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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On Bent Knee

July 1, 2016

In 1973 I decided to propose to Mrs. C.  I sought out the perfect spot to ask her to marry me, and finally made reservations at a restaurant in Sausalito reputed to have a beautiful view of San Francisco across the Bay. I knew Mrs. C. would enjoy the illuminated skyline of her favorite city. The restaurant, William A. Sterlington, was everything I’d hoped for—I couldn’t imagine a more romantic setting to pop the question. The restaurant was elegant, with linen tablecloths and upholstered chairs, and there were so many ferns and flowers that it was like eating in a botanical garden. I spotted an old portrait on one wall. William A. Sterlington? If so, what had this winking dandy with piggish features done to merit having his face stare down at us?

 

We were seated at the table by a window with a spectacular view. Our meal was superb, and the service was impeccable, but something wasn’t right. Something was gnawing at me. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. At first I thought it was just nerves as I got ready to pop the big question, but then I noticed people from other tables stealing glances at us. I figured it must be obvious what was about to happen and everyone was waiting for a proposal show, but this didn’t explain why our fellow diners looked so irritated. That was when I realized I was the only guy in the crowded eatery with a woman. In fact, there weren’t any females in sight, other than Mrs. C. Now I knew what William A. Sterlington was winking about.

    

Of all the places I could have selected for this all-important moment, I’d picked a restaurant that catered exclusively to…men

    

I didn’t want to pop the question in enemy territory. We finished our meal and went out into the chilly night air. After guiding Mrs. C. to an empty patio on the side of the restaurant, I ignored the dampness and knelt down on one knee in a puddle. I produced the ring, a modest thing. My heart was trip hammering in my chest when I asked her to marry me.

    

She beamed with happiness as she said, “Yes.” And she looked thrilled when I placed the ring on her finger. I doubt, however, that any of this came as a surprise since women are always two steps ahead of men when it comes to this stuff. But she seemed to truly love the little diamond that, to me, looked pathetically insignificant before the galaxy of glittering lights erupting from the San Francisco skyline. 

 

 

 

    

We hurried home so she could show the ring to her parents. Even though it was late, they were up and waiting with a bottle of champagne to celebrate the event. Mrs. C’s mom passed the glasses around and we toasted our future.

    

Then Mr. P. made an interesting offer. “I don’t know what you kids have in mind as far as a wedding is concerned, but I’ll give you a choice. You can have a big, fancy wedding at our country club, or I’ll give you a ladder and three thousand dollars so you two can elope.”

    

Thanks to her dad, a few days later my fiancée and I had our first major argument. She opted for the fancy wedding. I proved I wasn’t the romantic she’d hoped for when I chose the ladder and three thousand dollars.

    

That ladder never had a chance.

 

 

 

 Some of you have asked about Mr. P. and I've included his picture. He was a great guy and a wonderful father-in-law

    

 

 

Where were you when you asked, or were asked, that all important question? Was it romantic? Care to share…?  

 

 

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Comments

22 Comments
Oh what a darling story- and you father-in-law looks like a sweet man! One evening when R and I were out for pizza he asked me what I was doing for the rest of my life and I replied "Having fun" .He asked "So, how about you have fun with me" - Now he still claims that was NOT a proposal. I took it as such and immediately said "OK!" When he realized what I had thought- he went along with it as he realized asking me that question was the best thing he ever did. 26 years later we are still having fun- we are so very lucky! Happy days to you and Mrs C!
By: Kathe W. on July 1, 2016
Wonderful story! Did Mrs. C. ever notice anything odd about the restaurant?
By: Botanist on July 1, 2016
The other diners may have thought Mrs. C was one of them in drag!!
By: fishducky on July 1, 2016
This is so romantic if I can gush for a moment and funny since you were in a gay bar. Most women would go for the actual wedding u less it's their 2nd time then one gets more practical. My first husband asked me I a very nice restaurant but I knew it was coming because I kind of orchestrated it. He never initiated anything and never thought of anything like this...hmmmm he is my ex now. My current hubby??? I'm still waiting:)
By: Birgit on July 1, 2016
No matter what, i'm glad it turned out so well!
By: messymimi on July 1, 2016
Oh how funny but you recouped nicely. Considering the longevity of your marriage, I'd say it was handled perfectly.
By: Arkansas Patti on July 1, 2016
how cute. and fitting that he caused your first argument. :)
By: TexWisGirl on July 1, 2016
I love that story! We sort of asked each other (in that we each think we did the asking - ha!). It was kind of weird - one minute we were dating & the next we were talking about "when we're married..." Our ring story is funny though. We were in school three hours from our parents, but we decided to purchase my ring at a jewelry store near them. It was on layaway for a while. One day Mike decided he needed a part for the lawn mower, and again, instead of getting the part near where we went to school, he decided to go across the state to a familiar hardware store. And while we were at it, we paid off my ring & went around & showed the family. Ha!
By: The Bug on July 1, 2016
I was sitting on the couch in my townhouse, across the parking lot from Hick's one-bedroom apartment. He was in the matching armchair, and asked if I'd like to be Mrs. Hick. Our wedding was an intimate affair, at my mom's church, with just my mom, dad, and grandmas present. My choice. On the Thursday before Thanksgiving. My parents DID buy us a nice refrigerator, though, to put in my $17,000 house!
By: Val on July 1, 2016
Stephen-that is a wonderful story and a beautiful proposal. You know that room full of men may have enjoyed the drama, but I understand your plan B. I actually got on my knee as well and asked though we had not yet purchased a ring. We announced it at a family Christmas eve party.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 1, 2016
Great story! And I'd say that in most cases, the big fancy wedding will win. Of course, in our case, my in-laws gave us a saw and a $3000 check when we came back from Las Vegas. Came in very handy for the house that we were building at the time.
By: Pixel Peeper on July 1, 2016
I wish I had been as creative as you Stephen. R
By: Rick Watson on July 1, 2016
Great story! My proposal came in the traditional way--at dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. The ring was on top of a cake loaded with sparklers!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on July 1, 2016
Funny. Had the offer been made, Mrs. Penwasser would have opted for the ladder/elope thing. Or not be married at all. But, that's another story.
By: Al Penwasser on July 1, 2016
Great story. Nowadays all too often the most common proposal starts with, "You're what??" (Not me :)
By: scott park on July 2, 2016
Weddings always matter more to women than men. I'm puzzled about the restaurant. Was it a kind of men's club like the stuffy British ones? Or was it all gay? It seems a long time ago for there to be a gay restaurant, although it IS San Fran. Most gay guys I know wouldn't want that level of fancy, white-glove food and service. Well, at least it all worked out. :)
By: Lexa Cain on July 2, 2016
I wrote about that scene in my book - Bodega Bay, and it was very romantic. That's very kind of your father-in-law. And like Lexa said, the wedding is for the bride (in theory). Mine was for the guests; things never go as planned. Happy Holiday weekend!
By: Robyn Engel on July 2, 2016
Wonderful story! As for me, one day I'm the elegible bachelor on the ski slopes and the next I'm married. I'm still not sure how it came about...:)
By: Sage on July 2, 2016
Great story, Stephen, and it looks like things have worked out for you and Mrs. C. As far as Mrs. Shife and I go, I popped the question at my sister's wedding. I asked them for permission as it was one of the few times we would be around my family as they live in the Midwest and we don't. It was pretty cool being able to ask in front of my family and they were all shocked because no one knew except me, my Mom and my sister. Good times. And that was 17 years ago. Smartest decision of my life.
By: Mr. Shife on July 2, 2016
Beautiful, beautiful story. Thank you very much. for sharing it with us. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on July 3, 2016
Didn't guess the punchline about the restaurant! made me laugh ! :D
By: Jenny woolf on July 3, 2016
You're a romantic at heart. :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 3, 2016

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