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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Bugs and Bistros

September 17, 2014




First posted 8/03/11


Mrs. Chatterbox and I recently dined at her favorite bistro in a fashionable part of town not far from where we live. After being seated, I placed my napkin on my lap. When it dropped to the floor, I bent down to retrieve it and noticed a dead cockroach under our table. I’m not particularly squeamish—little over the years has prompted me to lose my appetite—but the sight of that cockroach conjured up an incident in another restaurant years ago.

In 1976, Mrs. C. and I had only been married two years when we decided to backpack through Europe. We’d just landed in Athens. With a copy of Frommer’s Europe on Ten Dollars a Day in hand, we sought a place to sample the local cuisine. We gambled on a place that looked clean, a bistro jammed with fellow tourists having a good time. Our table was at the back of the restaurant. Mrs. C’s chair backed up to a wall with a black and white photograph of Colonel Popadopo#*%?—Greece’s former dictator/president.


We were enjoying our wine and waiting for our meal when something caught my eye on the wall behind my wife. Inching down from behind the Colonel’s portrait was a cockroach. Mrs. C. has a sensitive stomach, along with a terror of bugs, so I tactfully said nothing. I was hungry; if I’d told her she would have screamed and bolted for the door.


Before long, another cockroach appeared from behind the picture, and then another, followed by two more. I was amazed that no one else appeared to notice them. Everyone chattered and downed their licorice-flavored ouzo and grape leaf wrapped food without giving thought to the cluster of disgusting bugs participating in a cockroach gang-bang on a wall inches behind my wife’s head.

I’m no expert on bug mating habits, but foreplay must not carry much weight in the world of cockroaches. Their trysting was over almost as soon as it had begun. One by one, the bugs returned to their hiding place behind the Colonel’s portrait. I’d been doing my best to avoid staring at them, but just as the last hairy leg vanished behind the picture frame, Mrs. C., who I hadn’t noticed turning blotchy with anger, snapped, “We come all this way to Greece and you ignore me?”

She’d been talking. I hadn’t heard a word.

She spun around in her chair to see what was drawing my attention. “You’ve got to be kidding! A faded photograph of some old tyrant?”

I shrugged, and when our meal arrived we ate in silence. Later when we were ready to go, she pushed back her chair, bumping the wall behind her. I held my breath, but thankfully cockroaches didn’t rain down from behind the picture.

Years later I shared this incident with her, and I couldn’t believe how angry she got that I’d withheld it from her. 

So on a warm evening thirty-five years later, while glancing at a dead cockroach in her favorite restaurant, I quickly weighed my options.

I chose not to tell her.



Ha ha, very wise! We have a "Bug man" in the States and occasionally when we arrive at the house there will be a couple of dead bugs on the floor. He says as long as they are dead he's doing his job properly.
By: LL Cool Joe on September 17, 2014
Maybe the bug gang-bang was part of the entertainment? Different strokes for different strokes--you know?
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 17, 2014
wise man. :)
By: TexWisGirl on September 17, 2014
you sir are a very well wife educated man. Good job.
By: omalinda on September 17, 2014
Good choice. After all, it's dead because they are using stuff to kill them and keep them out, and no place can do that perfectly.
By: mimi on September 17, 2014
Well weighed. Of course, she knows now.
By: Hilary on September 17, 2014
You are a smart man. There is no way to un-know that cockroaches are nearby. Not in my head anyway.
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on September 17, 2014
I would beat you to within an inch of your life for not telling me. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 17, 2014
As they say, sometimes less is more. In this case the less information you shared, the better. It is horrible to find such a critter near your food. It happened once at a then favorite dining spot near where I worked. I never returned. Hard to put it out of mind.
By: Tom Cochrun on September 17, 2014
Ignorance may be bliss but I'd have been furious also with the later confession. I'm impressed you could eat watching such a bug display. Cockroaches are one reason I love Ar. over Florida. Nary a one here.
By: Akansas Patti on September 17, 2014
You're a sucker for punishment.
By: red on September 17, 2014
Cockroaches are full of protein, you know. I'm shocked that they were on the wall instead of the menu. You might find a recipe here: http://www.businessinsider.com/recipes-from-eat-a-bug-cookbook-2013-7
By: Val on September 17, 2014
I would have been quiet, too. And then never go back. I never had seen a cockroach in my entire life until I arrived here in the States, in Louisiana. They are so big there that people harness them and have them pull carriages... :-p
By: Pixel Peeper on September 17, 2014
eeeek I hate cockroaches! Before them however are scorpions! Once while on a working vacation in Provence ( we were helping rebuild medieval buildings) I kiddingly told Russell that I was surprised we had not seen a scorpion in our bedroom...needless to say we did the next day above our bed....boy did Russell's shoe move quickly off his foot to smack that scary bug.
By: Kathe W. on September 17, 2014
I'm like Mrs. Chubby, I would have screamed and run, it was good you didn't tell her.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on September 18, 2014
It would be a little off putting, however the thought of good food on the way........ I am with you on this one, I will not tell by partner that though!
By: John on September 18, 2014
My good lady has the same aversion for creepy-crawlies, so I would have done exactly the same. And I've been to Greece many times; I love the country, but the cockroaches do tend to be plentiful and chunky!
By: Bryan Jones on September 18, 2014
Are you sure you weren't a diplomat at some point in your life?
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 18, 2014
Ugh, that is horrifying! I would be mad if you didn't tell me, too, though. But then, I always side with Mrs. C, just for the principle of the thing :)
By: Kinley Dane on September 18, 2014
Better a dead cockroach than a live one (or more)!
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 20, 2014

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