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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Learning How to Share

March 28, 2016

Last week I shared my expertise as a successful pie eating contestant. I mentioned that I was never selected for sports competitions and had no sports accomplishments to speak of. After reading my post, Mrs. Chatterbox reminded me of a time when I did manage to win a sports competition. Many of you will have celebrated far more memorable moments of athletic prowess, but this is all I have so I’ll cherish it as much as possible.


The event in question took place at a street party to celebrate the Fourth of July, back when our son CJ was six. In Portland, the Fourth is often dreary, but on this occasion the day was clear and sunny, if not warm. Mrs. Chatterbox’s parents had recently moved to the Northwest to be near us and enjoy their grandson, and it was their neighborhood that threw the block party. We were invited to the street party because we often spent time in the neighborhood visiting Mrs. C’s parents.


Hot dogs and hamburgers were grilled, and after everyone had munched to their hearts’ content, a game of basketball free throw was arranged for all the dads. Never one to do well at sports, I tried to weasel out of it but was coerced into participating. The basketball hoop was attached to a house above a garage door and we each got three throws from the end of the driveway. Several dads had already sunk two throws when my turn arrived.


I bounced the ball a few times on the pavement in an attempt to convince onlookers I knew what I was doing, and then launched the ball at the hoop. To my complete surprise, the basketball sailed through the air and swooshed through the net without touching the rim.


When my second throw did the same, a few of the fathers nodded and looked at me with what I took for new-found respect. But I received applause when my third throw also dropped through the net.


I couldn’t believe it! All three of my throws hit the mark—that’s probably a marksman term instead of basketball but the point of all this is that I’ve never been interested in sports and was never good at them.


As the winner of the basketball free-throw contest, I was awarded a box of dominoes. I didn’t have a clue how to play dominoes but I accepted my prize with enthusiasm since it was the closest thing to a sports trophy I’d ever won.


A wrinkle came when little CJ ran up and said, “Daddy, those dominoes look like fun. Can I have them? Pleeeeze?”


I studied the box of dominoes I’d won, the only athletic prize I was ever likely to receive. I glanced into the eyes of a son eager to open that box of dominoes and play with them.


“I think I’ll hold on to them for a while,” I said.


“But Daddy, you have to give them to me because I asked nicely, and even said pleeeeze.”


Mrs. Chatterbox was listening to this exchange and gave me the stink eye. “For goodness’ sakes, don’t be a big baby. Give your son those dominoes!”


So I did. A dozen kids played with those dominoes the rest of the afternoon. When I went to gather them up half were missing. I never learned to play dominoes, never again won an athletic competition, and it was a long time before I again shared my toys.


I’ve heard it said that athletic competition inspires good sportsmanship and builds character. Screw that. I want my dominoes back.







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You're not only clever and skilled but you possess a finely tuned memory. Wonder why this magnificent display of athleticism fell through the cracks. It took Mrs. Chatterbox to remind you of your accomplishment. Hmm?
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 28, 2016
Hilarious story- does CJ remember this event also? His afternoon of sharing Daddy's Dominoes most likely outweighs you still having them! And where the heck did you find that elephant playing basketball? Priceless! Have a great week!
By: Kathe W. on March 28, 2016
I have never learned how to play Dominoes. Congratulations though on winning a sports competition. I will never have the glory you won on that day.
By: Michael Offutt on March 28, 2016
You were in the zone. I was never good at basketball, but every once and a while just doing a shoot around, I would get in a zone where everything went in and i knew everything would go in. Just as I thought I could probably turn pro I couldn't even hit the backboard. The zone, sometimes gone as fast as it comes. You should have taken one domino and framed it with an inscription memorializing your great victory.
By: cranky on March 28, 2016
Dominoes is only fun when you get to knock them all over.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 28, 2016
I played baseball when I was a kid and once was on a team of youngsters in which I pitched a no-hitter! Unfortunately, I was about a year older than all the other players and the infield and outfield was littered with errors. We lost the game something like 5 to 1. I retired.
By: Catalyst on March 28, 2016
You lots of twists and turns in this story. You didn't say that you were happy that the kids had a good time with your prize.
By: red Kline on March 28, 2016
Boy did you get lucky on the 3 throws. Even seasoned players don't always hit their mark. As for the dominoes...not the most fun game so you didn't miss a thing. The memory of doing that is the real prize.
By: Cheryl P. on March 28, 2016
If I had your address I would send you a box of Dominoes.
By: Tabor on March 28, 2016
3 for 3 is very impressive! Watching the NCAA Tourney I explained to Lana there is something positively exquisite about shooting a perfect shot. Often you know the moment of release from your finger tips when the ball has eyes for nothing but net! Feeling it go, seeing it arch and then swishing the next is one of sports greatest feelings. Seems like you retired from basketball at an appropriate moment.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 28, 2016
Remember what George Eliot said, Steve: It's never to late to be what you might have been. You have a garage. Get that hoop installed. I'll lend you my basketball.
By: Jo Barney on March 28, 2016
You see, winning did nothing for you. It's better to lose. Builds character.
By: Tom Sightings on March 28, 2016
Screw the dominoes. I would have bought a lottery ticket that day.
By: Pixel Peeper on March 28, 2016
Thank goodness the prize was not a switchblade.
By: Val on March 28, 2016
Sharing was a very kind thing to do, you should be proud of yourself, and you should have simply framed the box lid as a reminder.
By: messymimi on March 28, 2016
Congratulations. I've never succeeded at any sport in any fashion, unless you consider sex a sport. I seem to be good at that. You can go get some more dominoes and pretend they are the originals. It's not hard to play dominoes, either. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 28, 2016
That's okay---you'll always know that you were king for the day on the basketball court....
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on March 28, 2016
A great story and well done!
By: John on March 29, 2016
you may not be athletic but as an artist you have great hand eye coordination, the skill that allowed you to sink three in a row.
By: Ellen Abbott on March 29, 2016
What a fun story. Like Cranky said, you were definitely in the "zone" that day. I had that happen once in high school. What a cool feeling. I'll bet if you had been able to keep your dominoes, you wouldn't have had to be reminded of that day.
By: Arkansas Patti on March 29, 2016
Great story. Now go out and buy yourself some dominoes!
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on March 29, 2016
What a hoot. I could see this one. R
By: Rick Watson on March 29, 2016
Great story - and I loved the ending. Dominoes is a lot like "Go Fish" as I recall. Not very exciting. So ... let it go, let it gooooo...
By: jenny_o on March 29, 2016
Well congrats on your basketball skills, and my condolences to the dominos. Maybe that is why you weren't destined for athletic fame as all of the accolades and awards would have been too much of a burden as CJ would want them all and it would have just drove the family apart. I'm glad you shared though and it was for the best probably. You didn't need all that fame and glory to go to your head.
By: Mr. Shife on March 29, 2016

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