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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Prom Night

May 6, 2015


It’s that time of year again when Mrs. Chatterbox and I reflect on a rite of spring, the gathering of high school students in a ritual known as Senior Prom.


The best sightings are in downtown Portland at the marina on the Willamette River. An esplanade bordering the waterfront is crowded with restaurants popular on prom night. For years, Mrs. C. and I have made a habit of parking ourselves on a bench to watch the parade of young people dressed in finery on their special night. Stretch limos come and disgorge self-conscious teens trying their best to look nonchalant and grown up. Mrs. C. and I have fond memories of our prom, which we attended together forty-two years ago.


It’s hard to ignore how mature the girls look beside gawky guys in tails or white tuxedos with top hats and canes. (I kid you not.) The young men often look ill-at-easy in their rented tuxedos while the girls fidget with dress bodices like they’ve just discovered their breasts.


As I recall, two concerns at this stage of the evening make it likely that before the evening is over many of these guys are going to sweat through their rented tuxes. First: will they be brave enough to seize the opportunity to kiss their dates? Second; they wonder if they have enough money to cover the cost of dinner if she orders anything more expensive than the chicken special.



The young men are oblivious to the fact that something is amiss with these young women—the way they walk. More correctly, the way they struggle to walk. Most of them wobble about like nineteenth century Chinese women with bound feet. They wear high heels and lurch like they’re on stilts, even girls tall enough to tower over their dates. I guess it’s understandable that young women these days aren’t practiced at walking in heels; who’s going to teach them? It’s unlikely their mothers wear heels and teens don’t like to emulate their parents at this age anyway. Finishing schools once focused on walking with grace and poise, but today young ladies get their culture tips from The Bachelorette and The Kardashians.


Every now and then we spotted a young lady in sneakers matching her outfit. Our last prom night expedition provided the rare sight of a radiant girl, her pink satin gown accessorized with matching bunny-shaped slippers. Returning home with aching feet wasn’t in her future.


After exiting limos, many of the girls remove their heels and walk barefoot into restaurants. Unfortunately, their dresses have been designed to accommodate that added elevation so without heels the hems are now dragging on the ground. And the dancing is still several hours away, not that the boys look interested in dancing. If memory serves, most of them will avoid the dance floor and stand around with their hands buried in rented pants. The boys will be too distracted to notice that their dates are struggling with their shoes. They have yet to notice that their dates have feet.


Back in 1974 when I took the future Mrs. Chatterbox to a restaurant before our senior prom, she proved she was a “keeper” by ordering the chicken special.




This photo of me and Mrs. Chatterbox  has been in Mrs. C's wallet for forty-two years.





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You look nervous, Steve! I remember that night, too. And my feet were killing me!
By: Linda on May 6, 2015
What a great way to people watch, I may try that very thing next year. Loved your right on capture of the evening. You two are adorable and she was a keeper being thoughtful of your wallet.
By: Akansas Patti on May 6, 2015
What a truly precious photo! She does look more at ease than you. Are boys still shy about kissing? I understand that kissing starts in junior high these days!
By: Tabor on May 6, 2015
the expense that goes into that night is incredible these days.
By: TexWisGirl on May 6, 2015
That's cool you took your wife to the prom. Never understood high heels. They look painful. And I avoided the dance floor at all costs.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on May 6, 2015
awwww you two are dreamy! I love how you are leaning towards her! Love also how this pic is still in her wallet! You two are both keepers!
By: Kathe W. on May 6, 2015
How wonderful that she keeps the photo with her! Never went to prom, i attended an all girls school and wasn't allowed to date or really go anywhere that i'd meet someone i could ask to prom.
By: mimi on May 6, 2015
You two are adorable!!
By: fishducky on May 6, 2015
Steve (aka suave artiste) you look like a wolf in sheeps clothing. We all know you're Casanova. I bet she was amazed how you swept her off her feet.
By: Daniel LaFrance on May 6, 2015
Aww- you two looked pretty happy in that pic! Yes, I have witnessed two years of prom with my oldest grand now and I am in awe of the walking skills on 4 inch heels. Silly, ridiculous, if you ask me, but then my prom shoes were of the sturdy, nerdy type and I had no such troubles. My bosoms were securely tucked in also and not in any danger of popping out unescorted. LOL! We were still pretty shy though and I think you nailed some the gyst of how kids feel now...and then.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on May 6, 2015
You think those boys are hoping for a kiss? They're hoping for a lot more than that. I remember The Hurricane in her prom dress. She looked like the most beautiful mermaid ever. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on May 6, 2015
Oh, my. I think I just found a subject for my blog today... Let's just say my blog will be more... alight... than yours. Cat.
By: Cat on May 6, 2015
Look at those long gloves! Looking classy AND ordering the chicken special - yup, that's a keeper! :)
By: Lexa Cain on May 6, 2015
Awesome photo of two young people. Yes, it's odd what kids make themselves do.
By: red on May 6, 2015
You are such a cute couple!
By: Pixel Peeper on May 6, 2015
How times have changed. I took my girl to the prom in my VW bug; and we ended up with friends in an all-night diner around 3 a.m. By contrast, you two look like a swanky couple!.
By: Tom Sightings on May 6, 2015
I was looking at a picture of a recent prom group and was stunned by the way the ladies were dressed. Or should I say, undressed. Times definitely have changed since the 50's.
By: Catalyst on May 6, 2015
I remember my prom. I went with a lovely girl named Dawn who took pity on me and asked if I could go. I was in denial of my sexuality back then. Such is life when you grow up around deeply religious people that demonize homosexuality. Ah to have grown up someplace wonderful like Portland where people accept you for all your flaws. I think life might have been less of a struggle.
By: Michael Offutt on May 6, 2015
Those were the days!
By: John on May 7, 2015
THe two of you look adorable together. Prom is a great people watching event.....if you can call teenagers people that is.
By: Oma Linda on May 7, 2015
What a wonderful photo, and so touching that your good lady has kept it in her wallet for 42 years!
By: Bryan Jones on May 7, 2015
Stephen: You had me laughing and remembering how uncomfortable the Tux was as a kid. You're right. The girls looked natural in their beauty! :)
By: Michael Manning on May 7, 2015
You look smitten! And the then-future-Mrs.-C looks mature...
By: Val on May 7, 2015
A wonderful post. Your observations are terrific and cute. I love the idea of sitting and watching the kids. The crowning element of the post however is that wonderful picture of you and the future Mrs. C on prom night. As they say, Priceless! And what a nice looking couple in classic attire.
By: Tom Cochrun on May 7, 2015
Yeah, there is a lot of money in other parts around here, which is put on garish display, come prom season. By they way, is that Buddy Holly with the future Mrs. C in that picture? She sure took a step down to be with you. Sorry.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on May 8, 2015

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