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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Conclusion: The Ghost of Kilarney park

October 30, 2013

Haunted houses and Halloween go together like dots on dice, but the haunted house on our street never did anything to attract trick-or-treaters. So why was there a light burning on Verna’s porch?

    

My feet began pulling me to the light. My head swirled with thoughts of murder: rat poison, asphyxiation, throat slashing, but I was more interested in candy than my safety.

    

I inched up the front steps to her porch and peered into Verna’s kitchen window. She was seated at her kitchen table, her head resting in her hands. Her back was to me and I couldn’t see her face, but I could hear her crying, a raspy soul rending sound, not the depraved rant of the undead or the wailing tirade of a guilt-riddled wife who’d murdered her husband. 

    

Instead of ringing her doorbell, I turned to go. As I did so I saw something on her table that made me squeak like a mouse finding a wheel of cheese—treasure. Edible treasure.

    

On Verna’s kitchen table was a large pirate chest made of cardboard. Among the pirate images painted on it was one of the most cherished names in a chubby kid’s lexicon—Hershey. Inside the chest were countless bars of chocolate. Not the penny-size ones—these big boys fetched upwards of a quarter each. I felt like Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo as I eyed such treasure.

    

Verna must have heard my squeak. She turned around and looked at me standing there on the other side of her kitchen window.  I’d never seen her up close and I noticed she was totally opaque without a ghost’s translucence. Her eyes, while red, didn’t look otherworldly. She swiped away tears with the back of her hand and waved me in, saying, “The door isn’t locked.”

    

The door opened with a moan, as if it wasn’t accustomed to swinging open. My costume didn’t make entering any easier. Verna’s house had the same floor plan as ours which meant I was practically inside her kitchen when I stepped through the threshold. She stood up and gave me a watery smile. She looked…rather pleasant, even with puffy eyes. But then Hansel and Gretel would never have entered the witch’s house had she not also appeared pleasant.

    

“That is a very nice costume. Did it take you long to make?”

    

I nodded.

    

She turned to the chocolate chest. “I ordered this from a catalog a few months ago.”

    

“It’s a lot of candy.”

    

“I was planning on handing it out to trick or treaters this evening.”

    

“But you never give out candy on Halloween,” I said.

    

“True. True. But this year I decided to make up for all the years I sat in this dark house without handing out treats. Unfortunately, I had to work late tonight and by the time I got home all of the children had already passed through the neighborhood. All the children, except you. You’re Stephen, from across the street, aren’t you?”

    

The costume didn’t disguise me as much as I’d thought. I nodded.

    

“Would you like some candy?”

    

Another nod.

    

She reached into the chest for a foil-wrapped chocolate bar, dropped it into my pillowcase.

    

I thanked her and headed for the door, but her sniffling stopped me. “You should come to neighborhood barbeques and block parties next summer. And my birthday party is in two weeks. Why doncha come?”

    

“After all this time, I don’t think people would want me to come,” she answered.

    

I want you to come.”

    

She looked kinda pretty as she smiled at me and closed her door. I headed home, where my mother waited with her sweet tooth.

    

The next day I awoke to find a Hershey’s treasure chest on our front porch. An attached note said:


For Stephen, my only Kilarney Park friend.

Don’t get a stomach ache.

    

That afternoon something sprouted on our street that we hadn’t seen before. The bright red paint seemed out of place in front of the gray house that had once haunted my feverish imagination. Hammered into Verna’s front yard—a FOR SALE sign.

    

A few weeks later, the Ghost of Kilarney Park moved away.

 

 

 



Comments

29 Comments
Great story!
By: Cranky on October 30, 2013
Although I felt a little sad for Verna, you hit the motherlode! Another great story~
By: Shelly on October 30, 2013
OK..you did it, You made me cry over a Halloween story. Are you happy now?
By: Tabor on October 30, 2013
Now the only question is what happened to her after that? And did you get a stomach ache?
By: PT Dilloway on October 30, 2013
breaks my heart...
By: TexWisGirl on October 30, 2013
Sweet, but sad. You were a nice boy, Stephen!!
By: fishducky on October 30, 2013
Huh. Very intriguing. But like Dilloway, I think it begs the question of why she moved away and what happened to her after that. I guess you'll never know ... which is another mystery in itself. Great story!
By: tom sightings on October 30, 2013
Sniff, sniff.
By: Pixel Peeper on October 30, 2013
You were a very kind boy. And I think your gesture helped her decide to get back in touch with people, but in a new place where she could start with a clean slate.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on October 30, 2013
Oh now you went and made me sad. I'm gonna go tell someone a fart joke. Maybe that old guy across the street....? I haven't seen him in awhile.
By: Al Penwasser on October 30, 2013
every neighborhood needs a sweet kid like you....too bad she didn't try before.
By: Kathe W. on October 30, 2013
wait wait...is that a photo of you in your costume? Cool!
By: Kathe W. on October 30, 2013
Sweet little Stephen turned into Nice Mr. C. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 30, 2013
Oh dear. Now you've left me hanging. Like the others I want to know more about the ghost lady, like where did she go and why?
By: Catalyst/Bruce on October 30, 2013
Well wherever Verna went....I'm sure she had a smile at the very nice young man who gave her a chance. Good story.
By: Oma Linda on October 30, 2013
Awwww....I feel so bad for Verna. So many people are alone and even shunned because they're just misunderstood. Glad to see you weren't that shallow. I hope she found happiness later. I know you did, with that GIANT BOX OF CHOCOLATE! :)
By: Scott Cody Park on October 30, 2013
Oh my gosh, I'm all choked up! Not what I expected from a Halloween tale :) I want to hug you so hard right now...what a great kid you were!
By: Kianwi on October 30, 2013
A story so good i read it aloud to my kids.
By: mimi on October 30, 2013
She moved for a fresh start.
By: Brandywine Chronicles on October 30, 2013
You always have a big twist in your endings.
By: red on October 30, 2013
I wouldn't expect a Hallowe'en story could be so heartwarming! I'm glad you tried to make her feel better; good for you. And now my mouth is watering for a Hershey's bar. Dang.
By: jenny_o on October 30, 2013
But why did she move when she finally had a friend? Awww. I guess it was too little too late, and she wanted a new start. That's kinda sad, but at least you gave her a happy memory - and she gave you one, too! :-)
By: Lexa Cain on October 30, 2013
This was a very touching story. I'm glad you re-posted it. Happy Halloween, Stephen. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on October 30, 2013
The NEXT line (the one you didn't write) would have read: "Three years later, our new neighbors started finding the bodies in what used to be Verna's back yard."
By: Katy on October 31, 2013
Loved it... and yes, you were a good and considerate young man. Did you share your treasure?
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 31, 2013
Poor Verna. But that's a great story. All that chocolate would give a kid diabetes. Yikes.
By: Michael Offutt on October 31, 2013
I loved that story the first time you posted and and thoroughly enjoyed the re-read. You were really a sweet kid.
By: Cheryl P. on October 31, 2013
Awesome story. Loved how you took to her.
By: Bouncin Barb on October 31, 2013
I do remember this bittersweet tale.
By: Hilary on October 31, 2013

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