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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Bottoms Up!

November 4, 2013

For our birthdays this year, CJ treated me and Mrs. Chatterbox to a walking tour of one of Portland’s finest culinary districts where we dined on six courses from six different restaurants. Our tour guide informed us that Portland had recently displaced Cologne, Germany, as the city with the most breweries—seventy-three. Unfortunately, I dislike beer. CJ is fond of telling me that living in Portland and not drinking beer is like living in Paris and never going to a museum. Nevertheless, the taste of hops makes me queasy.

    

I’ve tried on numerous occasions to drink beer, especially when frequenting British pubs and Bavarian beer halls, but ales and beers just aren’t for me. I’ve had to come up with more creative ways to maintain my beer belly. I enjoy the hard stuff, and my appreciation for powerful spirits goes way back. The vagueness of my memory will soon become understandable and the dialogue is imaginary, but I’ve heard enough relatives repeat this incident to accept it as true.

    

Thanksgiving 1958.

    

The entire family had gathered for the traditional feast at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. All of my aunts and uncles on my mother’s side were present, along with countless cousins and friends of the family. Being part of a boisterous Portuguese family was always fun, even if I was the baby of the clan and under constant threat of getting my cheeks pinched.

     

But on this particular Thanksgiving I wasn’t having much fun because the men and kids had moved outside for a game of tag football and I was so small no one wanted me on their team. The women had taken a break from food preparation and had gathered in Grandma’s parlor for coffee and smokes. I wandered around, feeling invisible with nothing to do.

    

In the empty kitchen I spotted a tray with pretty little glasses filled with amber liquid. I picked one up and took a sip, enjoying the searing sensation as the liquid traveled down my throat. Yummy! I drained the little glass and reached for another.

    

My grandfather tended a small orchard in his backyard. He distilled peach and apricot brandies and stored them in barrels in his basement. I had no idea these drinks had been poured for adults only and that I was drinking 65 proof shots. I was six years old at the time.

    

My older brother David had been sent to find me because Dad felt bad I wasn’t given an opportunity to play in the game. “What are you doing?” he asked.

    

“Drinkin’ the juice in these little glasses.”

    

David looked at the tray of brandy shots, with four empty glasses. “Don’t drink anymore. I’m gonna go tell Dad what you’re doin.’”

    

I felt too warm and fuzzy inside to worry about Dad getting mad at me, which he practically never did. Dad arrived, a concerned look on his face. He studied me like I’d grown a third eye in the middle of my forehead. Mom was the one to worry about, but she looked more concerned than mad as she placed a turkey-scented hand on my forehead.

    

Before long (thanks to David) everyone knew what I’d done. I’m told bets were placed on how long I would remain standing; most of my relatives were convinced I was about to nod off at any moment…but I never did, although an older cousin tried to claim victory when I tripped on loose carpet. In fact, I felt wonderful. And I still do whenever I drink whiskey or gin or brandy or vodka.

    

Just so long as it isn’t beer.

 

 

 

 



Comments

31 Comments
This may explain some of those paintings "that never sold."
By: Cranky on November 4, 2013
My preferred drink is spumante champagne. It's fruity enough that you can't taste the alcohol as much. I can drink beer, but I don't like it as much. Corona is my favorite beer just because again it has a little bit of a fruity taste so the alcohol and hops aren't as noticeable. Though perhaps because it's Mexican beer it tends to do nasty things to my innards.
By: PT Dilloway on November 4, 2013
Cheap wine is all I drink these days. There used to be an assortment of hard liquor, but... just cheap wine now. I'm told I got drunk on my 2nd birthday from walking around and sipping relatives' beer. I must have blacked out because I don't remember it at all...
By: Katy on November 4, 2013
My goodness, hardly little cuss aren't ya? Heck at my age, I would have been gone after 2. At that age....I don't think I ever would have tried it......the smell would have gotten me first. To this day, I try not to smell what I am drinking until after I swallow.....I know, I know.
By: Oma Linda on November 4, 2013
I didn't like beer on first try, but developed a taste for it and now really appreciate good beer. Unfortunately, I also really appreciate gin, brandy, and vodka! Wish there were pictures of Thanksgiving 1958!
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 4, 2013
HA! My family never drank. I did not partake till my teen years with the rest of the rebel rousers.
By: David Walston on November 4, 2013
surprised you didn't upchuck. :) i don't like beer, either. i like a few hard liquors and red or rose wines.
By: TexWisGirl on November 4, 2013
I don't like beer either. Mostly I drink white wine and in the summer rose. Red wine now gives me a headache and I don't drink it anymore. But I do love scotch whiskey and every so often have a glass filled with ice and pur the amber liquid over listening to the crystals crack!
By: The Broad on November 4, 2013
I hardly ever drank before I was 30 as I began to have children at the ripe old age of 20. I don't like hard liquor, but enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner and having lived in Portland since 1963 I do enjoy a nice micro brew...unlike you I love the hoppy taste of IPA's. Now that we moved to Siskiyou County in Northern CA there is a dearth of breweries here which impells us to come visit our family and friends in Portland every 6-8 weeks! Too bad there aren't any cute photos of you on that momentous day! Cheers! Bottoms up!
By: Kathe W. on November 4, 2013
I only like German beers--the American ones leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I DO like brandy, although I didn't start drinking it at 6 years old!!
By: fishducky on November 4, 2013
My, but you have led quite the life, haven't you!
By: mimi on November 4, 2013
What a rich story- ha! I'm sure you felt it the next day~
By: Shelly on November 4, 2013
I don't like beer either. When I was in Portland, I tried chocolate beer. I didn't even finish it. That's how much I dislike beer. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on November 4, 2013
I have some nephews and a daughter who will travel the world to taste various beers. I don't understand. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 4, 2013
I used to be a big Budweiser fan but I gave it up after I tasted REAL beer. Incidentally the many fine beers in Mexico owe their taste to the German brewers who moved there and started the industry.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on November 4, 2013
A lot of water, I mean liquor/alcohol has flowed since you were six. I've trended in the pools of both beer and spirits during my youth and now only occasionally.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 4, 2013
You've got to have a system with great capacity to process brandy!!
By: red on November 4, 2013
There are only two things I do drink. Imported beers and tequila. It took me a long time to find an alcohol that I liked. Fun story!!
By: Bouncin Barb on November 4, 2013
ahh Stephen, you can hold your liquor. and you started at a very early age. :) i do enjoy a very cold beer when the weather is hot or in bali with a meal. trouble is, in bali the beer gets warm very quickly. cheers :)
By: Fran on November 4, 2013
Growing up in Germany, we kids drank beer at the supper table like American kids drink milk. I don't like it much now; every once in a while I think I want a cold beer, so I mix it with some 7-Up for a lighter, more refreshing taste. In Germany, they call this "bicycle beer" (the thinking being that you can't drive your car after drinking this, but you still can ride your bike).
By: Pixel Peeper on November 4, 2013
You make me feel like a piker. The ONLY thing I can drink is beer. Wine gives me a headache; and hard likker leaves me with a terrible hangover the next morning, Perhaps it's because I didn't start drinking until later in life. I was seven.
By: tom sightings on November 4, 2013
I was shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that even children drank beer as the colonists went about the business of settling America. So you were kind of a retrospective visionary. One who substituted brandy for beer.
By: Val on November 4, 2013
I just knew you were a man who liked to enter into the spirit of things! :) Great story.
By: John on November 5, 2013
First of all, I love love love hearing about your big family and all the doings. It was a great joint birthday gift to eat and drink all around town. As for beer, yech, I never could drink it either and now for sure I couldn't drink it since for years I have been gluten free. Do you know much about wine?
By: CiCi on November 5, 2013
Free liquor? And, for that, we truly give thanks.
By: Al Penwasser on November 5, 2013
Great story, Steve. I really enjoy a VERY cold beer....currently Dos Equis is my fave....with certain foods. I also enjoy a good single malt scotch or even vodka. Sweet drinks like rum, not so much. But regardless, I drink in moderatium...er...moderulation...er, not too much. :)
By: Scott Cody Park on November 5, 2013
Ha! Did you get a hangover? I don't like the taste of alcohol. I've tried many things, but it all tastes like cough syrup to me. Poor Mike - he would love to share a bottle of wine with his wife, but no go...
By: The Bug on November 5, 2013
BTW, as an artist you'll probably like this news story: http://news.yahoo.com/germany-finds-1-500-masterpieces-looted-nazis-232003659.html
By: PT Dilloway on November 5, 2013
As a person that can't drink alcohol at all, I have no point of reference but beer smells awful. I can't imagine I would like it even if I could keep it down. Still..three weeks from now I will be staying in Cologne, Germany sipping on room temperature water but I will be seeing all the people around me drinking the beer.
By: Cheryl P. on November 5, 2013
Between the ages of 14 and 30 I drank copious amounts of beer. Now, at 55, I drink much less beer and far more wine and port. Never really got a taste for spirits - perhaps I needed an introductory nip when I was a toddler - just like you.
By: Bryan Jones on November 5, 2013
I used to drink a beer in Canada called Rickard's Red but I stopped drinking because of the expense and have never drunk anything since. Good story.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on November 5, 2013

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