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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Late Night Intruder

September 24, 2014

Mrs. Chatterbox and I enjoy watching HGTV, especially programs where designers compete to remodel older properties. Lately I’ve noticed that wallpaper, which had all but disappeared as a home fashion statement, is making a comeback.

    

I shiver while recalling previous homes with hideous wallpaper that had to be removed, or wallpaper that had been painted over. A prized moment happened years ago when I managed to get an entire strip of wallpaper off in one piece. Removal usually took forever, with the detached pieces the size of postage stamps. I was glad when wallpaper went out of style.

    

Shortly after CJ was born in 1980, Mrs. Chatterbox decided she wanted to brighten his nursery with wallpaper. We couldn’t afford to hire someone to hang it, so the task fell on me. I might not have mentioned this before but I’m not fond of do-it-yourself home improvements. The problem isn’t that I’m lazy (not entirely true) but I’m a perfectionist and if I do a job, no matter how well, I still know where all the imperfections are. I’d rather pay someone and not know the location of those flaws. When money is tight, I have no choice but to do it myself.

    

In the case of CJ’s nursery, Mrs. Chatterbox tried to make the task easier by selecting pre-glued wallpaper. I read the instructions carefully. Each roll had been pre-glued in the factory. All I needed to do was immerse the rolls in a plastic water tub. It seemed easy enough; soak each roll for a few minutes to activate the glue, match the teddy bear pattern and press the paper strips onto the walls. I was surprised at how easily and quickly I accomplished the task. CJ’s nursery looked fabulous, and I puffed with pride at my accomplishment.

    

That evening Mrs. C. was worried the nursery might be filled with undetectable and potentially dangerous glue fumes, so CJ slept in our room.  Around one o’clock in the morning I woke to my wife poking me in the ribs.

    

“I heard something! I think someone is trying to break in,” she whispered over our slumbering infant.

    

“You were dreaming,” I said groggily. “Go back to sleep.”

    

A few minutes later, she nudged me once more. “I heard more sounds. Pleeze go check the house for intruders.”

    

I was about to dismiss her concern when I heard something. The sound—now sounds because they were coming in rapid order—were hard to identify. They resembled hissing sounds, not the noises of an intruder. It sounded like we were infested with snakes.

    

I switched on my nightstand lamp and checked the floor beside my bed. No sign of snakes, or intruders. I grabbed my home security system, a Junior Louisville Slugger I’d picked up at a garage sale. At that moment it felt tiny as a drum stick. With Mrs. C. cradling our slumbering infant, I inched down the hall toward the noises. They were coming from CJ’s nursery.

    

I flipped on the light. Again, no snakes, no intruder. But something was peculiar. The wallpaper I’d worked so hard to hang that day was no longer attached to the walls. All but one of the strips were neatly rolled on the carpet near the baseboards. At that moment the last strip detached and slid down the wall, creating the alarming hissing sound.

    

So much for pre-pasted wallpaper, I thought, lowering my tiny bat. The next day I purchased heavy duty paste and re-hung the wallpaper. The result looked less than professional.

    

So last night when we were watching HGTV and a talented young designer was selecting wallpaper, I scowled when Mrs. C. told me she thought wallpaper might look good in our living room. I don’t care how trendy it becomes; I’ll hang myself before I ever again hang wallpaper.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Comments

26 Comments
Now you have done it! You have opened up some very bad memories. I may have to post them someday to get them out of my head. Wallpaper...shudder shudder.
By: Cranky on September 24, 2014
I'm with Cranky on this one. Nothing good ever comes of wallpapering, said every person who has ever done it themselves......shudder.
By: omalinda on September 24, 2014
i detest wallpaper. am no good at hanging it or removing it. i have 2 rooms now i'd like to get rid of it in.
By: TexWisGirl on September 24, 2014
totally agree with you on wallpaper! I once hung wallpaper on a slanted ceiling. It stuck- never fell down but was not a fun project! The only other time was years ago when I put up a lifesize photo scene of birch trees in autumn...it was in our cozy family room that had knotty pine on the other walls.and a huge sliding glass door on one end. It actually was kinda cool and rather cozy. But I don't need to ever do that again- it was hard work!
By: Kathe W. on September 24, 2014
If i have to do it myself, i'll paint, not paper!
By: mimi on September 24, 2014
I am anti-wallpaper. In our previous home, the walls were made of plaster and they were covered with glued wallpaper. Have you tried removing glued wallpaper?!? I think it might have been easier to remove the plaster walls! [groan]
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 24, 2014
What about painting murals? I would think that it would increase the resale value of the property immensely.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 24, 2014
Great story and great pic of Lucy and Desi. I loved them - and the story too! :)
By: Lexa Cain on September 24, 2014
You should have painted cute animals on the walls of CJ's nursery. I don't like to criticize Mrs. C., but what's wrong with her--putting up wallpaper when she has an artist in the house? Charles Schulz used to paint the Peanuts characters on his children's bedroom walls. Can you imagine buying a house from Charles Schulz before he was famous and painting over Charlie Brown and Lucy? Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 24, 2014
I don't mind doing the wallpapering.. it's a preferred task to painting but I don't like the look of it more often than not. When we were prepping our first son's room, we had to remove 3 layers of the stuff.. and like Daniel said, I think it was glued on. We wore masks and used a sander in many parts. ******* For some reason, this blog is no longer showing up for me in Feedly. I still get the alert from your old Blogger site but this one seems to have disappeared off of the list and won't allow me to re-enter it again, saying that "no feed was found" if I search for it by URL. If I search by blog name, I only get the old Blogger site. Just thought you would want to know that.
By: Hilary on September 24, 2014
UGHH. I've never hung wallpaper, but I have sure taken it down..in strips, and pieces, and slivers and on and on..cursing whomever it was who hung it in the first place. I will admit that I have even ..EGADS! painted over it. I hate the stuff and HGTV needs to back that bus up because I will never on purpose hang paper in my house. I don't care which tv star says it's the latest greatest. :)
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on September 24, 2014
My first husband and I once wallpapered three rooms and installed fake brick and paneling in another.....wonder if that had anything to do with our divorce?????
By: Eva Gallant on September 24, 2014
I never liked it when it was fashionable.Thinking it might be making a comeback is depressing. Why on earth--???
By: Akansas Patti on September 24, 2014
From one of my posts: For those of you who want to change wallpaper, hereâs something you might try. (Strangely enough, I donât believe Martha Stewart has ever suggested this.) A friend of oursâNOT Budâweâll call him âDaddyââhad been to a party the night before & was quite hung over. Early in the morning, he was awakened by his very young son calling âDaddy!â He yelled at his son to go back to sleep. Again, âDaddy!â Again, âGo back to sleep!â Over & over, until the boy stopped. His sonâs problem was that he had to go potty, specifically, to pee. A lot. Since his father was no help, he had to solve his problem himself. So he did. He lowered his pajama bottoms & diaper & peed on the wall. Then, to his amazement, he discovered that his urine had loosened the wallpaper. All he had to do to peel it off was to scrape it with his fingernail. So he did. When âDaddyâ was finally able to get up he went into his sonâs room & found a section of wallpaper-less wall about 3 feet square. As I said, you could try this, but youâd probably have to get your husband to reach the higher places.
By: fishducky on September 24, 2014
I feel the same about all paper. It's completely frustrating to match the pattern when I have a micro manager telling me when it's matched.
By: red on September 24, 2014
We have parts of our bathroom wallpapered. My brother-in-law the ex-mayor put it up for us. It's been 16 years, and the stuff is still stuck tight. I guess he knew what he was doing.
By: Val on September 24, 2014
Wallpaper is making a comeback? Oh no...what's next? Avocado appliances???
By: Pixel Peeper on September 24, 2014
What a twist! I didn't expect that...but I guess it's good you didn't have a break-in. That aside, I have to say I've NEVER liked wallpaper, so I think I will stick to painting my walls.
By: The Parent\'s Guide to Video Games on September 24, 2014
This post has now appeared in my Feedly. The internet is a weird place. ;)
By: Hilary on September 24, 2014
My Father was a professional painter and decorator and always made it look so easy. Now when I tried...............
By: John on September 25, 2014
As horrid as it sounds, PAINTED wallpaper doesn't look so bad. Same with painted paneling. Who knew? Anyway, I remember a wallpaper story...my uncle and I wallpapered an entire bathroom with a floral kind of design. After several hours, we stood, admiring our hard work. Then, he said, "Something just doesn't look right." As I looked more closely at it, I saw what he was talking about. We had wallpapered upside down. And there it stayed until well after he died. No, neither one of us quit our day jobs.
By: Al Penwasser on September 25, 2014
Well, shoot, if I ever wallpaper the upstairs bathroom, I am NOT telling you guys about it. But I'm pretty sure it would look better than plain paint. :)
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on September 25, 2014
I actually miss wallpaper, although we don't have a single roll in the whole house.
By: Snowbrush on September 27, 2014
Stephen: Best left to Martha Stewart! "And that's a good thing". :)
By: Michael Manning on September 29, 2014
I share your antipathy for hanging (and stripping) wallpaper. In fact, Mrs Jones is rather good at it - how very fortunate.
By: Bryan Jones on September 29, 2014
If you go into the woods tonight, you're in for a big surprise... For all the bears that ever there was... I agree with you about hanging or stripping wallpaper!
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 30, 2014

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