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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Not What It Seems

September 6, 2013
Mrs. Chatterbox and I lived from paycheck to paycheck for several years after relocating to Portland, Oregon. Good fortune came our way one summer when Mrs. C. won the raffle at her company’s annual picnic—an all expense paid vacation to the Sunriver Resort in Central Oregon. We flew on a private plane to a small landing strip outside of Bend. When we landed it was evening; the setting sun was tipping the distant mountains purple and a large owl skirted a nearby meadow, hunting for dinner. We piled our luggage into a waiting rental car and headed for the resort.

     

We drove up a curving road that bisected a fenced pasture. There we spotted something that disturbed us for most of our stay. Several buzzards were perched on a fence, and lying in the grass a dozen yards away we glimpsed the remains of a white horse. I hadn’t seen many horses, never a dead one, and the image was startling. My brain snapped a photo of it and that picture continued to develop in my mind, intruding on the vacation we could ill afford and so desperately needed.
     

We spent five days hiking, and swimming and canoeing in the Deschutes River, but finally it was time to fly home to Portland. While returning to the airport we again drove past the site of that grisly scene. I wondered how much of the horse those buzzards had consumed, or if someone had loaded the carcass onto a truck and disposed of it. When we rounded the curve in the road I quickly noticed that the buzzards were still there, but they weren’t alone. Standing nearby and looking anything but dead, was that white horse! He seemed to be smiling and saying “Gotcha!” as he chewed on a piece of grass.
     

I frequently think of that horse when I’m inclined to jump to conclusions—things are often not what they seem.

   

 



Comments

24 Comments
Well that's a good lesson for all of us!
By: The Bug on September 6, 2013
That's happened to me with a horse and a cow. Apparently, possums aren't the only ones who can play dead~
By: Shelly on September 6, 2013
Did you hear the story about the woman that fell to her death in the Grand Canyon? A rail gave way. By the time her family got to the bottom over an hour had passed and the buzzards had picked her body completely clean of flesh. Only bones remained.
By: Michael Offutt on September 6, 2013
So cute. But I'm jealous ... I've never won anything in my life. Once I won some money at a church raffle; but I lost it all and then some before the end of the day.
By: tom sightings on September 6, 2013
It's a miracle! That horse must be the Messiah of horses.
By: PT Dilloway on September 6, 2013
And it took some of the luster off your vacation, cause you are such a mush (I mean that in a good way) interesting story with a good lesson. There is a "don't beat a dead horse joke" in there somewhere, but I've got nothing.
By: Cranky on September 6, 2013
Ironic that the horse was white.
By: David Walston on September 6, 2013
such a great parable for life. You're a goodie. Have a great weekend, Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on September 6, 2013
You surprised me!!
By: fishducky on September 6, 2013
The horse was playing 'possum!
By: mimi on September 6, 2013
I'm so relieved. You had me worried. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 6, 2013
He must have been giving them the big horse laugh!
By: Catalyst/Bruce on September 6, 2013
Great story. Great lesson. Happy Ending. Perfect.
By: Mitchell Is Moving on September 6, 2013
It sounded a great vacation, Stephen. I'm glad the horse was ok too, it was a happy ending.
By: Sharon Bradshaw on September 6, 2013
yup, i've had to walk out into the pasture a time or two to check on my old gray mare to see if she was breathing. :)
By: TexWisGirl on September 6, 2013
Thank goodness, you saw the horse before leaving the area. It might of stuck with you for awhile in a negative way. I hate to see animals that have died or been killed. Wow, what a nice win as far as the trip goes. Is Mrs. C prone to be lucky like that?
By: Cheryl P. on September 6, 2013
I drove one of my teaching buddies through a shortcut noted for rusty mobile homes, houses with tar paper flapping from the never-sided walls, plywood boards blistering on roofs for lack of shingles, with cars on blocks out front. "I can't believe people live this way," she said. "Look. They don't even care enough to drag their dead dog out of the road!" Just then the old hound heaved himself to his feet and mosied onto the dirt where a lawn should have been.
By: Val on September 6, 2013
Well, I expected a totally different ending. But good for the horse. About 25 years ago, I won the grand prize at a company picnic. It was a set of cooking pots and pans. I still cook with them.
By: Pixel Peeper on September 6, 2013
Your conclusion is very true. Many times people jump to conclusions or their logic fails and you have the wrong conclusion.
By: Red on September 6, 2013
That's a relief. Too bad it bothered you through so much of your holiday. Though I suppose the buzzards wouldn't have been sitting on the fence if it was truly dead.
By: Hilary on September 6, 2013
Interesting. I have never stopped living from paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, neither have I won a vacation.
By: AC on September 7, 2013
I suppose the horse had a sense of humour... or was it a Twilight Zone moment?
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 7, 2013
Wise words as always. Clearly, buzzards and horses are best of mates, collaborating in a practical joke!
By: Bryan Jones on September 10, 2013
A most interesting story with a great conclusion.
By: John on September 11, 2013

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