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


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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Out of Hell

October 31, 2013

I don’t normally post on Thursdays and I don’t usually post fiction, but here’s a fun story to celebrate the holiday.  




A shiver runs through me when I think back to the time when Tammy, my wife of five years, came to the conclusion that the gray tabby who’d lived contentedly with us since we bought her on our honeymoon, was lonely. Tammy convinced me that Sausalito, “Saucy” needed another feline to keep her company. On Halloween of ’79 we decided to purchase a kitten.


We soon discovered it wasn’t the right season for kittens. We were about to give up our search when we spotted a Siamese kitten for sale in the classifieds. We called the number and were invited over.


The breeder’s residence was a normal looking house, at least I remember it that way. The silver-haired husband and wife selling the kitten appeared normal as they ushered us into plush chairs in the living room. As we made ourselves comfortable two stunning Siamese cats pranced across the room in perfect unison, reminding me of the reason ancient Egyptians worshipped felines. They settled on the hearth and glared at us as if we were the ones about to be bartered away.


"Are those the parents of the kitten we’re here to see?” I asked.


“Yes,” answered the woman. “Do you know much about Siamese cats?”


“No,” Tammy replied. “We have an adult cat but she’s a plain gray tabby. We’re looking for a companion to keep her company.”


The woman exchanged a furtive look with her husband. He frowned at her until she said, “George, go and get the kitten so these nice folks can get acquainted with her. I’ll pour everyone some iced tea.”


After a few minutes our hosts returned, she with the drinks and he with what looked like a squirming turd covered in sooty fur. The turd opened its eyes and I could see that it was a cat. Missing were the fathomless blue eyes so characteristic of Siamese cats; instead, there were unusual flecks of orange that looked like glowing embers. Too bad I hadn’t foreseen in those eyes the orange of a prison jumpsuit. Rather than an ermine body with mink-colored accents, this kitten’s fur was dirty brown. It had enormous ears like those of a bat.


We should have bolted for the door but Tammy, to my surprise, started making cooing sounds. “It’s soooo cute,” she said, practically purring herself.


The two regal cats near the hearth looked at me critically when I said, “This cat doesn’t look like its parents. It doesn’t have white fur, or blue eyes.”


“It will lighten up as it reaches adulthood,” the woman said hastily. “That’s when the eyes turn blue.”


“What about those ears? She can probably pick up Radio Free Europe with those things.” I’d expected a smile. Was Radio Free Europe still operating?


“She’ll grow into them,” the man said. I noticed fresh scratches on his arms.


“How much is she?” Tammy asked.


The husband and wife glanced at each other. “Fifty dollars,” they said in unison.


“May we have a moment to discuss this?” I asked.




They placed the kitten between its parents on the hearth, and left the room. The parent cats stared at their offspring for a moment, rose and dashed from the room. The kitten made no effort to follow them. I tried to pet it but the kitten shook as if trying to shed its skin. My brain was crowded with all the red flags popping up.


Tammy was undeterred. “Isn’t it adorable!” she exclaimed.


I didn’t think it was adorable; it had a face only a mother could love, and from what I could see its mother didn’t love it.


“And what a bargain. Only fifty dollars. Let’s go for it.”


I could tell from the steely glint in my wife’s eyes that nothing I could say or do would change her mind. When the owners reappeared I handed over fifty bucks and we left with the kitten.


We named her Tas because she was like a Tasmanian devil, always racing about in a whirl of agitated motion. I’d never actually seen a Tasmanian devil, other than the cartoon, but the name seemed appropriate because I’d never seen a cat like this before.


Saucy, whose supposed loneliness was the reason we’d purchased Tas, stared at the new arrival like a surfer eying a fin in the water. Saucy wanted nothing to do with her. As time passed, Tas did not grow into those ears and her fur remained dark as a coal mine. Her eyes never changed to blue but continued to glow like embers recently pulled from a furnace.


No matter how nice we were to her, Tas would not purr. She refused to accommodate the rhythm of our household. She clawed the furniture, jumped on us while we slept and seemed to smile while throwing up food during the dinner hour. When she wasn’t a blur of motion she was laying on top of our fridge with her head dangling over the edge, looking at the world upside down. This was where she was situated one Saturday when I decided to make myself a sandwich. Not wanting to bonk her head when I opened the fridge door, I nudged her out of the way. Tas bit me. Not a nip but a bite, her fangs sinking deeply into my flesh.


I yelped and exploded with a barrage of obscenities. A kitchen cleaver was nearby on the counter and I considered sinking it into the cat’s skinny neck, but at that moment Tammy, who’d been gardening in the backyard, burst into the kitchen to see what the fuss was about. She failed to close the door leading to the backyard. Tas leapt off the fridge, sailing through the air like she’d been born to it and landed on the floor. She dashed out to the backyard and vanished in a flash.


“We’ve got to find her,” Tammy screamed. “She’s so small. Big cats will beat her up.”


Not likely, I thought as I finished rinsing my hand in cold water and wrapped a paper towel around it. Blood bloomed through the paper. “She’ll come back on her own,” I said, half-heartedly, glad to see her go.


Tammy dashed up and down the street but finally returned, alone. She sank onto a kitchen chair and began to cry. I patted her shoulder. “It’s for the best,” I said. “Tas wasn’t happy with us.”


Our house returned to the tranquility we’d enjoyed before bringing Tas home that Halloween. Months later it was hard to remember we’d ever lived with such a disruption. But an incident brought Tas vividly to mind one hot July evening shortly after her departure. I’d cracked open a window in our bedroom to let a slight breeze into the stifling room and something flew in the window. I didn’t recognize it at first, but Tammy rose up on the mattress, pulled a pillow close to her face for protection and began screaming, “Bat! It’s a bat!”


I grabbed the golf putter she’d given me for my birthday and tried to clobber the bat but it proved as illusive as a hole in one. I finally made contact and the bat fell onto the bed, where it lay without moving.


“Get it out of here!” Tammy shrieked. “Get that filthy thing out of my bedroom.”


Thinking it dead—and with no thought for the diseases they undoubtedly carry—I grabbed the bat by a wing and tried to fling it out the window. Instead of being dead it sank its rat-like teeth into my hand, the same spot where Tas had bitten me months earlier. I reached for the alarm clock on a nearby nightstand and beat the bat until its head crushed and it released its bite on me. Taking no chances, I wrapped the broken animal in an old t-shirt and carried it down to the garbage can beside our house. The sanitation truck emptied the can later that morning, just as the sun came up.


My sleep was disturbed the next few evenings by the rustling of wings. But when I explored with a flashlight I could find nothing. Tammy once woke to find me sitting on the edge of the bed, staring at her. Moonlight poured in through the window painting her with a pearl-like glow. She was more beautiful than ever and a sensation swelled in me that I’d never felt before. I wanted her desperately, more than I’d wanted her that first night on our honeymoon five years ago. But this was different. This passion originated in a different place. I had a nearly uncontrollable urge to sink my teeth into her neck, but I resisted.


Futile. It was only a matter of time.





Ahhh, vampire cats! I should warn my sisters since they love taking in strays. BTW, one little grammar nitpick: "As time passed, Tas did not grow into those ears but her fur remained dark as a coal mine." It should be "and her fur remained" because the ears and fur are not contrasting each other. Otherwise, great story! Happy Halloween!
By: PT Dilloway on October 31, 2013
Thanks P.T. I made the correction.
By: Chubby Chatterbox on October 31, 2013
boo ha ha ha... :) nice one!
By: TexWisGirl on October 31, 2013
I hope at least the bat part of that is made up...need to heck them for rabies. But you knoe that so it is made up...excellent story especially for today.
By: Cranky on October 31, 2013
Entertaining! Did you draw inspiration for this story from past experience, your love for cats (not), or a creative mind?
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 31, 2013
Sounds like Tas's mom was hanging out with some sailors' cats.
By: Al Penwasser on October 31, 2013
I did NOT expect THAT ending!!
By: fishducky on October 31, 2013
Excellent! So entertaining! Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 31, 2013
Yes, i remember this one; it's frightening, especially as i've met similar cats to Tas!
By: mimi on October 31, 2013
Cats can be frightening if they have a certain look about them. This one sounds evil. It's a great tale for Halloween. Thanks, Stephen, I've enjoyed reading it.
By: Sharon Bradshaw on October 31, 2013
I'm going to be looking at our cat with a much more careful eye...
By: Shelly on October 31, 2013
Great story for this Halloween! Loved it!
By: Bouncin Barb on October 31, 2013
Oh my what a glorious tale for Hallowoonie. Thanks for the shivers and grins. Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on October 31, 2013
Our cat Lucy is a bit like Tas, but only if she sees another cat in her territory. She loves us! Great Halloween Tail Stephen!
By: Kathe W. on October 31, 2013
I could swear you posted that somewhere else, or I just had an episode of deja vu. I liked it even better this time around. My favorite part is the head dangling down over the refrigerator.
By: Val on October 31, 2013
This wasn't a nail biter of a story, it turned out to be a neck biter of a story..... :)
By: John on November 1, 2013
A spooky tale. Cats are well-suited to a vampire story - I've always found them a tad eerie.
By: Bryan Jones on November 2, 2013
Great Halloween story...and yes, the ending surprised me, too!
By: Pixel Peeper on November 2, 2013

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