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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Land of the Unknown

July 25, 2014




I’ve stopped watching the news at dinnertime because it’s too disturbing. Mrs. Chatterbox and I have been watching—please don’t judge us too harshly— Family Feud. A recent question asked was : Aside from their cars, what do men value most? The #1 answer was…their tools.


My dad was a professional mechanic and had lots of tools. I had uncles who outlined their tools on garage pegboards which always seemed rather anal to me. But there’s no denying that men are into tools. Unfortunately, I’m not. Sure I’ve had art tools like X-Acto knives, pliers to stretch canvases, and paint brushes, but I’m talking about high testosterone tools like plane saws, welding equipment and drill presses. If something breaks at my house all I can do is hammer it until it’s completely broken, tape it with duct tape or screw it back into place with a butter knife.



Our current residence was new when we bought it six years ago and during that time nothing needed to be fixed or replaced, but the times they are a changin’ and our home is beginning to show wear and tear. My biggest problem is the sink in the master bathroom. We have dual sinks but mine has developed a tendency to clog. I’m not sure why Mrs. Chatterbox’s sink doesn’t have a similar problem. Sure, she doesn’t shave every day but she puts much more crud down her sink than I do.


I’ve tried Drano and other products but the results have been less than satisfying. I’ve even resorted to shoving pipe cleaners down the drain to remove the disgusting material blocking drainage.


A few weeks ago I ventured into the Land of the Unknown—a hardware store that recently opened in our neighborhood. A lanky fellow approached and asked if I needed help. I asked him to point me in the direction of Drano, which I usually buy at the grocery store.


“That’s on aisle #56,” he said. He insisted on following me through the cavernous warehouse of home repair items. I’m sure the Lost Ark of the Covenant was hidden down one of the endless aisles.


We reached the Drano aisle and he handed me a bottle.


“I haven’t had much luck with this stuff,” I said.


“I’m not surprised. It doesn’t work very well.”


His honesty was refreshing.


“What would work better?”


“I’d recommend a flexible metal snake.”


The house I grew up in always had plumbing issues and my dad would return from a tool rental place with a thirty foot snake which he used to unclog our toilets. The problem was caused by roots from the giant sycamore tree in our front yard, not my mother’s lead-heavy meatloaf.


He led me to the plumbing aisle and handed me a shiny metal coiled snake. It was half the price of the Drano. “This will unclog your drain. If it doesn’t work, bring it back for a refund.”


When I arrived home Mrs. Chatterbox was excited. “While you were gone the sink became unclogged.”


“What do you mean it became unclogged?”


“It isn’t a difficult concept. I ran water and it didn’t clog.”


I felt cheated. I took my new metal snake and hung it on the pegboard in my garage. It

was the only tool hanging there and it looked so out of place that I took a felt tipped marker and outlined it.


Several weeks have passed and that darn drain shows no sign of clogging. Now that I have a tool I’ve gained the wisdom all real men know, and most men keep to themselves: Owning a tool means never having to use it.  





Ha.. that's probably true. And the misplaced tool is the one you'll need most. I had a great, red toolbox which I had cleaned out and sorted through before moving here. I gave my son all of the extras and I ended up with a terrific collection of tools - most of which I don't know how to use. And many of which had belonged to my dad at one time. Within days of moving here.. it disappeared. There had been so many sub-contractors in and out of our garage during that time, I suspect someone else thought it was a good collection also.
By: Hilary on July 25, 2014
I don't use tools very often, but I still like the idea of having them around should I ever need them. My drains frequently clog so maybe I should go buy a flexible snake to not ever use.
By: PT Dilloway on July 25, 2014
That's funny I've just written a post about my tools. I love them, and hate it when my partner uses them. :D
By: LL COOL JOE on July 25, 2014
I have a flexible snake that works very well. It also doubles as a coat hanger.
By: Cranky Old Man on July 25, 2014
the secrets of the universe are always just right there. If you buy it....you will either lose it, forget where you put it or you'll never need it again.
By: omalinda on July 25, 2014
That snake is indeed a handy dandy tool. But the P trap under your sink catches all that muck, and every now and then you should undo it, clean it out and plug it back in...For toilets, the answer is a hefty squeeze of dish-washing liquid, then pour a gallon of hot water in on top of it from a good height. Then flush. No tools involved!
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on July 25, 2014
The sink knows there is a snake in the house and is being careful.
By: Joeinvegas on July 25, 2014
i am quite unhandy, too. i get exhausted when i go to lowes or home depot from sheer overwhelmingness... :)
By: TexWisGirl on July 25, 2014
Stuff gets complicated when you let it. Good old water does the trick!
By: red on July 25, 2014
This was such a funny post, and I love the comic! In my house, my hubby's very handy. The appliances and fixtures know this and never break when he's home, but the second he's out the door, everything goes kaput. The most annoying thing is how half the stuff starts working perfectly when he comes back. Then he gives me the you're-a-crazy-woman look. *sigh*
By: Lexa Cain on July 25, 2014
Drano is not very good. I use a stronger drain cleaner, which comes in a plastic bag in case of accidental leaks. I have to be very careful with it, but it always works. I am wary of using a snake because they can scratch porcelain. You'd have to be very careful while leading it into the drain because you don't want to mess up your nice sink. At least I assume it's nice. My garage has a large board with outlines of tools on it. As I purchase tools of my own, I hang them in their spot in the garage. It just occurred to me that the board should have a spot where I can hang Willy Dunne Wooters. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 25, 2014
Have no problems with my drains but may just have to buy a snake to keep them from ever clogging. Who knew the threat of being snaked was enough.
By: Akansas Patti on July 25, 2014
Funny, now that i've bought a tool to unclog drains, ours are running, too! But i bought a "clog cannon" that shoots pressurized air down the things to blow out the clog. Hmm, i wonder if that means i can starting fixing things around the house without hiring someone, but just buying the tools for the job?
By: mimi on July 25, 2014
My husband has a workshop in every one of our buildings. In fact, several times he has built new buildings to use as workshops. My dad always had one of each Sears Craftsman tool available. I guess I absorbed a little bit of their knowledge unknowingly. Because the minute I read "clogged sink" I thought, "Chatterbox needs a snake."
By: Val on July 25, 2014
Those snakes you buy at the hardware store don't work anyway. I've tried 'em. I just call a plumber.
By: Catalyst on July 25, 2014
There are some tasks I tackle and there are the more complex tasks I leave to the pros. I purchase my tools on an as needed basis. I think you just need a 'Git er Done' tattoo.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 25, 2014
The only tool I know how to use is a hammer. Consequently, all my problems look like nails. :-)
By: Pixel Peeper on July 25, 2014
I can be sort of handy, but I have no strength - so if the job involves elbow grease I just make Mike handle it :)
By: The Bug on July 25, 2014
oh hahahah A butter knife is a handy dandy tool!
By: Kathe W. on July 25, 2014
Baking Soda is another good idea. Run hot water for a minute or two. Then pack baking soda down the shower or sink drain. Let it sit for an hour or so. Flush with hot water!
By: Michael Manning on July 25, 2014
Watching news was what prompted me to sell my TV and surround sound equipment ten years ago. I read news around the world on the internet and make my own conclusions. I think of you were actually able to compare the amount of crud going down the pipe in both your sinks, yours would be the heavier amount by far. Just sayin'. This is so funny. The drain can't remain clog free for long, don't lose hope.
By: CiCi on July 26, 2014
Hahahaha. Love this one Stephen! It's Murphy's Law at it's finest.
By: Bouncin Barb on July 26, 2014
I am really hoping that this is all made up for comedic effect. (LOL?) By the way, a coffee cup featured in the twelfth edition of our Thinking of Christmas Gifts in July 2014 series just might look very familiar to you. http://asthecrackerheadcrumbles.blogspot.com/2014/07/thinking-of-christmas-gifts-in-july-2014_27.html
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 26, 2014
Our sinks are always clogging. I'm off to the hardware store some time soon to get myself a metal snake; it sounds just the thing.
By: Bryan Jones on July 27, 2014
Oh, you definitely hit a nerve with this one! I was one of those "tools on the pegboard" kind of guys back when we had a garage. It was nice to know they were there just in case they were needed, but in reality they were more decoration than necessity. If the day ever comes that we buy another home, the first thing I'm gonna do is get my tools out of their mini-warehouse hiding place and put them up on a pegboard. I'm gonna intimidate problems into not occurring. :)
By: Scott Park on July 27, 2014
I have never been much good at the DIY side of things. Now ask me to break something............................
By: John on July 27, 2014
Nothing like a great set of tools. That metal snake sounds very useful, in particular ~ Eddie :)
By: Eddie Bluelights on July 27, 2014
I suffer from the same affliction. I very often buy tools that I don't have an immediate need for, but (as I explain to Mrs. Penwasser, "You never know"). Very similarly, ten years ago, I bought a 4 X 4 piece of drywall because, "You never know." Last May, I needed a piece of it to replace a small section of the dining room ceiling which had experienced water damage. As I brush the spiderwebs off it before I spackled it into place, I looked at Mrs. Penwasser and said, "See?" Winning.
By: Al Penwasser on July 28, 2014
The flexible snake is a great toy for kids of a certain age.
By: Jenny on July 28, 2014

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