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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Gate Crashing

January 17, 2014
 

Back when Mrs. Chatterbox and I were having difficulty affording gas for our car, I won an all expense paid vacation for two to New York City. While in the Big Apple I saw and experienced a great many things, but what I remember most is crashing a private show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
     

Mrs. Chatterbox and I were strolling across Central Park one evening and we ended up in front of the Met. Limousines were pulling up to the steps and disgorging gents in tuxedos and ladies in sparkling gowns and jewels. A giant banner ran down the façade of the museum announcing a new show: Goya and the Age of Enlightenment. Goya’s canvases had been borrowed from museums across the world and tonight was the gala opening. I was ecstatic! Goya was one of my favorite artists. We dashed up the steps and were promptly turned away. 
     

“Come back tomorrow,” said the guard at the door. “This is a private show, by invitation only.”
     

It suddenly became paramount that I see this show. Concluding our trip with a peek at all those delicious Goyas would be frosting on the cake. The next day we entered the museum and a man with a pencil moustache leaned on the information counter as he informed us that, while the museum was open to everyone, Goya and the Age of Enlightenment didn’t open to the public until the next day—when we were scheduled to fly home to Oregon. 
     

“There must be a way we can get inside,” I pleaded.
     

“Today is reserved for museum members. You can purchase museum membership, which would grant you entrance to the Goya show.”
     

“How much would that set me back?” I asked.
     

“Five hundred dollars,” he said.
     

“I live three thousand miles away on the West Coast. What good is a membership?”   
     

He licked a pinky, ran it over the edges of his little moustache, and shrugged. 
     

“There must be another way to get in.”
     

“Not unless you’re from a foreign country. Visitors from abroad are allowed in.”
     

When we walked away Mrs. C. said, “I can see the wheels turning in your head. You’re going to crash that show, aren’t you?”
     

I nodded.

    

Not wanting any part of what was about to happen, she found a bench where she could wait for me to be thrown out of the building. 
     

The queue to the Goya Show was long, and when I reached the head of the line I said to the guard in my best Tarzan voice—which I inexplicably revert to in times of stress— “Me from… Puerto Rico!”
     

The guard nodded, pulled back the rope and let me enter.
     

The Goyas were as great as I’d imagined them to be, and when I’d gotten an eyeful I left to reconnect with Mrs. C.
     

“What did you tell the guard to convince him to let you in?” she asked when we reconnected.
     

I smiled at her and said, “I told him I was from Puerto Rico.”
     

“Really?”
     

“Yep. That guy at the information desk said they’re letting visitors from other countries in today.”
     

She cocked her head and looked at me curiously. “You could have picked any country in the world yet you blurted out Puerto Rico?”
     

“It was the first one that came to mind.”
     

The smug smile I was undoubtedly wearing slipped off my face when she said, “It’s a good thing that guard is as dense are you are.”
     

“What do you mean?”

     

“Puerto Rico isn’t a foreign country. It’s part of the United States!”

    

A sad fact—I often choke under pressure.

 

 



Comments

29 Comments
A sad commentary on the American public school system. It'd have been easier to say "I'm from Canada, eh."
By: PT Dilloway on January 17, 2014
HA! Our wives always have a way to bring us down to earth.
By: David Walston on January 17, 2014
Good story. I like your chutzpah.
By: Suldog on January 17, 2014
oh my....you are a tenacious critter aren't you? And as to Puerto Rico...I'm sure that you would love it there as well.
By: Oma Linda on January 17, 2014
Good for you- and also good thing the guy didn't happen to be from Puerto Rico.
By: Shelly on January 17, 2014
You can be an honorary Canadian. We're pretty multi-cultural. There would be no way to tell. :)
By: Ken on January 17, 2014
I admire your cheek , Stephen. If it's any consolation, I thought Puerto Rico was in South America - I'm a sad indictment of the British educationalsystem.
By: Bryan Jones on January 17, 2014
laughing out loud!
By: TexWisGirl on January 17, 2014
Ha, ha, well whatever, you got in that's the main thing. I admire your nerve I would never get away with doing that!
By: LL COOL JOE on January 17, 2014
You COULD have told them you were from Israel--You DO have chutzpah!!
By: fishducky on January 17, 2014
Well done. I would have let you in as soon as you said you had to go home the next day. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 17, 2014
What a silly and ridiculous decision on the part of the museum! Good for you- I'd probably have said Canada! By the way while I was living in Spain back in the early '70s I went to Madrid for 5 days and spent a full day at the Prado. I limited myself to Goyas, Bosch, Velazquez and el Greco. It was wonderful.
By: Kathe W. on January 17, 2014
Ha! Smooth move, Ex Lax. Think they would have bought, "Howdy, I'm from the Republic of Texas. Step aside, son"? :)
By: Scott Cody Park on January 17, 2014
10% of NYC is from Puerto Rico, but all is well that ends well...nice Puerto Rico accent btw.
By: Cranky on January 17, 2014
Makes me wonder what he would have thought if i'd said i was from Barrel L'Orange!
By: mimi on January 17, 2014
Yes, maybe you choked, but you did get in. Good for you.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 17, 2014
Smooth move and regardless of a minor detail, it sure worked. Lucky you, great show and a good laugh.
By: Akansas Patti on January 17, 2014
That is so funny! Awesome that you got to see the Goyas. I lived in NYC and visited the MOMA. It was cool. I think I liked DC's Nat'l Gallery best though. Thanks for the laughs! :)
By: Lexa Cain on January 17, 2014
Great story! Sometimes rules really stink and make people tell lies!
By: red on January 17, 2014
Too funny! I especially liked the "...where she could wait for me to be thrown out of the building..."
By: Pixel Peeper on January 17, 2014
I love the Met... saw drawings of Da Vinci's there about ten years ago. Funny story. Silly Amurikans! ;)
By: Hilary on January 17, 2014
Go you! I love how you were so compelled to crash it. I would have probably done the same thing. I don't think I would have picked PR though! hahaha that's funny!
By: Bouncin Barb on January 17, 2014
Dang! Of all the times you needed your mom to be with you to talk about your Portuguese heritage!
By: Val on January 17, 2014
Too much pressure... lol
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 18, 2014
Ha ha ha, I love Mrs C! First, I would have sat my butt on the bench, too, while you went off to sneak in, but her comment on Puerto Rico killed me.
By: Kianwi on January 18, 2014
Wonderful! Reading this, it did not occur to me that Puerto Rico is part of the US. My hubby has talked our way into a couple of exhibitions. He once convinced a gallery person in San Francisco that we had come all the way from Minnesota just for this Impressionist show and we had to go back that evening. Meanwhile I'm embarrassed because she's going to think we're too stupid to plan ahead. But I brushed that aside and enjoyed the exhibit. :)
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on January 18, 2014
well done Stephen. another funny story with a happy ending :)
By: Fran on January 18, 2014
Another great story.
By: John on January 20, 2014
Haha..that is funny. Given how many people are clueless to geography, the odds were probably in your favor....but then again you seem to have a fair amount of good luck.
By: Cheryl P. on January 20, 2014

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