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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Dead Caesar

September 27, 2013
Whenever I think of an instance where someone was able to think quickly on their feet I recall a situation I experienced years ago while sitting on a bench in front of the British Museum in London.

    

The British Museum is a massive collection of artifacts and antiquities. It is famous for housing the Elgin Marbles, rescued (some say stolen) from the Parthenon and brought to England by Lord Elgin in 1805. The courtyard in front of the museum, mostly concrete with a few patches of grass, is generally crowded with tourists and families arriving early enough to claim a small square of grassy real estate for a picnic. Usually included among the throngs of people are a score of red-faced cockneys parading about as Roman soldiers. I’m not sure why these men have left their pubs to masquerade as Roman soldiers but every time I’ve been to the British Museum I’ve seen them marching about, bleary-eyed and sipping flasks filled with what I assume to be gin.

    

On one trip to London I was sitting on a bench watching the world go by when one of these faux Romans staggered over to an unclaimed patch of lawn, dropped to his knees like he’d just fallen on his sword like a defeated Roman general, and passed out. Someone checked him and mimed the bent elbow gesture for too much drink.

    

Just then a fellow around my age planted himself on the far end of my bench. He appeared distraught.

    

“Problem?” I asked, not knowing if he spoke English.

    

He sighed deeply. “Yes. Someone just lifted my wallet.”

    

Pickpockets are in abundance throughout Europe and I always take the precaution of wrapping several rubber bands around my wallet to prevent it from sliding easily out of my pocket.

    

I can’t recall the fellow’s name but I remember he was from Chicago. “I just cashed a bunch of traveler’s checks and there were two hundred pounds in my wallet,” he said.

    

This was back in the days when thrifty tourists could get by on the equivalent of ten to twenty US dollars a day. “What are you going to do?” I asked.

    

“I need to replace that money or cut my trip short.”

    

What he did next has always ranked with me as pure genius. Near our bench sat a small family, a mom and dad with two little girls playing with finger paint. He reached into his pocket for a handful of change, stood and approached the family. I couldn’t hear what was said but he returned, smiling, clutching a sizable jar of red finger paint, a brush and a large blank sheet of paper. He wrote a message on the paper and walked it over to the passed out Brit on the grass, dousing him with the remainder of the red paint.

    

Before long there was a queue of tourists pressing money into his hands. The message he’d written on the paper, laying beside the inebriated man in the Roman costume, read:

 

Have your picture taken with Julius Caesar,

assassinated leader of Rome.

    

I’ve long wondered what that drunken fellow thought when he regained consciousness and found himself covered in red paint.

 

    

 



Comments

27 Comments
That was genius! If only you could have thought of something like that you'd be rich.
By: PT Dilloway on September 27, 2013
It's amazing how some people are so creative and resourceful in times of difficulty and great need.
By: Anne on September 27, 2013
Now that is funny!!
By: Nancy Felt on September 27, 2013
Inspired for sure. He might of gotten the scare of his life if the drunk woke up and thought he had been attacked. Bail might of taken all the picture money. But of course, he got lucky...sort of...still was out his billfold.
By: Cheryl P. on September 27, 2013
The drunken would be Roman must have been really sauced to not have wakened during all the fanfare. Btw... wonderful story!
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 27, 2013
big smile! :D
By: TexWisGirl on September 27, 2013
That was great! What are the odds you would be sitting by an American.
By: David Walston on September 27, 2013
"Lifted my wallet" is an usual expression. There was no way he was going to be a Brit saying that. :D
By: LL Cool Joe on September 27, 2013
Oh, my! The Parthenon lost its marbles! Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 27, 2013
Hah! sheer genuis and typical American entreprenurism (sp?)..how much was he charging and did he have a polaroid camera? how did he pull that off? Love your stories!
By: Kathe W. on September 27, 2013
As I recall, the tourists all used their own cameras. This guy merely provided the photo op. I never learned how much he charged.
By: Chubby Chatterbox on September 27, 2013
oh that is priceless
By: Oma Linda on September 27, 2013
absolute genius. stunning in its simplicity. jaw dropping in its audacity and inspiring in its originality
By: glen on September 27, 2013
I'd have never thought of that scheme!
By: red on September 27, 2013
Great story and very quick thinking, indeed.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on September 27, 2013
Wow, I didn't know Viggo Mortensen moonlighted as a Roman legionary. And...question? Why would Elgin give up his marbles.? I would think it would be difficult to walk that way.
By: Al Penwasser on September 27, 2013
Friends, Romans, countrymen...lend me your red paint.
By: Val on September 27, 2013
Ah, those Americans, so resourceful!
By: tom sightings on September 27, 2013
Absolute genius!!
By: fishducky on September 27, 2013
Brilliant!
By: Hilary on September 27, 2013
I truly do wonder what the cockney thought when he woke up. It might well be a mystery in his mind even today. Fun story.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on September 28, 2013
Wish I had the guts.
By: Kelly Louise on September 28, 2013
Absolute genius. I have a friend who travels with almost no money. He just pays the airfare to get there and back and figures it out once he gets there. He'll be gone for a few weeks and always manages to have a good time. I wonder what kinds of stunts he pulls to bring in money on the road.
By: Brett Minor on September 28, 2013
I have been good, just very busy. Hopefully I can start blogging regularly again once I graduate. Tonight, I just had some free time, so I spent it visiting blogs I miss.
By: Brett Minor on September 28, 2013
What an amazing story! and what an ingenious man. Not sure I would have liked to share my life too closely with him though, he has just too many bright ideas for comfort. :)
By: Jenny Woolf on September 29, 2013
Too funny!
By: Pixel Peeper on September 29, 2013
Love it!
By: John on October 1, 2013

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