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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Motoring with the Chatterbox

April 27, 2016

Our son CJ just informed me that my vehicle needs four new tires. I was reminded of his guest post from 2011, where he describes what it was like buying a car for me.

 

 

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People have referred to me as a “Car Whisperer,” a term I am not particularly fond of; I don’t have conversations with cars. Well, that’s not entirely true. I may thank my car from time to time when it completes a particularly arduous task like towing a trailer or getting me home safe in the snow or pouring rain. I might also utter a colorful metaphor from time to time as I repair and maintain my cars in a rainy driveway. This isn’t, however, a story about my love for cars. It’s a tale about how my love and understanding of cars led one father to ask his son to meet his four wheel needs.

           

If you’ve been reading my father’s blog for any length of time you’ve undoubtedly come to realize he is a wonderful storyteller. His imagination and zest for life make him the life of the party and the source of endless laughter and contemplation. While he is a great many things, a car person he is not. I once scolded him in my early teen years for not changing the oil in his car for three years. His rebuttal to my scolding was:

           

“Well, it hasn’t been 3,000 miles yet.”

           

“Dad, it’s three months or 3,000 miles,” I said.

           

“Well, I simply don’t see the difference. Speaking of distance, did you know that every road once led directly to Rome?”

           

This is how conversations usually go with Dad; mechanics has never been a common ground for us. I appreciate him for his many talents and gifts and he appreciates me for mine. This is why when he needed to buy a car he came to me. 

           

The request started out simple enough. He didn’t want a new car. He didn’t care about them enough to make payments, and he didn’t want to spend over $7000.00. For him, a car was about getting from point A to B. He told me he did some of his best daydreaming behind the wheel so this vehicle needed to be as safe as a Sherman tank. So, on a Fall day I swung by the house to talk to him about what he wanted:

           

“Do you have an idea what you’d like?” I asked.

           

“Not really,” said Dad. “Just take into consideration everything you know about me and buy the perfect car.”

           

“Can you give me a bit more info to go on?” I asked.

           

“Well, I want it to feel big in every way, but actually be small.”

           

“Ok….What about options? Do you care about power windows or air conditioning? How about a CD player?”

           

“Hmmm, I hadn’t thought about that. I’d like it to have windows, and I suppose AM radio would be nice.”

           

“Dad, all cars have windows and AM radio is not really a cutting edge option.”

           

“Did you know that AM radio was invented by—”

           

“Dad, stop!  We’re here to talk about what you need in a car so I can find one for you.”

           

“Right. Well it should get good gas mileage, but have plenty of power.”

           

“So you want something with lots of power, but something that gets good mileage? That might be tough to find.”

           

“That’s why I came to you, my boy! Also, I want to like it, but hate it too.”

           

“What does that mean?”

           

“I don’t want to worry about it getting scratched or dinged, but I want to like the way it looks.”

           

I sighed as I realized the only car that could satisfy my father might be the one he painted with his imagination brush.

           

“Ok, what about color?”

           

“Anything but white!”

           

“Ok, simple enough.”

           

“And not bright red.  Definitely no green. And probably not yellow or black either.  Perhaps  alizarin crimson or azure.”

           

“I’m not an artist, Dad, so in plain terms what are alizarin crimson and azure?”

           

“Burgundy and sky blue.”

           

“So you want a big and small car with windows, lots of power, something that gets great mileage and is the color of dark red wine or the sky?”

           

“I knew I called the right person for the job!” Dad exclaimed. “Remember, keep it around $7,000. Cheaper would be better.”

           

I sighed again and set off to locate the perfect vehicle for my father. I scoured the Internet for cars and eventually called on a late 90’s Toyota RAV4. It had just over 100,000 miles and was advertised in “Good condition.” I headed out on a crisp Fall day to inspect the RAV4. When I arrived, I saw that it was quite dirty. This was a good sign as spotless used cars are usually clean for a reason….to distract you from issues lurking beneath their glistening hoods. The woman who owned the RAV4 said she was selling it to buy a new car and she hadn’t had any trouble with it. I crawled under the car and checked it from top to bottom while Fall leaves blew around me. It had been well maintained, and was dark burgundy—one of Dad’s color choices. The owner was asking $7000 but I snapped it up for $6,300. Back home I gave it a tune-up and thorough cleaning. A death metal CD was in the stereo and I removed it, assuming Dad wouldn’t rock out during daydreaming sessions. I called him that afternoon and told him I’d spent all of his money.

           

“You found something already?” he said. “It hasn’t even been twenty-four hours! Wow, I knew you’d be fast, but that’s the quickest I’ve ever lost $7,000.”

           

“You didn’t lose anything,” I answered, indignantly. “You got a great car for $6,300.”

           

“So where’s my $700?”

           

“I used it to give the car a full tune-up. It’s ready to go and should last for years.”

           

Later that week, Dad came to pick up the RAV4. I could see on his face that he loved it. It’s been five years now since I bought my dad his RAV. It fired up dutifully for us at the airport a while back when we returned to the stormy Pacific Northwest from Cancun. Dad affectionately refers to it as his rig and I expect he will drive it for the next twenty years. 

           

When he recently found out I got some free death metal music out of the deal he said, “So where’s this CD?  After all, I paid for it.”

           

“But Dad, if you knew what death metal music sounded like you’d hate it.”

           

“Maybe I’d surprise you.”

 

Give me a break! The man still digs Barry Manilow.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, CJ, and thanks to all of you for asking how he's doing after his aneurysm surgery. He's back to work and doing fine.

 

 

 

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Comments

26 Comments
Glad he's doing great now. I don't think I could car shop for you. I would've kept the death metal CD though. And listened to it.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on April 27, 2016
All roads may lead to Rome, but...all road also lead FROM Rome. I hope I have blown your mind. Love that Manilow.
By: Al Penwasser on April 27, 2016
Love the story! I need a CJ in my life when it's time to buy our next car.
By: The Bug on April 27, 2016
Your C. J. tells a story as well as his dad!!
By: fishducky on April 27, 2016
Well done CJ. Your ability to change a subject into a dissertation of useless facts reminds me of my friend Frog.
By: cranky on April 27, 2016
That should be "your dads ability..."
By: cranky on April 27, 2016
The apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 27, 2016
Well I can tell right off that he is his father's son, for sure! I keep my vehicles until they die..but I am way pickier and would probably not be happy with anything my kids could pick out. Love this story!
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on April 27, 2016
Glad to hear he's doing well. I have a SIL with similar talents. He can somehow come up with the absolute best softly used cars for the best price. Nice to have someone like that in the family.
By: scott park on April 27, 2016
glad that your son is doing well, great news
By: Denise on April 27, 2016
Fun post. There's nothing wrong with Barry... in small quantities. :-) Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on April 27, 2016
CJ writes just like his Dad!
By: red Kline on April 27, 2016
A great and enjoyable post. So pleased to read that CJ's health is good and that he's back at work.
By: Tom Cochrun on April 27, 2016
That's a great post and a great looking car, too. I think it will last 20 years more.
By: Bruce Taylor on April 27, 2016
You are your father's son. I thank God every day that my son is an auto mechanic. My daughter is a mathematician. I kind of think that auto mechanic is more important. A Ph.D. in cars should be bestowed upon you. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on April 27, 2016
When i need my next car, could i call you? All i care about it an engine that makes all four wheels go the same direction at the same time, an A/C, and a radio!
By: messymimi on April 27, 2016
CJ picked out a great rig for you!
By: Val on April 27, 2016
Great story from CJ! And glad to hear he's doing well.
By: jenny_o on April 27, 2016
What a great story. Dang, Chris has got the gift for storytelling too. R
By: Rick Watson on April 28, 2016
Wow, CJ is awesome. Does he hire out? He took your vague requests and bought you a jewel. Not only that, he is a great story teller like his dad.
By: Arkansas Patti on April 28, 2016
Well, that apple does not fall far from the tree. You both are too cute!
By: Tabor on April 28, 2016
loved this view from the other side of knowing you. :)
By: TexWisGirl on April 28, 2016
It takes skill to buy the right car...and more skill to buy the right car for someone else. Somehow it doesn't surprise me that CJ has this skill. Glad to hear he is back to work!
By: Pixel Peeper on April 28, 2016
Barry Manilow! That's worrying. CJ seems to know you very well indeed. I'm glad you loved his choice in cars! I would never let anyone choose a car for me!
By: LL Cool Joe on April 29, 2016
Glad to hear he's doing well and this is a great story!
By: Sage on April 29, 2016
He's hired to find us our next car! Russell would want the Death Metal CD and I would hurl it out the window that opened! Good to hear that CJ is doing well!
By: Kathe W. on April 29, 2016

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