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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Fanning the Flames

November 30, 2016

Eight years ago Mrs. Chatterbox and I decided to downsize. We gave up our big hundred year old home and purchased a townhouse. It’s a nice townhouse, and one of the features I admired about it was its large stone fireplace. I’ve always felt a home should have a fireplace and this one was particularly attractive.

 

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person, and as an artist my eyes usually ferret out details others miss, but this time my eyes failed me because there was something unexpected about our fireplace, something I hadn’t noticed when buying our new home.

 

We’d been in our new residence a few months when the builder called to say it was time for an inspection to be sure everything was working properly. Mrs. C. and I had never before purchased a new home and we were impressed the builder would bother doing this. The inspection took about an hour and at one point I asked a question about our gas fireplace. I was curious how to maintain a gas fireplace since I’d never had one before.

 

 

 

 

To my surprise, I was told we didn’t have a gas fireplace.

 

“What kind of fireplace do we have?” I asked.

 

“It isn’t a fireplace at all. It’s a hologram,” I was told.

 

“You’re kidding!” I replied. “I can feel heat coming from it.”

 

“I’m not kidding,” was the inspector’s answer. “It has a heating unit but no fire is involved.”

 

I felt like an idiot to have taken pride in something that wasn’t even real, and horrified I hadn’t been observant enough to notice. I’d seen advertisements for fake fireplaces before but the flames never looked convincing, more like the old childhood View-Master toys by Mattel.            

 

When the inspector departed, I studied our fireplace more closely. I don’t know much about holograms, but I know they’re three dimensional projected images. I found a hidden switch that heated our fireplace, but so far (it’s been eight years) I haven’t been able to witness a repeat pattern in the projected image in our fireplace, and I’ve stared into those fake flames for hours.

 

 

 

If you ever decide to pay a visit to Casa Chatterbox, bring photographs of s’mores and we’ll hold them up to our holographic fire.

 

 

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Giveaway painting

 

 

Only ONE week remains for my holiday giveaway. Check out the details on winning this painting (here).

 

 

 

 

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Comments

22 Comments
It must be a VERY good hologram. I stayed in a rental cottage which had a hologram fire in the wall and it was awful. Admittedly it did have a switch to make it look like you had a window onto a flower garden in the wall instead, I suppose you were supposed to use that in summer. Which didn't help make it seem any more convincing.
By: Jenny on November 30, 2016
Have you tried putting your hand in the fire to see if it burns you? I agree that has to be a heck of a hologram to be so convincing.
By: PT Dilloway on November 30, 2016
That is very cool. I always loved a real wood burning fireplace. I liked splitting and stacking wood, and starting and keeping a good fire going. We now have a wiid burning FP that has been used once (during SS Sandy) and a gas FP in the basement that has to periodically be turned off because it heats too much. I no longer miss the real wood burning FP.
By: cranky on November 30, 2016
Do you ever wish you hadn't asked?
By: The Broad on November 30, 2016
No muss no fuss, eh! Have you ever considered dabbling in holographic art?
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 30, 2016
To quote Jiminy Cricket when the Blue Fairy brought Pinocchio to life, "Man, what they can't do these days!" If i ever get to visit you, i will bring real s'mores ingredients to be prepared in the oven and enjoyed in front of the fake fireplace.
By: messymimi on November 30, 2016
Hilarious about the pictures of s'mores - but I think Mimi has a tastier idea :) I'd actually prefer a non-wood fire no matter what is behind it, because the wood smoke causes me breathing issues.
By: jenny_o on November 30, 2016
You were high tech and never knew it. Ours is a gas fireplace but we've never had a fire in it. When the people before us moved out, they took the logs with them. (To southern California!) They were a funky size and we gave up trying to replace them.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on November 30, 2016
I'll be damned. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 30, 2016
Wow...it must be mighty convincing! Ours is wood-burning and part of the pleasure is poking the logs. Good thing you didn't try that! I haven't thought about my View Master in years.
By: Kelly on November 30, 2016
That was some trick the new house played on you, ah? :-) Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on November 30, 2016
We have 3 electric fireplaces. That's because Hick ran out and bought 2 of them (to join the corner designed one in the basement) after Icepocalypse '06, when the power was out for over a week. His reasoning is that we can close up a room and run that electric fireplace off the generator. They look real enough, and they do heat up a room. They're no match for the real wood-burning one I grew up with. You could sit on the tile ledge in front of it until your spine was roasting. And hope your sister the future ex-mayor's wife would not walk by and pat you on the back.
By: Val on November 30, 2016
In your eagerness for a new home and fireplace you lost concentration for just one second!
By: red Kline on November 30, 2016
I've heard of but never seen one in a residence. Maybe I should investigate if it fooled even you with your sharp eye. :)
By: scott park on November 30, 2016
I grew up in a house that was heated with wood (including the hot water). I learned to cook on a wood-burning stove. I'm not sure I could get used to a gas or electric fireplace. Luckily, I won't need to find out here in Florida.
By: Pixel Peeper on November 30, 2016
I hate when I think I purchased a quality item and find out it is different than I had thought! We have both a wood fireplace and a gas fireplace....come on over!
By: Tabor on December 1, 2016
wow. I had no idea there was such a thing. a holographic fire.
By: Ellen Abbott on December 1, 2016
I agree with The Broad. Now you will never enjoy it as much as you did not knowing. At least you have no worries about it burning your house down. Think I will check it out though. Like the idea of no chimney needed fireplace.
By: Arkansas Patti on December 1, 2016
Holy smokes- I have never heard of such a thing! We have a wood stove and I clean it out every morning before building a new fire since it has a pretty small fire box. There are cold days when I do not want to go outside to get more wood that make me dream of an instant fire ! Enjoy your virtual reality!
By: Kathe W. on December 1, 2016
Amazing!
By: John Gibson on December 2, 2016
Ha! I love that! I miss the mantle of the fireplace at our old apartment, but not the mess of the fire (it was a "real" fireplace!).
By: The Bug on December 2, 2016
I would be upset to know I bought a house and was duped. Holograms? Grrr. I want to see logs burning!
By: Bee Bee on December 4, 2016

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