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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God, Is That You?

April 24, 2015


“I’m not going!” I said.


“Yes you are. I’m not leaving you home so you can squeal on me to Mom and Dad. You’re coming, and if you tell, you’ll catch hell with us.”


Rarely did my older brother David include me on his adventures, and normally I would have jumped at the opportunity to be included, but this would require much physical activity, something I tried hard to avoid. My brother and his friends were planning a bike excursion to Stevens Creek Reservoir at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Cupertino, about ten miles from our Santa Clara home.


The older brother of one of my classmates had been killed in a car crash while navigating a notoriously dangerous curve on the Santa Cruz Highway. “Mom and Dad wouldn’t approve of us biking on that highway,” I insisted. “Besides, why would I want to go to Stevens Creek Reservoir?”


I later learned that a group of popular girls from David’s high school class, one with a car and driver’s license, were also making the trip. Dave was a clever opportunist, always conscious of being in the right place at the right time. But girls weren’t yet a draw for David’s chubby younger brother.


“Don’t you know that they’re conducting submarine races at the reservoir?” he said, knowing my favorite TV program was Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and that I had a fixation on submarines.




“Yes, really.”


So I climbed onto my Stingray bike and we pedaled to Cupertino. The sun was hot and I was exhausted long before reaching the cutoff to the reservoir, still a lengthy distance away. I didn’t have my brother’s long legs, nor a bike with gears to negotiate the hilly terrain.


I refused to go any farther. “I’m biking home,” I whined. “This is too far.”


“Don’t be a quitter. We’re almost there.”


“There aren’t submarines at the reservoir. You’ve been lying to me. I’m going home.”


“Fine, but I don’t want Mom and Dad knowing about this. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep your mouth shut.”


Suddenly a voice from above thundered down upon us. “Deceiving your parents is a sin. Go home, all of you!”


This incident occurred shortly after I stopped being an altar boy, and puerile piety still coursed through me. For a moment I thought I had a direct line to the Almighty. “God, is that You?” I shouted.


The answer: “It’s a voice from on high! That’s a fact.”


I looked up and was both pleased and disappointed by what I saw. Instead of seeing a bearded deity from a Michelangelo fresco, I saw my Uncle Frank, who also happened to be my godfather. I knew he worked for the phone company, but this was the first time I’d seen him on the job.



“You boys need to hightail it home. And you’d better hope your parents don’t find out about this.”


Uncle Frank never informed on us, but my parents found out anyway. David and I were grounded for a few weeks. Five years later I was dating the future Mrs. Chatterbox and I asked if she was up for a drive to Stevens Creek Reservoir to see the sub races, which I learned was a euphemism for making out. She said yes and we drove to a secluded spot near the water.


I didn’t see any submarines that day, either.



Stevens Creek Reservoir



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You made me laugh, and sub races..... Well you learn something every day :)
By: John on April 24, 2015
Our submarines raced in the Wachtung Mountains, we never saw them either. Great story, lots of different memories struck here.
By: cranky on April 24, 2015
I'd ask if she saw any, but we won't go there. That's hilarious that your uncle just happened to be right there where you stopped.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 24, 2015
This was a post that really made me grin, buddy. Love it. :-)
By: Cherdo on April 24, 2015
too funny that the utility guy was your UNCLE! now that's kismet!
By: TexWisGirl on April 24, 2015
How funny and perfect timing. Ah yes, submarine races. First time for me I was in Key West that actually had a sub base. I was kind of disappointed.
By: Akansas Patti on April 24, 2015
I never saw any submarine races at Stevens Creek Reservoir, but I did see some hill climbing motorcycles on the hill to the west.
By: Uncle Skip on April 24, 2015
Great story. I've always been told when looking around to see who's checking on my actions to not to forget to look up.
By: Leenie on April 24, 2015
By: fishducky on April 24, 2015
Hetch Hetchy reservoir in the Bay Area not far from where I lived as a teenager was where we could maybe see submarines....haha
By: Kathe W. on April 24, 2015
won't come back from dead man's curve Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on April 24, 2015
My Dad worked as a telephone lineman for a lot of years, but I don't remember a story like THAT one! : D Cat
By: Cat on April 24, 2015
Ha! Submarine races - I'm going to try that out with Dr. M :)
By: The Bug on April 24, 2015
Your brother and you were both rascals!
By: Catalyst on April 24, 2015
For you, that was the right place at the right time. It got you out of more riding!
By: Val on April 24, 2015
I do learn something every time I read your posts. I had no clue that seeing sub races was a euphemism for making out. I'll have to ask my husband if he knows this...
By: Pixel Peeper on April 24, 2015
The world is full of tempting rumors to suck the innocent in.
By: red on April 24, 2015
Yay for Uncle Frank! He sounds like a cool dude. Have a great weekend, Stephen!
By: Lexa Cain on April 24, 2015
Fun story and your endings are always so clever!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on April 24, 2015
Uncle Frank, the omnipresent One. Cute pick up line about the submarine races. I'm glad Mrs. C. agreed.
By: Robyn Engel on April 24, 2015
What a great intervention by your Uncle Frank! That may have saved you from trouble! :)
By: Michael Manning on April 25, 2015
Ten miles in the sun with no gears and no subs either. How cruel can a brother be?
By: Jenny Woolf on April 25, 2015
Well, you would have been sweaty enuf. that the girls wouldn't have been interested in you anyway, so good for Uncle Frank.
By: Tom Sightings on April 25, 2015
Love this story! It's good he was there, or there might have been a tragic ending.
By: mimi on April 25, 2015
What a coincidence! To think your uncle was in the area. Does this story contain any Art of Pure Bull? Just wondering. lol
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 25, 2015
Oh, poor you, to have never seen a submarine race.
By: Mitchell is Moving on April 25, 2015
Great story!
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on April 25, 2015
another good story there Stephen.
By: Fran on April 25, 2015
guess I'll start looking up before I start talking about doing something I shouldn't be doing.
By: Ellen Abbott on April 26, 2015
I climbed poles for the phone company and I have a few vey funny stories. Lived this one . R
By: Rick Watson on April 26, 2015
Those same sub races were a common occurrence at White Rock Lake in Dallas, too. :)
By: Scott Park on April 27, 2015
"Deceiving your parents is a sin. Go home, all of you!â Even at my age, I still learn something new everyday! I had thought that the Bible simply said "honor," and I do recall that Jesus wasn't terribly obedient either, so you could have rightly said that you were following the example of your Lord. THAT would have gone over good!
By: Snowbrush on May 1, 2015

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