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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Happy Father's Day

June 16, 2013
When I was a kid the only pets I could have were those that could be flushed down the toilet when they died. I had to wait until I left home to own a cat or a dog. But my childhood was not without pets: I had guppies, frogs and tropical fish. When I was nine my favorite fish was a black fantailed molly named—Molly. Unfortunately, Molly was suicidal and liked to jump out of her bowl.

    

Many times I’d find her flopping on the rag carpet covering my bedroom floor. I always managed to find her in time and return her to her bowl before she shriveled up and looked like a black toenail. I figured I’d solved the problem when I covered the bowl’s opening with a piece of chicken wire I found in the garage, but I didn’t do a very good job.

    

One day after supper I found the screen on the floor, beside a stiff Molly. I started screaming and crying over my dead pet. Dad stepped into my room to see what was wrong. I pointed at the tiny black corpse on the rug.

    

Without saying anything, Dad scooped up Molly and took her to the kitchen sink. I was sure he was going to wash her down the drain but he filled his cupped hand with water and began massaging Molly with one of his big index fingers. I had no idea what he was doing until Molly started squirming in his hand. Dad was ready and prevented her from leaping into the sink and down the drain.

    

When he placed her back in her bowl she swam around in erratic little circles. She didn’t look any worse for wear. I can still recall how I looked at my Dad that day. Unlike his chubby son he was tall and athletic with an easy smile, but on this day I truly believed he had an extraordinary gift—the power over life and death. He must have known what I was thinking because he ruffled my hair and said, “Don’t make a big thing out of this. She wasn’t really dead, but a few more minutes and she would have been. What do you say we fix this screen so it doesn’t slide off the bowl anymore?”

    

He helped me secure the screen so my suicidal fish couldn’t off herself. It’s natural, I suppose, for children to see their parents as omnipotent beings, providers of food, shelter and unconditional love, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that Dad, like all parents, had feet of clay. He was just an average guy doing the best he could to provide a good life for his family, often at his own expense.

    

Today is Father’s Day. I choose to take this opportunity to remember my dad on that day fifty years ago, when he seemed larger than life—my best friend, my teacher and protector, the center of my nine year old world.

 

Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere.

    



Comments

30 Comments
What a wonderful memory to have of your Dad, Stephen. I'm not surprised you remember him as best friend, teacher and protector. By the sounds of it he did a really good job. Happy Fathers Day!
By: Sharon Bradshaw on June 16, 2013
What a lovely post. Have a terrific Fathers Day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on June 16, 2013
i could see him through your eyes of wonder. :)
By: TexWisGirl on June 16, 2013
Nice story. Dads seem to know everything, don't they ... until you become a dad yourself and realize that we're all fakin' it . . . or at least, I am!
By: tom sightings on June 16, 2013
Great story--happy Father's Day!!
By: fishducky on June 16, 2013
wow- amazing feat of life saving! What a Dad! Happy Father's Day to you!
By: Kathe W. on June 16, 2013
What a touching story. My father would have just said, "Oh, stop you're crying. It's only a damn fish!" (Molly might have benefited from some counseling.)
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 16, 2013
Happy Father's Day, Steve! I hope you are as great a Dad as "Mr. Hayes." I have many fond memories of him coming over to fix Dad's car, taking us to school if it was raining, BBQ's in the backyard. Did your dad save your rat, too? He was a miracle worker! You wrote eloquently about him as always!
By: Linda on June 16, 2013
What a wonderful story of your Dad! You shared this story perfectly.
By: Carrie on June 16, 2013
You can do that with fish? Who knew? That's amazing! Your dad was a pretty special guy. What a coincidence....mine was, too. :)
By: Scott Cody Park on June 16, 2013
Well, you would not be the man you are today without the wisdom of that guy. He seems to have been a perfect father.
By: Tabor on June 16, 2013
Such a tender, loving story. Have a happy Father's Day!
By: Shelly on June 16, 2013
Sounds like he's an Everyday Hero.
By: PT Dilloway on June 16, 2013
We had a fish, a cat (who mysteriously disappeared) one day, a great grandmother, a snapping turtle we caught at the 'crick,' and six German Shepherds, all called 'Duke' (even the girls). But, never, never, was our father as kind as yours. You're a lucky man.
By: Al Penwasser on June 16, 2013
Great story. I hope you are having a wonderful Father's Day yourself.
By: LL COOL JOE on June 16, 2013
Thanks for sharing that wonderful memory of your Dad!
By: Eva Gallant on June 16, 2013
Feet of clay, heart of gold. Happy Father's Day.
By: mimi on June 16, 2013
What a wonderful story! Definitely a reputation-building moment for a dad, even if his heroic stature can't last forever.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on June 16, 2013
CPR for a fish...now that's a Dad with skills! Thanks for sharing this story - and happy Father's Day.
By: Pixel Peeper on June 16, 2013
That's impressive! My dad wasn't home the day my goldfish landed on the living room floor and got whacked by his own bowl. Like the mom in A Christmas Story, and the unfortunate leg-lamp-breaking incident, my mom swore it was an accident while she was cleaning the counter too vigorously.
By: Val on June 16, 2013
That's cool. I'm glad you have happy memories you can share. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 16, 2013
Neat story. How many times did our Dad's do something that made them look like superheroes to us?
By: Red on June 16, 2013
Great story ... and we can still love our dads dearly even if they (like us!) have some shortcomings. Happy Father's Day to you and all the dads here!
By: jenny_o on June 16, 2013
AWWWWWWW..That is such a nice sentiment. I think maybe your dad was way above "just" a average dad. I think most dads would of just flushed Molly and not thought twice about it. He sounds like he was a really caring person.
By: Cheryl .P on June 17, 2013
Fish can be pretty hardy I suppose. This is a great story. Happy Father's day to you as well (because I know you too are a dad) and not just your own father.
By: Michael Offutt on June 17, 2013
Good for dad. You could have flushed a small dog though. A short-haired dog might have been best so the hair wouldn't clog the drain.
By: Snowbrush on June 17, 2013
Aw what a great story!!
By: The Bug on June 17, 2013
Because he was an ordinary man is what makes this story so extraordinary for most people just wouldn't have bothered. You have ever right to know your Dad was special.
By: John on June 18, 2013
What a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I love the magic you convey.
By: Hilary on June 18, 2013
Love this story. ;-)
By: Venita Louise on June 19, 2013

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