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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Bull's Eye

February 20, 2015

After graduating from the University of Oregon, our son CJ was eager to land a job. He couldn’t find anything in Eugene, but managed to secure a position as a financial consultant for a bank in Lebanon, Oregon. Lebanon has about 15,000 residents, and is approximately fifty miles north of Eugene—Oregon’s second largest city.

           

CJ described Lebanon as a rural community that had yet to catch up to the twenty-first century. Mrs. Chatterbox and I drove to Lebanon to meet our son for lunch and check out the place he described as Oregon’s version of Mayberry. CJ has inherited my propensity to embellish, but in this case he hadn’t exaggerated. I’m sure Sheriff Andy Taylor was at the malt shop teaching manners and lessons in civility to kids, and I’m sure I saw Gomer and Floyd walking around. Barney Fife was no doubt polishing his bullet at the sheriff’s office.

           

Lebanon didn’t offer much in the way of housing, so CJ made the commute from Eugene for over a year. The bank loans he processed usually went to to purchase expensive farm equipment like combines and tractors. Most of CJ’s coworkers and customers were born and raised in Lebanon, with many never traveling far from home. They drove trucks and Jeeps, equipped with rifle racks and splattered with NRA bumper stickers. At the time, there were no box stores or chain outlets in Lebanon, and only a few mom and pop restaurants.

           

CJ didn’t enjoy the hour commute to and from work, but what really chaffed his hide were his co-workers at the bank, who didn’t treat him very well. With few exceptions, they were outright mean to him. Maybe it was because he was a college graduate from a big city, but CJ’s co-workers went out of their way to make his life unpleasant. He tried his best to be nice to everyone, but the locals were hard nuts to crack. When he ate in the lunchroom at the rear of the bank, he was avoided like he was bacteria. After-hours gatherings at a local watering hole didn’t include him. The miserable treatment he received began weighing heavily on him.

           

He’d taken to eating his sack lunch in his car, but one day while munching on a baloney sandwich he noticed a business across from the bank and down the street—a shooting range. CJ had never before fired a gun, but he had a lot of anger to burn off so he set down his baloney sandwich and drove to the shooting range.

           

A grey-haired instructor looking like a Vietnam vet showed him how to handle a handgun, aim and fire. CJ later admitted how good it felt to pull the trigger and feel the explosive force rocketing from the gun. And it seemed he had a knack for holding the weapon steady and shooting straight. The instructor couldn’t believe CJ had never before held a gun.

           

CJ returned to the bank with a rolled paper target beneath his arm—a target with a dozen holes perforating the bull’s eye. He taped it to the front of his desk. In the days that followed, CJ’s co-workers passed by his desk without saying a word, discreetly studying the target, some placing fingers in the bullet holes. Nothing about his shooting proficiency was ever said, but from then on his co-workers stopped annoying him, and no longer tried to light his fuse. They went out of their way to be nice to him. Customers admired his marksmanship and gave him their business.

           

CJ never went back to that shooting range, and never again ate his baloney sandwich alone in his car.

 

 

 

 

 Note: Cartoon from the brilliant Gary Larson

 

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Comments

23 Comments
I believe CJ found his admittance form.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 20, 2015
He earned his rite of passage. Small town people are funny like that.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on February 20, 2015
amazing what gets you respect. :) i have a t-shirt similar to the larson cartoon that has a deer with a big bullseye on his butt and his friend telling him 'awesome tattoo, dude!'
By: TexWisGirl on February 20, 2015
What a smart man ! Life here in the hinterlands of Northern California is a bit like Lebanon, but everyone is friendly.....but the locals that have lived here for a few generations consider us as "outsiders" and never invite one to their home for dinner or even a beer. So we have found lots of friendly types like ourselves that we socialize with- and they are all from other places. WE call ourselves "the transplants". I'll suggest to Russell that perhaps if we switched our Subaru for a pickup with a gun rack we might be accepted....Cheers!
By: Kathe W. on February 20, 2015
Today that might be considered bullying or threatening. Funny what gets a persons respect, and yes, those friendly small town folks can be just the opposite, I think big city people are much more accomadating.
By: Cranky on February 20, 2015
HAH!!! Great story!! I especially love that cartoon at the end.! I'm not a hunter, but I'm not opposed to hunting either... but I do enjoy target shooting... if one has never done it, I would have to guess that they just couldn't understand... My Dad moved to Mississippi back in 1929... and died here in 1996... some 67 years later... there were some old timers at Dad's funeral that still referred to him as 'that damn Yankee...' HAH!!! I know that Dad would have laughed!!! ~shoes~
By: Redshoes51 on February 20, 2015
That's fabulous! CJ must have inherited his dad's smarts. Going to a shooting range would never have occurred to me. Great story - really made me smile! :)
By: Lexa Cain on February 20, 2015
CJ sounds like a chip off the old Remington!!
By: fishducky on February 20, 2015
Wow, I have always found country folk way more friendly than city types.I have heard of areas that were closed to outsiders, just have been lucky not to find one. However, I can see where an obliterated bulls eye could earn respect in any locale..Nice move.
By: Akansas Patti on February 20, 2015
Hard to believe, but sometimes small town folks can be unfriendly and clannish. CJ figured out the perfect way to earn respect and acceptance, but in my opinion, triple boos to the office workers who shunned him for no good reason.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on February 20, 2015
It works both ways. When rural people go to the big city, they can have the same problem. I CJ's case he learned a lot.
By: red on February 20, 2015
Well, bless our pea-pickin' hearts, and thank your lucky stars that we country folks exist. Without us, a large segment of society would have nobody to feel superior to. And nobody to teach that sentences should not start with AND, or end with prepositions. Please excuse me while I climb into my monster truck, take swig from my moonshine jug, and pick up my buddy Yosemite Sam for an evening of rabbit hunting. CJ can hop in the back.
By: Val on February 20, 2015
It's a good thing I wasn't the one at the shooting range - I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have garnered any respect for my marksmanship :)
By: The Bug on February 20, 2015
Isn't it amazing what can win people over? Lucky for CJ he just happened to find it!
By: Pixel Peeper on February 20, 2015
Sounds like a natural marksman. In earning respect, he was certainly on target.
By: Tom Cochrun on February 20, 2015
This is an amazing story. The girl who cut my hair for years just moved to Oregon where her husband entered medical school. Hope all goes well for CJ!
By: Michael Manning on February 20, 2015
A great story and well done to CJ.
By: John on February 21, 2015
I moved to a small town 4 years ago, less than 10,000 people. and yes, people are very friendly and life is much slower and calmer and I do like it here. however, there is a core of people here who don't want newcomers because newcomers mean change and they don't want any change even if it means not being prosperous. they will actively work against a newcomer trying to start something here.
By: Ellen Abbott on February 21, 2015
CJ done good.
By: Catalyst on February 21, 2015
They found out that he could speak their language.. silently and powerfully.
By: Hilary on February 21, 2015
Without realizing it, your son stumbled upon something the locals could relate to.I know sometimes it is difficult to find acceptance in small towns when you are the new kid in town. For me, this little town welcomed me with open arms and I am part of the community. A few older crabapples tried to give me a hard time but I let it slide. People in small towns have time to get to know each other well, and there aren't huge walls around each property! Symbolic?
By: CiCi on February 22, 2015
Guess his move was right on target!
By: Tom Sightings on February 22, 2015
Oregon's second largest city, you say? Good grief.
By: Al Penwasser on February 22, 2015

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