said it.

           

“…Selfish are the mommies and daddies who turn their hearts from God by refusing to have as many babies as God sees fit to give them.”

           

As a kid, I had no idea Father Hinklemeyer was admonishing parents in the church who used birth control, which I knew nothing about. It was what came next that upset me.

           

Father Hinklemeyer searched out all the children in the church, altar boys included. Speaking as if to the children in particular, he said, “You boys and girls of St. Lawrence the Martyr Church are being deprived of brothers and sisters because of selfish mommies and daddies who have no love in their hearts for more of God’s little angels. And what do you think happens to little rejected angels?” The pastor paused dramatically. “...I’ll tell you what happens to these little spirits of God. They’re sent away to a pink cloud and never permitted to enter Heaven. Without ever having been born or baptized, they can never go to Heaven to sit beside God and our beloved Jesus. These souls float for all eternity as they wonder why their mommies and daddies had no room in their hearts for them. They are the saddest of cherubs: having never sinned themselves, they are forever sinned against….”

           

His second pause was made even more dramatic when a corpulent piñata in the shape of an altar boy suddenly started blubbering uncontrollably. I couldn’t stop carrying on like a southern belle at the burning of Atlanta.

           

Could it possibly be true? In addition to depriving me of a dog or cat, had my parents also deprived me of a younger brother or sister? Could it be that their spirits were floating on a pink cloud for all eternity?

           

I thought about this as I shuffled home after Mass. My walk might’ve been made shorter if we’d installed a gate in our backyard fence for quicker access to the church—as the Delgados next door had done—but my mother refused to allow it. I walked around the block as I pondered this eternity thing.

           

My mother was home reading a history of the ill-fated Romanovs. When she spotted me, she commanded I stop sniveling and tell her what was wrong. I told her about Father Hinklemeyer and the pink cloud and all those unfortunate angels whose selfish mommies and daddies didn’t love them enough to let them be born. She didn’t say anything, but when I finished she slapped her book down on the arm of her chair and went into the kitchen, where she called the rectory of St. Lawrence the Martyr Church. She asked for Father Hinklemeyer, and when he took the call, she said in a voice laced with a type of sweetness that might have unnerved an enemy of the Borgias, “Father Hinklemeyer, I have something to discuss with you. Would you be ever so kind as to drop by this afternoon so we might have a chat?”

           

Perhaps he thought she’d changed her mind about tithing. If so, he must have been disappointed when she met him at the door. Before he could even climb the two concrete steps to our porch she let the venom fly. “How dare you try to turn children against parents who love, clothe and feed them just so you priests can overpopulate the world with more Catholics, of which there are, in my opinion, already too many!”

           

Father Hinklemeyer’s smile evaporated, and he appeared to wilt beneath her basilisk stare. As the two of them confronted each other at the door, I noticed that, although my mother only came up to his white collar, strangely it was Father Hinklemeyer who seemed smaller.

           

She continued, “Just who do you think you are using my child in an attempt to come into my house, in order to tell me what I should and should not do in my bedroom!” My mother was a feminist long before the term was coined. “I’ll say this just once,” she added. “Stay out of my bedroom!”

           

This came as quite a shock since I had no idea Father Hinklemeyer was trying to get into my parents’ bedroom. I didn’t understand what they were arguing about, especially when Father Hinklemeyer countered with some stuff about obedience to the Pope and Catholic doctrine and moral responsibility, but as my mother slammed the door in his face I suspected Father Hinklemeyer wasn’t about to raise a white flag.

 

 

Don’t miss Friday's conclusion: The Final Battle

 

 

 

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Comments

24 Comments
I do not see your mom losing this battle!
By: Cranky on February 11, 2015
go, mom, go!!! lambaste the s.o.b! (ahem, sorry for my reformed catholic outburst...)
By: TexWisGirl on February 11, 2015
Your mother might be God's referee. I grew up in a Catholic household and was an altar boy too. I vaguely remember the fire and brimstone sermons.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 11, 2015
Good for your mom!! :)
By: Rita McGregor on February 11, 2015
So sad. Those "populate the earth" anti birth control decrees are in almost all religions, yet there never seems to be any money given by religious orders to support financially strapped households. Your mom had a lot of guts to actually speak out against "obedience to the Pope and Catholic doctrine."
By: Lexa Cain on February 11, 2015
I wish I could have met your mom!!
By: fishducky on February 11, 2015
Your mother let him have it and rightfully so! I guess the Apostle Paul was a huge sinner since he didn't even marry, let alone have kids.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on February 11, 2015
Such an evil man. I suppose he was in consistence with church teaching, but I really have no idea. Do you?
By: Snowbrush on February 11, 2015
Wow. I am speechless.That's so many kinds of wrong I don't even know where to start. Yay Mom!
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on February 11, 2015
Wow, I am stunned by his preachings. What a dreadful picture to plant in a child's mind. Be proud of your Mom Stephen, she won that one hands down.
By: Akansas Patti on February 11, 2015
I think I'd contest his "theology." Your mom certainly seems like the power player in this match.
By: Tom Cochrun on February 11, 2015
I can't wait to read the conclusion, but I'm rooting for your Mom!
By: Pixel Peeper on February 11, 2015
Go Mom! Good for her! My epiphany re: the Catholic Church was when I was looking at an issue of Life Magazine- and Pope Pius XII was shown in front of a barrio I believe was in Rio and the poor people were kneeling in front of him. I was only perhaps 13 but I was so angry that he was covered with jewels and robes etc representing money those people would never have- I know Pope Pius XII did a lot of good-but that day I lost all respect for the Catholic church. How dare that priest preach that sermon to you and the other altar boys.
By: Kathe W. on February 11, 2015
I am constantly amazed at the lengths so-called men of the cloth will go to to fatten their coffers. I wish Mom had kicked his ass all the way back to his church.
By: Catalyst on February 11, 2015
WAIT! We didn't have pinatas at the Baptist church, either. Glad to hear that your mother banned the priest from her bedroom.
By: Val on February 11, 2015
Amazing, and i don't think your Mother will lose the next round, either.
By: messymimi on February 11, 2015
I'll be waiting for the final episode. Father Hinklemeyer is not the only man of religion to turn people against one another.
By: red on February 11, 2015
Jesus Mary and Joseph I'm on your mom's side. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on February 11, 2015
It all sounds quite strange and exotic to me although I do know some people still have similar attitudes!
By: jenny woolf on February 12, 2015
Your mother was a brave soul. Good for her to stand up to him. I was baptized Catholic, but thankfully that was a far as the indoctrination got and I tried out many churches before I decided religion was not for me.
By: Tabor on February 12, 2015
Well, this is timely considering the pope's latest proclamation re the selfishness of parents who don't hae as many children as they possibly can...a proclamation made by a man who is celibate and has no children. But your mom is awesome.
By: Ellen Abbott on February 12, 2015
Love your Mom. Didn't the Pope recently make a very similar public statement? Perhaps that's why you wrote this. PS Wasn't Jesus an only child?
By: Robyn Engel on February 12, 2015
I was wondering if you had the same problem I had when I was an altar boy (four years...I was blessed by the Holy Spirit apparently). Since I was short and portly (Grandma called me 'husky.' Whatever), the cassocks which would go around my middle were much too long. The ones which didn't drag on the floor, though, wouldn't button around my belly. My solution? Go with the ones which were of the correct length, but NOT button several buttons around my middle. Then, I'd throw a surplice over the whole shebang. None of the congregation were wise to the fact that my cassock had several unbuttoned buttons. Praise the Lord.
By: Al Penwasser on February 13, 2015
This as good as Indiana Jones................... I wait with relish for the next instalment!
By: John on February 13, 2015

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