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….

Sign up and read my novel for free.

All Blog Posts


Ditched: Conclusion

August 23, 2013
Part I can be found (here).

 

I resisted the urge to grab my bike and pedal away as quickly as possible. I’d never seen a dead person, much less the body of someone I cared deeply about, someone like Helen Delgado. I’d practically grown up sitting at her kitchen table, watching her roll tortillas and tamales, mooning over her while she listened patiently to my babbling. I was afraid to walk around the crumpled Mercury, terrified by what I might see, but Ricky was my best friend and I couldn’t abandon him to deal with this on his own. I inched over and stood beside him.

    

He was staring through the smashed windshield. His parents were trapped in the wreckage, their motionless bodies intertwined. The Mercury had come to a stop on the driver’s side and George was pinned behind the steering column. Helen lay over him.

    

Later, I’d try to purge my brain of the image burned into my memory that morning. Helen’s pale blue dress, so pretty when I photographed her last night, was torn and streaked with dried blood. George looked peaceful in his crumpled suit. He seemed to have been spared cuts from the broken glass and appeared asleep. I remember the smell, not of rotting apricots or leaking gasoline but the pungent odor of whiskey, a smell I’d long associate with George Delgado. Glinting shards from a broken whiskey bottle were strewn around.

    

A favorite childhood pastime in my neighborhood was a game called “Statue.” Pretending to be statues, we would see how long we could hold a pose without moving. At that moment I wished I really were a statue so I wouldn’t have to think or experience the icy numbness washing over me.

    

Ricky was crying, but his sobs abruptly ended when Helen grimaced and her caramel eyes twitched opened.

    

“Mi’jo, is that you?” she whispered.

    

“Yes, Mama,” Ricky answered, wiping his eyes with the back of a hand, smiling weakly and looking more relieved than I’d ever seen anyone look.

     

“The horn isn’t working and no one can see us down here. You need to bring help.”

    

“Is Dad…? Is he…?”

    

“I think he’s okay. He had a lot to drink last night, too much. He’s passed out.”

    

As if on cue, George let out a guttural sound, followed by raspy breathing that turned into snoring.

    

“Hurry, mi’jo. Something’s wrong with my back, and I can’t feel my legs.”

    

The Ricky I knew so well—take-charge Ricky—sprang into action. “I can’t leave my parents here. You need to get help,” he said to me, no longer crying. “Hurry; it looks like they’ve been trapped a long time.”

     

I climbed out of the ditch to the top of the embankment. Before running for my bike I glanced down and saw Ricky squeezing his mother’s hand. He was speaking softly to her although I couldn’t hear what he was saying.

    

When I reached my bike I had a decision to make. I could pedal home, tell my folks what had happened and let them call the authorities or I could call the police on the payphone outside The Honky Tonk. I chose the payphone. My calves were burning when I screeched to a halt in front of The Honky Tonk, dug a sweaty hand into my junior huskies and pulled out my lucky quarter, plugging it into the machine. No dial tone. The payphone didn’t work. 

    

I stood like a statue, wondering what Ricky would do. After testing the front door and still finding it locked, I picked up a sizeable rock and threw it through a window, tearing my jeans on glass shards as I crawled inside.

    

The place was dark and stank of beer and whiskey. When my eyes adjusted I made my way to the phone near the cash register. I worried there might not be a dial tone and was relieved to hear one. The operator connected me to the police, who at first didn’t believe me when I told them where I was calling from and how I’d gotten inside. They changed their tune when I mentioned a car wreck and George Delgado, who they knew quite well.

    

Ten minutes later the police arrived, followed by an ambulance. Ricky and I were ordered to stand back while paramedics extracted the Delgados from their mangled car. Helen was removed first. Her back had been fractured and it would be months before she was completely pain free. George suffered a few cuts and fractured ribs from the wheel gouging into his chest. He remained unconscious while they cut him out of tangled metal and placed him on a stretcher.

     

George Delgado was again jailed for drunken driving. I’ll never forget the look in Ricky’s eyes as they carried his father to the ambulance for the ride to the hospital—one of pure hatred.

 

 


Note:

     The Delgados both survived this accident, although Ricky and his dad were estranged for many years. I lost contact with the Delgados after I got married and moved to Southern California. Thanks to Facebook, I recently learned that George Delgado passed away a few years ago at the age of seventy-eight. At the time of his death he’d been sober for nearly twenty years.  

    

      

       



Comments

30 Comments
Thank God they made it through. The endnote made it sound as if George had finally made the best decision.
By: David Walston on August 23, 2013
That was good thinking on your part. You were an Everyday Hero! It's nice now that with Facebook and all that you can find out what happened to old friends. If I had any I'd totally do that.
By: PT Dilloway on August 23, 2013
That was a terrifying experience for you boys at such a young age. I'm glad they survived, and that George finally saw the light.
By: Eva Gallant on August 23, 2013
Whew! I'm so glad they were ok (relatively speaking)...
By: The Bug on August 23, 2013
What an amazing story and so well told. I felt like I was right there, watching it all. I'm so thankful for the postscript, too.
By: Shelly on August 23, 2013
I am pleased to read that Ricky's father came around. Social media often gets a bad rap but in this case it helped you reconnect with a childhood friend. Priceless.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 23, 2013
Wow! What an experience for you to have. I have to think that it shaped the lives of both you and Ricky to see that. And you are such a terrific story teller!
By: Nancy Felt on August 23, 2013
A great story & very well told!! I was positive they both were dead.
By: fishducky on August 23, 2013
I assume the police took care of the broken window and you didn't get into any trouble over that? Obviously something seared into your memory. Imagine how permanent it was in Ricky's! Can't blame him for being mad at his dad. Glad to hear they both survived and George lived long enough to live a couple decades a sober man. ;)
By: Rita McGregor on August 23, 2013
thank you for completing the story here. i hated thinking of what ricky and his mother went through. my father drank and could have killed us or himself... i have felt that hatred. my father has been dead for almost 30 yrs and it still wells up.
By: TexWisGirl on August 23, 2013
I just exhaled a huge sigh of relief. Did you reconnect with Ricky? It's impressive that George finally sobered up and maintained sobriety for two decades. Very well told, Stephen. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on August 23, 2013
You, sir, are an exceptional storyteller. I don't often read blog posts all the way through (i.e., don't skim), but when I do, I read The Chubby Chatterbox. Well done.
By: Al Penwasser on August 23, 2013
WOW that is quite a story. I hate that George put Ricky through that if it was a result of his drinking. What a nice turn of events though that George got sober in his later years. I hope he and Ricky got their relationship back on track at some point. I am glad you and Ricky came to their rescue. That story could of had a far different ending.
By: Cheryl P. on August 23, 2013
Wow! I thought the Delgados were goners. You proved you could handle an emergency as well as Ricky could. If you found George, you must have found Ricky. What's happened to him? Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 23, 2013
Amazing anyone survived. You did good my friend. And it sounds like George finally saw the light, too. Good for him. S
By: Scott Park on August 23, 2013
It's sad that the man lost so many years with his kids, but i'm glad he wised up at the end.
By: mimi on August 23, 2013
Riveting CC. So in the pinch the chubby little young Chatterbox could become a genuine hero. Good on Rickey to track down his folks, they probably could not survived much longer in that mess!
By: Cranky on August 23, 2013
It's so often the case that drunks survive wrecks that kill sober people. I've heard that this is due to them being relaxed going into the wreck.
By: Snowbrush on August 23, 2013
You told a great story of an awful event. Glad that things turned out OK in the end.
By: Pixel Peeper on August 23, 2013
Whew! You're good in a crisis!
By: Val on August 23, 2013
Well, that was a great ending to an awful story
By: Red on August 23, 2013
What a horrible memory to carry with you through your life.. and even more so for Ricky. Well told. So are you now in touch with Ricky? Is his mother still with him? Does he now about your blog? Inquiring minds want to know.
By: Hilary on August 23, 2013
This story had me riveted. I was sure the Delgados were goners. Lucky for them they had a smart son - and his resourceful friend - to save them. Awesomely exciting and well-written story! :-)
By: Lexa Cain on August 23, 2013
It's good to know that Mrs. Delgado wasn't paralyzed in the accident.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on August 24, 2013
That must have been a really traumatic experience for all involved. Enthralling story well told.
By: Bryan Jones on August 24, 2013
What a great story, as much about friendship as anything and such a good ending too. I used to play statues also, glad to know it was an international game.
By: John on August 24, 2013
Powerful story. Like Hilary, I wonder if you're still in touch with Ricky and how he's doing.
By: tom sightings on August 24, 2013
That's an amazing story and a wonderful footnote to top it off. It's good to hear that George stopped drinking, but it doesn't change what he took away from Ricky in his crucial growing up years. That would be hard to forgive. You acted well in an emergency for such a young guy.
By: jenny_o on August 24, 2013
thank goodness they both survived. a great story, i have a tear in my eye
By: Fran on August 24, 2013
The storyteller in you just captured the essence of a terrible tragedy for the Delgado family. So sorry you had to be involved but....you would not be the man you are today without the history you have. Thank goodness both survived the crash. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on August 24, 2013

Leave a Comment

Name:
Email:
Comment:

Return to All Blog Posts Main Page


RSS 2.0   Atom