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….

Sign up and read my novel for free.

All Blog Posts

Justifying The "B" Word

August 29, 2014

First posted 11/07/12


Yes, I admit it; in a moment of weakness I looked my son’s godmother in the face and called her the “B” word. Horrible I know, but don’t condemn me until you know the facts.


Our son’s godparents (I’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. G.) are psychologists and a delightful couple. They live in Sacramento and are our oldest and dearest friends—the reason we selected them to be our son’s godparents. They’d agreed to raise little CJ should tragedy make him an orphan. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were visiting them a few weeks before our first trip to Hawaii. Mrs. C. and I hadn’t traveled anywhere since our son was born and we were bubbling over with anticipation of tropical breezes, white sand and rum drinks served in coconuts.


Wine had loosened our tongues by the time Mrs. G. said to me, “You guys are going to have a great time in Hawaii. I hear the snorkeling is incredible.”


I laughed and said, “You’re kidding, of course. I have no intention of going snorkeling.”


Had Mrs. G. not been working on her second glass of rosé she might have remembered my fear of sharks. Instead, she looked down her sharp nose and said in a tone she, no doubt, used on her patients, “You know, if you fly all the way to Hawaii and refuse to go snorkeling because of your fear of sharks, it’s no longer a fear; it will have grown into a phobia.”


“Do you have any idea how many people are killed in Hawaii because of sharks?” I said. “They keep it out of the papers so it won’t affect tourism.”


Mrs. G. shook her head and made a tsk…tsk…tsk sound. She spelled it out: “P-h-o-b-i-a.”


Her words were still haunting me when a few weeks later Mrs. C. and I arrived in Hawaii. I’d be damned if I’d let my fear grow into a phobia. I purchased a snorkel and mask, and like a doomed convict being pushed toward a firing squad made my way into the surf.


I spent nearly two hours in the water. Without my glasses, everything was a blur; every rock seemed to sprout razor-sharp teeth and my head was filled with the sound of cello music. It was the worst two hours of my life, but when I staggered from the waves I was rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing I did not have a phobia.


Months after our return from Hawaii the Gs visited us in Oregon. We shared pictures of our trip and I mentioned my snorkeling accomplishment with pride. Mrs. G. congratulated me. Eventually the conversation shifted to other things.


 “Did I mention my grandmother is flying to Israel for a month and has offered to pay all my expenses if I join her?” Mrs. G said.


“That’s incredible!” I knew how proud she was of her Jewish heritage. “When do you leave?”


Mrs. G. shook her head. “I have no intention of going.”


Her answer shocked me. “Why not? It would be a trip of a lifetime.”


“It would require a long flight, and I have no intention of strapping myself into a flying coffin. Do you have any idea how heavy airplanes are? No one can explain to me why they don’t just drop out of the sky.”


“But you’ve wanted to visit Israel for years!” I exclaimed.


She crossed her arms tightly and said, “Not going.”


I thought long and hard, choosing my words carefully. From the far side of the room my wife glared at me, a glare I understood to mean: Do not go there! But I couldn’t help myself.


I looked squarely into Mrs. G’s eyes. “You told me that if I went to Hawaii and refused to go snorkeling, my fear of sharks would become a phobia, so I went snorkeling and it was two of the worst hours of my life. Now you tell me you’re turning down an all-expense paid trip to Israel because you’re afraid to fly?”


“That’s correct,” admitted the godmother of my child—one of my oldest friends.


“There’s a word for women like you.”


Her eyebrows shot up. “Really. What would that be?”




Note: The Gs are still our oldest and best friends. And eventually Mrs. G. did make that trip to Israel.



calling a spade a spade. :)
By: TexWisGirl on August 29, 2014
Bully. She's a bully. I have no intention of ever going snorkeling anywhere. I have no interest in it. At least you didn't use the "C" word. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 29, 2014
I fell into a lake when I was 3 or 4 & came very close to drowning. I had a HUGE fear of water & taught myself to swim when I was about 15. I'm still not comfortable swimming. That being said, I was talked into snorkeling in the Caribbeans. I LOVED IT!!
By: fishducky on August 29, 2014
OMG- your blog should come up with the warning that "reading it while drinking coffee is hazardous to your computer!" Too funny! Good to hear that your all are still talking and that she did get to Israel!
By: Kathe W. on August 29, 2014
I'd say you are even and since you are still friends, she must agree.
By: Akansas Patti on August 29, 2014
What goes around comes around. Call it what you will. It amounts to friends butting heads... and moving on. :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 29, 2014
I suspect she burst out laughing as soon as you said it. I'm glad she did end up going after all.
By: Hilary on August 29, 2014
Well, something must have been right since you're still friends.
By: red on August 29, 2014
Well, i have a phobia about flying and i won't tease anyone else no matter what they are afraid of -- yes, i will come get the spider/snake/bug for you. And you were right, she was being one, and i'm glad you all still get along.
By: mimi on August 29, 2014
Good friends don't call each other names. Great friends do.
By: Pixel Peeper on August 29, 2014
She was a gander in need of a good goosing! I imagine she was not very effective in treating patients with a fear of flying. Heavy coffins dropping from the sky, indeed!
By: Val on August 29, 2014
I have a fear of sharks as well, and I deal with it by staying out of the ocean! I can sympathize with you about the snorkeling. It sounds horrible. I'm also afraid to fly....or I was until I took a trip to Ontario a couple years ago....now instead of being terrified, I'm just hyper-aware of everything going on during the flight. I say Mrs. G may be a psychologist, but she is still one of those people who can dish it out, but can't take it....what's the word for that?......I think it starts with 'B'.....hmmmm.... glad you're all still friends. Good friends are worth a little disagreement now and then.
By: Eva Prokop on August 29, 2014
Please forgive me for sounding critical, but I really do think the "C" word applies more to Mrs. G in that situation. Since you have made it fairly clear that you have lived a rather sheltered life, I feel compelled to add that the "C" word I am referring to is the one that rhymes with runt. Yeah, I'll be shutting up now.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on August 29, 2014
It made me smile at what a hypocrite Mrs G turned out to be! I'm not surprised you said what you did! We all have our fears and her pressure on you to snorkel was unkind to say the least. But true friendship includes forgiving, and it's great that you are still friends :)
By: Sharon Bradshaw on August 30, 2014
Hmmm. (hehe) You always amuse me greatly!
By: Mimi Foxmorton on August 30, 2014
What a hypocrite she was! But you sure did put her in her place :)
By: Anne on August 30, 2014
I think there's a lesson for you here, at least one--never trust a shrink even if one does put you on the path to aversion therapy which is, so far as I know, the only way to defeat a phobia.
By: Snowbrush on August 30, 2014
To me it is a fear if it does not negatively affect your life or the lives of others. Your refusal to snorkel does not do either. It is a phobia if it is irrational and negatively affects your life or the lives of others. Dr. Cranky Oh I almost forgot with my pontificating, great story and yes in this case you used the B word correctly and I am sure she didn't take offense! Although I suppose Hypocrite may have been more correct than bitch.
By: Cranky on August 30, 2014
I think she deserved that. You are exceptionally brave - there is no way I would swim or snorkel in shark infested waters . . . . . :)
By: Eddie Bluelights on August 30, 2014
Ah, the hypocrisy of psychologists! I'd assumed the 'B' word was going to be the one that questions someone's parentage, so 'bitch' was the letting her off lightly. Also, I loved the reference to hearing cello music.
By: Bryan Jones on August 31, 2014
I have snorkeled in a shark free Zone and loved it. I understand though what you mean, best give up snorkeling and stick to the chuckling......Much better for you especially when you share it with us!
By: John on September 2, 2014
Stephen: You are to be commended to for the courage of snorkeling under these well-founded feelings, and for putting up with being spoken down to. You called her on her....stuff.
By: Michael Manning on September 2, 2014
Well, I'd say you were very kind.
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 2, 2014

Leave a Comment


Return to All Blog Posts Main Page

RSS 2.0   Atom