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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Mystery Box

February 1, 2017

This reworked post is from 2012

           

The box looked like it had been constructed in a hurry, even to my twelve year old eyes, It was rough and unpolished and made of cheap plywood, six panels forming a twenty-four inch cube. Little care had gone into the construction; the sides had been roughly screwed together and there were no hinges or latches to indicate an opening. Nothing was written on it and there was no way to glimpse inside without tearing it apart.

           

When I was growing up, the box collected dust in our garage. Its only official purpose was to serve as a pedestal for the short and stout Christmas trees that my parents preferred. In December the wooden box was lugged from the garage, brushed off and gussied up with a white sheet; only then could our tree be positioned on it. Over the years, the plywood cube came to smell like Christmas.

           

The box had unofficial functions; sometimes it served as a pedestal for neighborhood kids to stand on when we played “statue.” Or it would end up as the cornerstone for the forts we built from stacking stuff in our garage. Whenever I asked my parents what was inside it, the answer was inevitably the same: “Nothing important.”      

           

I was a persistent pest. “C’mon, Dad, tell me; where did the box come from?”

 

Dad finally ‘fessed up. He ran a hand through his creosote hair. “I made it”

           

“What’s inside, Dad? C’mon, tell me…”

           

At first I didn’t think he was going to answer, but he said, “Inside are papers and photographs.”

           

“Anything from the war?”

 

“A few things.”

           

When I asked about “the war,” I meant World War II. The Korean War should have been fresher in everyone’s minds, but the Koreans and Chinese never captured my imagination like the Nazis. Defamed in film and vilified on many a TV program, they were deliciously evil, and as a small kid I relished being terrified by them. David, my grumpy older brother, liked to taunt me with the fact that they never actually caught Hitler. He swore the Nazi leader escaped to somewhere in South America, then fled to California where he was hiding out as a school janitor. Because of my brother, I always kept a wary eye on mustachioed Mr. Mestemacher as he shuffled along our school’s corridors with his push broom in hand.

 

“What kind of war stuff, Dad?” I knew he’d served in the Pacific, had joined the Navy at eighteen and had been shipped off to Guam. “Is there a Japanese flag in there? A chunk of airplane from a kamikaze?”

           

“Nothing like that.”

           

His reluctance to talk about the box only stoked my imagination. With pretend X-ray vision I conjured weapons of war, pirate’s booty and, on more than one occasion, fragments of a radioactive element from the home planet I shared with Superman—Kryptonite. The mysterious box was the depository where I stored my fantasies and heart’s desires.

 

One day I was hanging out in our garage with my best friend Ricky Delgado. His attention settled on the dusty box. We’d talked about it before. “I think it’s time to see what’s inside,” he said.

 

“Dad says it’s full of papers and old pictures.”

 

“And you believed him?”

 

“Of course.” I’d never known Dad to lie.

 

Ricky let out a long, “Hmmmmm…”

           

“Hmmm, what?” I replied.

 

“It’s just that he went to a lot of trouble building a wooden box just to store crummy papers and pictures in. He could have stored those in a shoe or cigar box.”

 

That was certainly true.

 

“Why don’t we grab a screwdriver and peek inside?”

 

I shook my head. “I’ll catch hell if we get caught.”

 

“Why? Did your parents tell you not to open it?”

           

“No, but I really don’t think we should—”

 

“You got a screwdriver around here?” Ricky asked, his eyes darting over to Dad’s workbench.

           

I picked up a screwdriver, and wavered before opening the box. I couldn’t count all the

times I’d gotten into trouble because of Ricky Delgado, but after so much imagining I was suddenly busting to peek inside.

           

The screws didn’t come out easily and my shirt was damp and sticking to me by the time I removed one of the plywood panels and caught a glimpse of what was really inside. A seismic event was about to take place, a discovery that would shake my world nearly as much as when I learned the truth about Santa Claus.

 

Conclusion on Friday

 

 

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Comments

23 Comments
I can't wait!
By: Mitchell is Moving on February 1, 2017
Oh man! I have to wait until Friday? This is cruel:) I am always someone that needs to know what is inside anything and I am a lover of old photos and letters so this must have been amazing for you.
By: Birgit on February 1, 2017
ooo, mean trick.
By: Ellen Abbott on February 1, 2017
A tantalizing teaser from a west coast dreamer, artist and writer.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 1, 2017
I thought I'd read this before, but I can't remember what's in the box. I guess I'll find out Friday.
By: PT Dilloway on February 1, 2017
Seriously? A cliffhanger?? What a way to make sure your readers return!! ;)
By: Kelly on February 1, 2017
Those cliff hangers (which have the most exciting edges) get me every time!
By: Tabor on February 1, 2017
Wait until Friday. So cruel. But I'll be back!
By: The Broad on February 1, 2017
What? What was in it!!!?
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on February 1, 2017
I want to go back and peek at 2012 posts, but I'll wait.....dang!
By: Kathe W. on February 1, 2017
I remember this post, but I don't remember what was in the box. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on February 1, 2017
What ? Friday? No, we need to know now! :-) Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on February 1, 2017
Even if it's a story you've told before, i always look forward to the next part.
By: messymimi on February 1, 2017
Holy crap, you did it to me again. I'm tempted to go through all your 2012 posts but I will wait--maybe. See ya Friday.
By: Arkansas Patti on February 1, 2017
You've set the hook!
By: Tom Cochrun on February 1, 2017
I wish it were Friday!!
By: fishducky on February 1, 2017
You're doing it again. stopping your story when it becomes very interesting and I'm making all kinds of predictions as to what's inside. The"I've been in trouble before adds a little darkness to this.
By: red Kline on February 1, 2017
Interesting story well told, and i didn't wit for friday...don't you just love the internet.
By: cranky on February 1, 2017
Awww ... you tease, Stephen!
By: Botanist on February 1, 2017
As with many others, I remember this story, but not what was in the box! I will not be like cranky Joe and go back to read ahead. That's going to go on his permanent record!
By: Val on February 1, 2017
Oh, you rat!
By: Catalyst on February 2, 2017
Can't wait to learn what was in the box! Hey, when you get a chance, stop by my site----I mention your blog and added your link. :)
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on February 2, 2017
That RIcky is such a little devil. LOL!
By: Lexa Cain on February 3, 2017

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