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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Hidden Treasure

March 31, 2017

The lure of treasure! It has led greedy men to far corners of the earth in search of riches and glory. But when I was a kid I didn’t need to search the globe for the stuff of legends and dreams; it could be found behind our backyard fence. Close, yes, but the treasure wasn’t easy to find, yet once found the joy of discovery was mind boggling, providing the discoverer with instant popularity.

           

No one was happy when the pear orchard behind our house was ripped out to make room for a Catholic parish, except my parents who’d send me and my brother to church while they slept in on Sunday mornings. Before the church arrived, I’d reach over the fence and grab juicy, sun ripened pears, but nothing lasts forever and asphalt eventually erased all signs of that orchard.

           

The pastor running the parish was not a nice man. He didn’t like children, although it was hard at first to see him as a threat because he was the spitting image of Phil Silvers on the Sgt. Bilko TV show. I’ve written several posts about this priest and how my late mother went to war with him, but this post is about treasure.

           

Back when I was in middle school, our church was into paper drives to raise money. Parishioners were encouraged to bring newspapers and magazines to the parish where a large, motorhome-size metal container was situated to receive papers. The container, filled and emptied several times a year, drew our attention during the summer months when we were bored and looking for ways to kill time. Treasure could sometimes be found buried among the newspapers.

           

We kids would poke our heads above our backyard fences. If the crabby pastor was nowhere to be seen we’d hop over the fence (difficult if you were wearing snug junior husky jeans), dash across the parking lot, quietly lift the lid on the container and slip inside to be confronted by a world of newsprint.

 

 

 

 

It was like climbing into an oven and almost instantly our shirts would stick to us, and sweat would trickle down our legs into our PF Flyers. We didn’t care. Our heads were filled with one thought and one thought only—TREASURE. I was seldom alone; best friend Ricky Delgado usually accompanied me. Ricky was even more obsessed with finding treasure than I was. Even though he was my best friend, he wasn’t about to let me find the treasure. If he found it, I’d be lucky if he let me see it.

           

Digging was required, making our treasure hunt a mining operation. Newspapers were usually bundled and tied with string. We’d push them out of the way and burrow deep to seek pay dirt, the mother lode. Ricky was like a truffle pig, often successful at finding the Holy Grail of his desire. I mean that literally—the desire part.

           

Search as I would, I wasn’t good at finding treasure, except once, buried beneath hundreds of pounds of newspapers, treasure to make me more popular than the other kids on our street, popular enough to quiet the nasty comments about my weight, provided I was willing to share.

 

Dripping with sweat, I reached for a bag and found it filled with something better than money, or candy, or comic books —Playboy magazines. As I thumbed through someone’s dad’s discarded stash of naughtiness, I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven, although the thoughts circulating in my head after flipping through a couple of these magazines hardly qualified me for heaven.

 

Of course at the tender age of twelve I was mostly interested in the articles.

 

 

 

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Comments

28 Comments
Giving a stack of Playboys for a church paper drive takes some real nerve. Plenty of times in the apartments where I've lived there are people who dumpster dive for stuff people throw away. Sometimes people take the old furniture or whatnot I've thrown away. About the only thing I've taken was a metal cutout of the character from the HALO video games; I gave it to my brother as an XMas present.
By: PT Dilloway on March 31, 2017
Dear Sir: You painted a very vivid picture of the mind set of a 12 year old boy and the treasure (indeed) hunt and the prize. I could see it all in my mind. Stephen, you crack me up. xoxo Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on March 31, 2017
Boys will be boys! Fun story - you always have such great stories from your childhood- we all do but you have the gift of writing!
By: Kathe W. on March 31, 2017
treasure indeed for little boys
By: Ellen Abbott on March 31, 2017
Playboys donated to the church drive? I wonder what the story was behind that! Maybe someone's stash got put out by accident. Maybe some wife (or mother) got fed up. Maybe someone's conscience got the best of them. The possibilities!
By: jenny_o on March 31, 2017
One of my all-time favorite cartoons was one by Gahan Wilson that appeared in Playboy. Or maybe it was in the New Yorker. ;)
By: Kelly on March 31, 2017
I knew it as soon as you said paper drive at the church. I bet the crabby priest threw them in there. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 31, 2017
Articles? Playboy magazine had articles?
By: scott park on March 31, 2017
You reeled me in with that one! I couldn't imagine what kind of treasure you were looking for in a dumpster full of old newspapers. Guess I don't think like a 12-year-old boy!
By: Val on March 31, 2017
Great story, Stephen. It was like a trip down memory lane as I recalled the first time I saw the treasure known as Playboy when I was about the same age. My friends and I found a stash of them out in the woods and thought we were in heaven. Take care.
By: Mr. Shife on March 31, 2017
12 year old boys with Playboy magazines... young impressionable minds. lol Did Ricky steal your treasure and chance at popularity?
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 31, 2017
I knew exactly what the treasure was half way through, did they also have magazines from the Nudist Colony? At 12, treasure indeed!
By: cranky on March 31, 2017
Doesn't everyone get Playboy for the articles?
By: fishducky on March 31, 2017
It sounds like you were fairly typical boys!
By: messymimi on March 31, 2017
I'll bet you were interested in the articles! Playboy for 12 year old boys was a very big deal.
By: red Kline on March 31, 2017
Oh yes, the articles, at twelve I know exactly what you were interested in, the same thing I was at twelve...the articles...Right?
By: Jimmy on March 31, 2017
Kids are so funny! Love what "the treasure" was! Have a great weekend. :)
By: Lexa Cain on March 31, 2017
Playboy? Never heard of it.
By: Tom Sightings on March 31, 2017
This is a great post---good story telling! I felt like I was in that hot dumpster right beside you. But I would be the one still digging for lost candy.
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on March 31, 2017
As long as the papers weren't stuck together, I guess it was ok:) hey maybe they belonged to the mean priest.
By: Birgit on March 31, 2017
I can relate. My brother and I knew of a particular trash burner down the alley where we could find Confidential and Stag magazines.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 31, 2017
I, too, liked the articles and, sometimes, the staples.
By: Mitchell is Moving on April 1, 2017
Unusual, but I guessed where you might be going on this. The right of passage for all young boys. I must say that I kept wondering how dangerous it was to crawl around under a ton of paper?
By: Tabor on April 1, 2017
Nowadays Playboy seems rather tame. I once got to see what my sons got up to looking at on the Internet and I was shocked and horrified -- and that was quite a few years ago. When I was a girl, my sister and I like to rummage through trash looking for detritus thrown out by girls in the dormitory that was the other half of the house we lived in at the time...
By: The Broad on April 1, 2017
Yep of course it was the articles, what else would a 12 year old boy be interested in? ;)
By: LL Cool Joe on April 1, 2017
Maybe the Playboy mags came from the priest!
By: Catalyst on April 1, 2017
My vote is on the mean priest, too.
By: Pixel Peeper on April 1, 2017
Ha! Treasure indeed! Tell, me, what was your favorite article? :)
By: The Bug on April 1, 2017

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