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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Night Shift

May 2, 2014

Not long ago our son CJ was scheduled for a graveyard shift at our local police department where he’s a records specialist. This got me thinking about the only time I worked graveyard, back in the early 70s during a break from college. My mother worked at the Almaden bottling plant in Los Gatos, California, and she pulled a few strings to get me a job, just as she had for my older brother a few years earlier.

    

I showed up for work my first evening and was assigned to a wiry little Italian man around sixty. He didn’t speak much English. He guided me to a conveyor belt that rose to the top of the two story warehouse and disappeared into an opening near the ceiling on the far side of the building around two hundred yards away. Pallets of boxes were stacked near the conveyor belt and he showed me what to do; my job was to grab a box from the pallets, flip it over removing the four empty one gallon bottles inside and place the now empty box on the ever-moving conveyor belt. The bottles were picked up by someone else and sent to be washed. To get me started my boss stuffed the conveyor belt, filling it with boxes all the way to the top. Then he left to tend to other tasks.

    

At first things went smoothly, but before long my back was screaming and gaps were appearing between boxes on the belt. When my boss returned there were twenty foot gaps on the line. He smiled at me, as he probably did all the soft college kids who worked summers in the bottling plant. Without saying a word, he became a blur of motion, slapping boxes on that conveyor belt with remarkable efficiency and speed. He even double-stacked a few rows. Then he left again.

    

I did my best to keep up but that belt kept moving and the boxes became heavier, the space between them growing wider and wider until my boss returned again to load the belt with rapid-fire dexterity. This went on until dawn, at which point I punched out and drove home.

    

Around ten that next morning I woke and tried to climb out of bed. I couldn’t. My back screamed in agony, my hands were red and blistered and my fingers couldn’t bend or clench into fists. I rolled out of bed and landed on the floor. As I lay there feeling incredibly sorry for myself, wondering how that old Italian could summon the strength to do a job that was killing me, I realized that performing manual labor for a living wasn’t for me. Up until then I hadn’t taken my college education very seriously, but now I was determined to work hard and get my diploma. Anything was better than physical labor. 

    

Even studying. 

 

 

 

   



Comments

22 Comments
Lucky you to get life's lesson when it was useful!!
By: Tabor on May 2, 2014
Yay think maybe Momma Chatterbox had just that lesson planned when she arranged for you to take that job?
By: Oma Linda on May 2, 2014
Thanks I must get both my daughters to work in a factory doing manual labour for a couple weeks, then maybe they'd focus more on their studies!
By: LL Cool Joe on May 2, 2014
whether your Mom planned that lesson or not- at least you were a fast learner if not a fast manual labourer....how long did you do that job or was one night enough?!
By: Kathe W. on May 2, 2014
I had a similar job one summer at the Heublein plant in Menlo Park.
By: (not necessarily your) Uncle Skip on May 2, 2014
:)
By: TexWisGirl on May 2, 2014
You're right. Manual labor is hard, miserable work, but thank God there are people willing to do it. I see carpenters, brick masons, plumbers, electricians, etc all day long and I'm so grateful for them and the work they do.
By: Scott Park on May 2, 2014
It was summers in the hayfields, throwing thousands of bales, that convinced my Sweetie of the same thing.
By: mimi on May 2, 2014
Why do I keep thinking of Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory?
By: Val on May 2, 2014
Oh my, you reminded me of my worst job ever when I was going to college. You are right , it really makes one appreciate an education.
By: Akansas Patti on May 2, 2014
You are so right! I've had desk jobs and physical labor jobs----I'll choose the desk job anytime!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on May 2, 2014
I guess I'm not the only one who had visions of Lucy and Ethel! I grew up on a farm, exposed to hard, physical labor...and my brothers and sisters and I all decided that it was not for us.
By: Pixel Peeper on May 2, 2014
I'm sure your experience has happened millions of times. Now I have to hear the rest of the story and if you stayed for the whole summer.
By: red on May 2, 2014
I think your mother is a smart woman. ;)
By: Hilary on May 2, 2014
I've never had a factory job, but I worked in my share of fast food joints - and some of those were after my college graduation. Yeah, that diploma did me a lot of good. :P
By: Lexa Cain on May 3, 2014
Nothing like a small dose of reality and hard labor to light a fire under the ol' caboose, huh? Very cool story! I could probably write about my experience with telemarketing...ugh. HATED IT!
By: Carrie on May 3, 2014
We take for granted how hard much of the world works to bring home food, and to a home that's flimsy with no table. I think I worked 1/2 day on a temp job like that before I called it quits. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on May 3, 2014
I just came off a weekend working at our church rummage sale -- moving boxes, shouldering furniture, hefting bags of clothes. Oh, my aching back ... and I thought I was retired!
By: Tom Sightings on May 4, 2014
I did a one-month stint in a Costco warehouse (pre-sunrise shift). What was I thinking?!?
By: Mitchell is Moving on May 5, 2014
I had a couple of summer jobs that kept my nose to the books too! One was in a laundry & the other one was in a warehouse where I had to stamp the state tax on cigarette packs. Both jobs involved standing all day - ugh!
By: The Bug on May 5, 2014
A valuable lesson.
By: John on May 9, 2014
My first job out of school was in the accounting department of a factory that made filing boxes. The people that worked on the production lines were amazing but I realized that it was really hard and monotonous.
By: Cheryl P. on May 13, 2014

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