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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Dad Goes Solo: Conclusion

April 28, 2017

Miss Part One? Check it out (here).




Valuable time ticked by as Dad fiddled with the plane’s flight instruments. When he’d finished tapping and adjusting every device in the cockpit, he contacted the tower on the squawky radio and we were told to proceed to the runway. With my heart beating like a hummingbird’s, I looked over at Dad. He appeared fully in control as man and machine became one. I still think of him this way, Helios the sun god. And I was to accompany him in his flaming chariot on a journey across the sky. The moment burned into my memory.


Dad cracked a window and shouted, “All clear!”


I didn’t know who he was shouting at; there were only the two of us around.


“All clear!” The checklist must have said to shout it twice.


I was about to escape the confines of the earth. Dad revved the engine and advanced the throttle. I had seen war movies like Twelve O‘Clock High and was fantasizing that we were about to make a strafing run over Germany when I noticed the plane seemed to pause, as if confused. Then it lurched forward and began to cut a path in the gravel, a path in the shape of a perfect circle. After all Dad’s careful planning, after all that attention to detail, he had forgotten to do something so obvious it wasn’t even listed on the checklist. He had forgotten to untie the rope securing the right wheel to the tarmac.


We didn’t break the confines of the earth. Instead, we remained on the ground and raced madly around in perfect circles as Dad slowly down-throttled. When the engine finally died, he was worried we’d damaged the plane. We never got off the ground, and after that day we never spoke of this incident, although we did fly together in the future.


As we climbed into the old Packard for the drive home, Dad seemed embarrassed and vulnerable. I knew what I needed to do. I looked my father in the eyes and said, “Dad?”


“Yes, son?”


“I want to ask you something.”


“Go ahead.”


“Can I have a German Shepherd?”


With a tired sigh, he shook his head.



Dad has been gone now nine years and I miss him more than I could have imagined. Dad always thought of himself as an ordinary guy, but that didn’t prevent me from thinking he was special, and he did have an amazing gift that set him apart from everyone else I’ve ever known, a magical ability he shared with his beloved Amelia Earhart. Like Amelia, Dad had the ability to vanish. Like a great magician, he executed his trick so skillfully that you didn’t notice how he accomplished it.


Back in grade school I’d learned that nature gives every creature the ability to survive: the snow bunny turns white in winter to blend with the snow, and the rock fish is camouflaged to match the ocean floor so predators can’t see it. Dad had similar protection…from my mother.

She wore the pants in the family, and he was constantly subjected to her diatribes—she had an opinion on everything. She spent hours answering questions nobody asked. Why the country was going to ruin was a particular favorite. She alone knew how to set things right, and she described at length historical parallels to support her political and sociological positions.


During many of these long, unwanted conversations Dad used what I came to think of as The Gift. Mother would be lecturing on how the country was, “…going to hell in a hand basket,” and at some point she would say, “Leroy, speak up. What are your views on this subject? Are you or are you not a person of your own mind?”


This was another of my mother’s favorite statements. To my knowledge, only Frankenstein was not a person of his own mind. And Dad made it clear on numerous occasions that he preferred to be addressed as Lee—he detested being called Leroy. But it didn’t matter much because by the time my mother reluctantly asked his opinion, both Lee and Leroy had vanished like poked soap bubbles.


In spite of this phenomenon, my mother would drone on uninterrupted. We would all be sitting around the table, David with his nose buried in a sports magazine and Dad appearing to be interested in all she was saying. Right at the moment when Dad would be required to say something—poof. He’d be gone.


Sometimes I’d ask David, “When did Dad leave?”


He’d look up. “Don’t know.”


“His chair is still warm. Did you see him leave?”




He’d simply vanished.


My mother didn’t go out of her way to make life unpleasant for Dad, but she often treated him like a marshmallow in a blender. I always wished he’d stand up to her. Sometimes he’d ask her to accompany him on a ride or to the movies. More often than not she’d say no. If Dad pressed her she’d stand in the middle of the room with her arms crossed and declare, “Am I or am I not the mistress of my own home?” (This exclamation always made me wonder if there was any point in being the “master” of one’s own home.) My mother would then proceed with a lengthy description of her rights of sovereignty, and at some point Dad would disappear like a fart in the wind.


I’ve yet to figure out how he did it, and I’ve always wondered where he went when he disappeared. Since he often seemed sad, I hoped it was a place that made him happy, perhaps a place he shared with his beloved Amelia.



Amelia Earhart




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That's a good ability to have. I remember hearing a John Prine song about a guy who had the ability to transport himself somewhere else whenever his wife is haranguing him. I forget at the moment what it's called.
By: PT Dilloway on April 28, 2017
Aw - I feel sorry for your dad! I'm glad he had some pursuits of his own - and that amazing ability to disappear!
By: The Bug on April 28, 2017
It's sad that your mother browbeat your dad so badly ... but it's good he figured out an escape hatch. He was a good man to stay in your lives even with the treatment from his wife. Many men would have just taken off.
By: jenny_o on April 28, 2017
Your dad reminds me a lot of mine!!
By: fishducky on April 28, 2017
Cracked up at the plane going in circles. Glad that you got to take to the wild blue another time. Too bad you never found out your Dad's secret. It seems to have saved his marriage.
By: Arkansas Patti on April 28, 2017
Wow. Your dad was quite a man.
By: messymimi on April 28, 2017
Your family life seems rather unhappy, but since you obviously came out as a "person of your own mind" and intelligent and kind too, I'm guessing you learned from their mistakes.
By: Lexa Cain on April 28, 2017
That would have been a tough environment (for your dad) to survive in. His Houdini act probably made his life much easier.
By: scott park on April 28, 2017
Sometimes I wish my Mom could have pulled off that feat for herself. Your Dad sounds like a stand up guy, maybe it was easier on everyone to vanish for a bit rather than argue about it, sometimes it takes a smart man to do this, he was definitely a smart man.
By: Jimmy on April 28, 2017
You tell a very cool story with a theme that fits the ending. I'm sure many people would recognize and be familiar with your parents relationship.
By: red Kline on April 28, 2017
Still...you got to ride in a plane piloted by your dad! Just at a lower altitude than planned.
By: Val on April 28, 2017
I am so GLAD that you have such a happier relationship with Mrs C than what your Dad experienced ...he was a SAINT!
By: Kathe W. on April 28, 2017
Sounds like your dad was a very special guy.
By: Tom Cochrun on April 28, 2017
Thank you for sharing this very moving portrait of your father and your family. You are a gifted storyteller.
By: Mitchell is Moving on April 29, 2017
That was such a hilarious and unexpected end to your first flight, after all that anticipation!
By: Botanist on April 29, 2017
Wow- that's a neat story. I missed part one so I went back and read it first. You have a good memory. Sometimes I think my husband wishes he had the gift of disappearing when I get on one of my "tears". HA HA It sounds like your dad was a good man, and how exciting that you got to ride in the plane with him and that he got to follow one of his dreams.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on April 29, 2017
I never thought to describe my godparents' marriage like this..."a marshmallow in a blender"... but that's EXACTLY what it was. My godfather would disappear, too. He didn't have Amelia Earhart and a plane, but he had a workshop and his tools. Well-told story!
By: Pixel Peeper on April 29, 2017
a bittersweet post. Thanks for sharing this look at your family and childhood
By: Sage on April 30, 2017
What a beautiful story, even the sad bits. Thanks. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on April 30, 2017
You paint an interesting story of family life for many families. Your memory is a gift!
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 30, 2017

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