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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Grandpa

October 14, 2015

 

I never knew either of my grandfathers. Dad’s father died early in a car accident, and Mom’s father passed away when she was only nine. My grandmother remarried before I was born, and her husband was the only grandfather I ever knew.

           

Grandpa was a gruff old bulldog, but we became close when I was small. My brother and I would often spend time with him, but I was the one who’d follow him around like a shadow, listening to his stories about the old country and helping him tend his fruit trees. Grandpa was from Madeira Island, a Portuguese possession off the coast of Africa.

           

In high school I began learning how to paint and needed models, but nobody wanted to sit still for hours while I struggled to render them. I managed to work up a portrait from sketches I’d made of Grandpa. He wasn’t well schooled and I’m sure he didn’t know what to make of my doodles, so I didn’t tell him about my painting because I thought it might make him uncomfortable.

           

One morning my high school art teacher announced we’d be exhibiting our work at the new library across town, not far from where my grandparents lived. I brought in Grandpa’s portrait and my teacher selected it for the exhibit.

           

According to Grandpa, he began receiving calls from friends who’d seen his painting hanging in the library. He drove to the library to check it out, and was quickly recognized standing beside his portrait. I think he enjoyed the attention, although some of his buddies razzed him about the earring I added.

           

When the exhibit was over, I gave him the painting. He set it against a wall and said, “Most paintings have frames on them. This picture needs one.” He opened his wallet and handed me fifty bucks. “Is that enough?”

           

I nodded, and took the painting to a frame store.

           

The portrait hung in Grandpa’s living room until he died. Whenever someone commented on it he’d puff up with pride and say, “My grandson painted it!”

           

He was the only grandfather I ever knew, and it has made me feel good preserving this kind man in paint.

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

29 Comments
Great painting, shows a lot of character. I gave B a painting of the two of us about 4 years ago for Christmas. She loves it. As I'm sure you know, and as I now appreciate, there's something about an oil painting that goes way beyond what a photograph can capture.
By: Tom Sightings on October 14, 2015
Another great tale and a heartwarming one too!
By: John on October 14, 2015
For some reason, this brought tears to my eyes. Wonderful portrait and story!
By: Mitchell is Moving on October 14, 2015
You painted this in high school? I'm so impressed because those were very early years for you and your talent is clear. I can only imagine how proud he must have been. It's a beautiful portrait.
By: Bouncin Barb on October 14, 2015
So, so sweet. I love the legacy of love that portrait communicates.
By: Crystal Collier on October 14, 2015
Very touching, if I wasn't so cranky, I might have gotten just a little weepy.
By: cranky on October 14, 2015
Grandfather's are the best. I'm thankful I knew my grandfather on my daddy's side. The other one died before I was old enough to know what a grandfather was.
By: Rick Watson on October 14, 2015
Your stories like this one are meticulously crafted as though it were a painting. Each sentence a paint-stroke with depth and passion, purposely created and shared for all to enjoy. Thank you, Stephen
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 14, 2015
Do you continue to paint? I hope so because this is good!! Your grandfather looks like he would be a fisherman...at least to me:) I love that you added the earring
By: Birgit on October 14, 2015
He looks like the kind of grandpa i would have wanted to know. My own was very gruff, too, and we only got to see him and Nana about twice a year, so i never really knew him well.
By: messymimi on October 14, 2015
That's a nice painting. The man with the Pearl Earring. Eh. Grandpa sounds better :)
By: Michael Offutt on October 14, 2015
I think you painted his soul!!
By: fishducky on October 14, 2015
The earring was a nice touch. For some reason, I am intrigued by the beard. Like I know what it would feel like.
By: Val on October 14, 2015
that's a beautiful painting Stephen no wonder he was proud.
By: Fran on October 14, 2015
I am sure it made your grandfather feel good that you preserved him by painting such a nice picture of him!
By: Pixel Peeper on October 14, 2015
That's just a great story. I'm impressed that you painted that well when you were still in school.
By: red on October 14, 2015
Oh the earring makes him look like an old sea captain. I love the cigar and the look of his eyes. Great job, Stephen.
By: Catalyst on October 14, 2015
No wonder Grandpa was pleased. That is a fine painting and a wonderful story and memory. Both of my Grandfathers were gone before I arrived so my only memory is old photos.
By: Tom Cochrun on October 14, 2015
You were very talented even in HIgh School. You captured that spirit and love. He was proud and you should be also.
By: Tabor on October 15, 2015
I wonder how my future grandchildren will view me. Probably not 'gruff.' 'Lunatic,' but not 'gruff.'
By: alpenwasser on October 15, 2015
I admire your portrait ability. that's one thing I have never attempted. I've done portraits in glass but I worked from photographs. I never knew either of my grandfathers, both having died when my parents were teenagers and neither mother remarried. when my sister asked our maternal grandmother why she never remarried, she said 'because one damn man is enough.'
By: Ellen Abbott on October 15, 2015
Sweet story and gorgeous portrait!
By: Kathe W. on October 15, 2015
You were talented even in high school. What a sweet story and what a great gift you gave him. Making those we look up to proud is the goal of every person and you did just that.
By: Akansas Patti on October 15, 2015
I love this painting and it's great that he was proud of it. Clearly he was proud of you, too.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on October 15, 2015
What a delightful story! You certainly honored him with a great portrait. I was denied any attention from grandparents.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on October 15, 2015
This is a delightful story, and you have honored your Grandfather well. I was thrilled by his reaction and I hope you are as proud of your work today as you were when this painting had its debut! Well done!! :)
By: Michael Manning on October 15, 2015
This is a great painting. He has such an interesting face. I can see why he was very proud.
By: JarieLyn on October 15, 2015
I love the painting - and the story makes it even more special.
By: The Bug on October 16, 2015
What a beautiful story. You are both a talented writer and painter. Thank you for sharing. Beckie
By: Beckie on October 25, 2015

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