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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Conclusion: My Second Favorite Organ

May 19, 2014

Check out Part I (here)


The oral surgeon scheduled the removal of the growth resembling a sea bass’s eyeball on the underside of my tongue. During surgery, several muscles were cut that made speech difficult for the next few months. Fortunately, a biopsy revealed that the growth was a harmless calcium deposit, and not cancerous.


Since speech was difficult, I took a medical leave of absence from work and focused on rebuilding my ability to communicate clearly. It was a slow and arduous process. As babies, we mimic our parents’ speech and learn through repetition how to position tongues in our mouths to create certain sounds, but this became difficult when I no longer had control over this vital sound-modulating apparatus. An inability to speak clearly was particularly devastating to a chatterbox like me, who since birth was blessed (cursed?) with having a lot to say.


After a few weeks Mrs. Chatterbox became accustomed to my grunts and slurry language as I worked to regain control of my tongue. She thought nothing of speaking with someone who sounded mentally challenged, or in the midst of a bad Jerry Lewis impersonation.


Eventually, I felt like a caged panther and needed to escape our tiny apartment. One Sunday morning Mrs. C. and I ventured out. We headed to Sambo’s for breakfast. This was the Seventies and the Political Correctness Police had yet to shut down this chain of restaurants. Sambo’s was crowded and we were seated at a small table in the center of the dining room. Our waitress arrived to take our order. Mrs. C. ordered eggs Benedict, and then it was my turn. I set down my menu, looked the waitress in the eye and said, “I wun pankeeks, an haam un eggies, an mak de eggies ov-oor ezzee. An preeze put pankeeks on sep-ar-ite plat ‘cause I no wan syr-ip tooo run into my eggies.”


The waitress stared at me.


I glanced over at Mrs. C.  She was fire engine red. I looked around and noticed everyone in the restaurant staring at us. For weeks my wife had listened to me practicing my speech and had grown accustomed to my peculiar manner of talking. Neither of us had considered how I might be perceived by others.


Mrs. C. surprised me when she pushed back in her chair, rose and said in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “Agent Orange! Please everyone, support our veterans.”


Heads nodded and there was a smattering of applause as people returned to their breakfasts.


Later, we both felt guilty. I’ve never worn a uniform to defend my country and exploiting Vietnam veterans merely to get out of an embarrassing situation was a questionable decision. We felt bad enough about this lack of judgment to make a modest donation to a veterans association.


I struggled for several more months, relearning how to speak normally. I had to avoid eating potato chips or anything sharp that might tear open my stitches, but eventually I was able to talk like I had before the surgery. Today I can even recite seventy-six sailors sailed seven salty seas without folks having to pull a Kleenex out of their pocket to wipe my spit from their glasses. I’m proud to say my second favorite organ is currently in proper working order, and in constant use. If only I could say as much for my most favorite organ.   





I can definitely see how that would be a terrible blow for you, especially since it was the 70s and they don't have technology like they do today. When Roger Ebert couldn't speak anymore they rigged up a computer program that could replicate his voice from his old TV show and stuff.
By: PT Dilloway on May 19, 2014
I'm not sure if your FAVORITE organ is your heart or your brain, but I think they both are working very well!
By: Cranky on May 19, 2014
I hope you never have to deal with that again. Mrs. C. is certainly a quick thinker!
By: Shelly on May 19, 2014
And that is exactly the problem suffered by people who have had strokes!
By: Brighton Pensioner on May 19, 2014
Your life sure is interesting and your wife it quit the quick thinker!! I may have to rewrite my honeymoon incident now!!
By: Tabor on May 19, 2014
oh my goodness... :)
By: TexWisGirl on May 19, 2014
The prospect of humiliation can make us do things we otherwise wouldn't do. If you have time, read this article: http://jezebel.com/why-humiliation-is-the-most-intense-human-emotion-1572014449/+charliejane?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=appnet
By: Michael Offutt on May 19, 2014
Ow, sounded rough to not speak.
By: Joe Dorner on May 19, 2014
I wish you could have worn that sea bass's eyeball around your neck in a little bottle, to show off and point at your tongue. Of course, that may have garnered you more attention than your speech.
By: Val on May 19, 2014
Thank heaven it turned out to be so benign, even if the recovery was tough.
By: mimi on May 19, 2014
wow- you were brave and Mrs C was quick witted....back then I don't think people were as knowledgeable about speech disorders. Today I would have assumed you were recovering from a stroke. Back then I think I would have assumed you were mentally challenged. That must have been hard to relearn how to talk.
By: Kathe W. on May 19, 2014
I can't stop laughing. I might pee. Gotta go. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on May 19, 2014
Sure glad it wan't serious if it was frustrating. Someone who has the name of Chatterbox not being able to talk--- mercy.. Mrs C pulled off a doozy.
By: Akansas Patti on May 19, 2014
I'm so glad it was benign- and that you eventually learned how to speak again. Your Mrs sure is a quick thinker!
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on May 19, 2014
Yeay to Mrs. C for being a quick thinker! OK...I was going to ask about your FAVORITE organ after the first installment, but then I thought, oh, you're a man and what is any man's favorite organ...some men even NAME it, and this is probably considered a family friendly blog...and so I remained quiet. :-p But YOU brought it up, in the final sentence of this installment. So...what IS your favorite organ?
By: Pixel Peeper on May 19, 2014
Good on you for regaining your speech. Now as to the most favorite organ, I think that calls for another post.
By: red on May 19, 2014
I can't even imagine how hard it must have been not to be able to communicate. That would drive me looney tunes. Glad all worked out and that you are married to a woman with a very quick mind. As to your favorite organ....Hammond right????????
By: Oma Linda on May 19, 2014
You're STILL one of my favorite writers!
By: Catalyst on May 19, 2014
A calcium deposit? That no oral surgeon had ever seen before? It's like a SF adventure. lol I'm glad you ended up fine, and yay for Mrs. C's quick thinking. ;)
By: Lexa Cain on May 19, 2014
It must have been terrible. I had Bells Palsy once and I sounded drunk for a while.
By: John on May 20, 2014
Wonderfully told. Sad that Mrs. C was made to feel that she had to get buy-in from a disrespectful waitress and diners. I wouldn't feel guilty about that at all. She's a clever woman. I had no idea you played the organ!
By: Mitchell is Moving on May 20, 2014
I wish both your favorite organs a long and energetic future. Great story, well told.
By: Bryan Jones on May 20, 2014
That moment when Mrs. C stood up and made that announcement is now forever burned in my memory banks. I'm so grateful. It defines perfection. Every time I laugh about it, too, I'll donate another dime to the Veterans. PS SAMBO'S! YES! We used to go there all the time. To think, they kept Denny's open, but not Sambo's. I liked the orange striped tiger icon. (I'm pretty sure it was a tiger. Right?)
By: Robyn Engel on May 20, 2014
That was a pretty snappy comeback. I'm impressed. Seriously, that must have been an agonizing, frustrating thing....having to learn to talk again. I had enough trouble the first time, I might have just given up and reverted to subtitles.
By: Scott Park on May 20, 2014
Mrs. C is a true hero in my books... and I imagine you owe her big time too, for everything she does for you. In fact I think you should give her the royal treatment.
By: Daniel LaFrance on May 20, 2014
Stephen: You are truly a survivor with your tenaciousness and Mrs. Chatterbox used a cool strategy. Coincidental to my reading this post, I've added Vietnam Veterans of America to my Blog site of causes I support.
By: Michael Manning on May 21, 2014
I am ashamed to admit that my wife would love for me to lose the ability to speak. The shame is her's, of course. For I always have something interesting to say.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on May 21, 2014
There is no doubt in my mind exactly why you love that woman.
By: Hilary on May 21, 2014
Anyway, mentally challenged people were treated bad back then, those diners deserved to be fooled. And you gave to the veterans. Don't feel at all guilty.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on May 21, 2014
I'm sorry, but this is one of the funniest things I've ever read... HAH!!! ~shoes~
By: redshoes51 on May 22, 2014
i'm glad it ended well and you can speak again. lol
By: Fran on May 23, 2014
That could of had a far worse ending as it wasn't cancerous but still...it doesn't sound fun at all. I think Mrs. C sounds quite clever. Good for her deflecting the judgement you were getting. I wouldn't feel guilty about it. It's not like you were asking for an exam at the VA or anything.
By: Cheryl P. on May 29, 2014

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