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 wellβ€”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.

β—Š

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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Requiem for a Plant

August 28, 2015

 

It's good being back after resolving my computer woes, I hope.

 

Today I’m committing planticide. The victim of my crime might want to die, so it might be an assisted suicide, making me a plant killing Dr. Kevorkian. After keeping our only houseplant alive for fifteen years, today I’m sending it to that Chlorophyll Bridge in the Sky.

           

When my beloved mother-in-law passed away in 2000, my wife’s employer expressed sympathy by sending her a large plant arrangement. All but one of the plants soon died. Mrs. Chatterbox and I have “black thumbs” and have never been able to keep plants alive. Mrs. C. grew up with nothing but artificial plants. As for me, I was raised by a woman who never owned a plant she couldn’t kill in a few days.

           

She’d water a cactus like it was moss. I’d say to her, “Mom, that’s a desert plant. It doesn’t need much water.”

           

“It looks thirsty,” she’d say.

           

“Explain to me how a plant can look thirsty. It isn’t drooping or turning brown.”

           

I recall squeezing a part of her cactus that wasn’t prickly. Water dripped out as if it were a soggy sponge.

           

Somehow, it fell on me to nurture and water this plant. We had a few dicey moments when I almost lost it, but I consulted with plant experts, mostly amazing gardener and travel partner Tina N., and brought it back from the brink, refusing to let it haunt me as a potted zombie.

           

This plant is a familiar fixture in our home, droopy, but it has patiently waited for us to return from extended stays in Turkey, India, Thailand and Germany. But in later years it seems more and more ambivalent to our return, convincing me that ours is not a happy plant.

           

Over the years I’ve bought it plant food, altered its position in our home to receive the proper amount of light, trimmed it, repotted it several times to inspire the growth which never came. Eventually, I put it in a pot too big to lift and purchased a plant dolly to roll it out onto the deck in winter to catch the weak rays of the sun.

           

You never had a name and I didn’t talk to you much as Prince Charles might have done, and I never bothered learning what type of plant you were, but I do feel bad about sending you into plant oblivion. You might have struggled on for many more years, but the sad fact is I’m tired of taking care of you. Lately it’s become a one-way relationship and I’m not getting much out of it. Don’t blame yourself; it’s not you, it’s me.

           

Godspeed dear plant. I know you’ll thrive where you’re going, and I’ve no doubt you’ll make heaven a greener place. My hope is that you won’t feel any pain. Look away so you don’t see the clippers in my hand. I won’t be putting cut flowers on your grave— it wouldn’t seem right.

 

           

 

 

NOTE: I couldn’t do it. The plant lives. Instead of being tossed in the garbage, it was watered, fed and trimmed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

33 Comments
You're no plant killer. Ironically, I bet if you just dumped it out back somewhere the darn thing would grow and thrive.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on August 28, 2015
That is a "prayer" plant. They are hardy little things. Yours doesn't look too bad. Maybe a little more light, but expect the brown leaves. They gotta go sometime. Good luck. I got tired of mine and tossed it long ago. I am now babying along my mom's orchid plant. I am about ready to toss it, too!
By: Linda on August 28, 2015
I've never met a plant I couldn't kill. Fortunately Mrs. C is able to keep a few alive they do keep the indoor humidity and freshen the air in the winter.
By: cranky on August 28, 2015
Nice looking dolly! Computer woes... I bet there is a good story to tell about that... eh?
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 28, 2015
i believe that's a peace lily plant. i have one also that, since i trimmed it way back one year, has never liked me since. but i still keep it around, too in a big ol' pot.
By: TexWisGirl on August 28, 2015
Boy, I thought our 9 year old geranium was amazing, but you win! Glad you didn't kill it. I would probably just put it out on the curb & hope someone would take it :)
By: The Bug on August 28, 2015
I, too, am normally a plant killer but I have one indoor ivy that's about 20 years old. I never trim it--or even touch it--but it gets watered every week by my cleaning woman. I have NO idea why it is still growing!!
By: fishducky on August 28, 2015
Hey, I have a plant that looks just like that one . . . just not quite as good!
By: Tom Sightings on August 28, 2015
That's a spathiphylum also known as a "Peace Plant". They are pretty resilient. I think a visit from your sister-in-law is in order to provide resuscitation!! Some fresh soil, a little food and some tender talk (or maybe a song or two) and it will be good as new!
By: Laurie on August 28, 2015
Peace lilies need more water than most, but few plants can survive soggy soil. It’s also good to trim the dead leaves away (dead leaves invite pests) and give them bright, but not necessarily direct, sunlight. I had no desire for house plants when my father died and left me a peace lily in 1994. I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out, but hoped it wouldn’t live too long. It’s still alive, and I soon got to where I relied on plants to help me get through Oregon’s god-awful winters. I’ve had up for forty plants in my bedroom alone. Once I buy one, it’s hard to throw it out even if I decide I don’t like it, but I have learned enough that I’m careful of what I buy, and I rarely actually kill a plant with either too much or too little water or light. I do have two large grow lights, and I like them very much because otherwise, my plants get to looking pretty sad in winter.
By: Snowbrush on August 28, 2015
Steven, this is a test. I just downloaded Word, so I’m going to see if it works better than Pages for leaving comments on your blog. Your last commenter was right. A peace lily is aka a Spathiphyllum. That’s the genus name. The species name is a big more challenging to figure out because nurseries are forever trying to develop new species and new varieties of new species. Yours looks pretty standard though.
By: Snowbrush on August 28, 2015
PPS If your plant is getting enough water, then you might try fertilizing it. It could probably stand a bit more light too. One other thing, pull it from its pot and see if it’s rootbound. Peace lilies usually get rootbound within about a year of being repotted. If it looks rootbound, let me know, and I’ll tell you what to do.
By: Snowbrush on August 28, 2015
Ah, I was hoping you couldn't do it. Let it go at its own speed. 15 years is very impressive. You are doing something right. So glad you comuter problems are over.
By: Akansas Patti on August 28, 2015
I was born to two green thumbed gardeners. I can kill anything plant-like in record time. It doesn't help that we have cats who will eat anything including fake plants ... Your plant looks good to me. It's got way more than one leaf, and most of 'em are green. Thumbs up!
By: jenny_o on August 28, 2015
Peace Lily it is! They are actually hard to kill- repotting and fertilizing and a bit more light is in order I do believe. Here's a handy dandy website for caring: http://www.wikihow.com/Care-for-Peace-Lilies
By: Kathe W. on August 28, 2015
I understand only too well, and am also the owner of a black thumb and the past owner of many a silk plant. My mom liked plants and also toiled in the garden. She actually planted things that grew. My viewpoint is that she never grew anything we could easily buy in a store, and who would want to bring a pile of dirt into the house to watch something grow? Isn't the point of a house to keep the inside and outside separate? Plants and wildlife are outside things and should remain that way -- but good luck with your plant!
By: Lexa Cain on August 28, 2015
Those are tough plants. They take a lot of abuse and still look good.
By: red on August 28, 2015
I didn't make clear that my mom grew vegetables in the garden like tomatoes and cucumbers and squash. Things I easily buy from my grocery store and avoid all that boring weeding and tilling and fertilizing! lol
By: Lexa Cain on August 28, 2015
Compared to my plant, your looks pretty good! I want your plant and fishducky's cleaning woman!
By: Pixel Peeper on August 28, 2015
Is the plant going to "the farm" where it will be happy with other plants around to keep it company?
By: Val on August 28, 2015
For the record, that plant ain't down for the count yet. Peace plants are a favorite at funerals. Several were sent when my father passed away and they are still around 15 years later. And for the record...my mom could kill a floral print blouse.
By: Cherdo on August 28, 2015
Well that was a twist. I was fully expecting plant murder but you fooled me. Hopefully the brush with death will spruce the plant back up. Good luck. I might have to look into getting a plant like because we also have too many black thumbs in our household.
By: Mr. Shife on August 28, 2015
"Potted zombie"---my favorite line! Great post as always. Love your stories. P.S. Do NOT kill that plant----it actually doesn't look all that bad. Play some classical music around it…..you never know….
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on August 28, 2015
It looks healthy to me. I once had a plant that grew to be more than six feet tall. I had to put it in the foyer of my house so the plant didn't hit the ceiling. Finally, it got root rot and died. Thank God. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 29, 2015
I think that you must be overly modest, this plant looks good! :)
By: John on August 29, 2015
It looks happy. I suggest you start talking to it. Amazing how therapeutic it is and at a perfect per session cost.
By: Tom Cochrun on August 29, 2015
find a nice shady spot outside and plant it in the ground.
By: ellen abbott on August 29, 2015
That looks like an Elephant Ear plant. My sister-in-law brought a cutting with her from Indiana when she moved to Florida and planted it in the ground outside. It now is taller than her house.
By: Catalyst on August 29, 2015
A fellow black thumb here, and i agree, it's difficult keeping them alive! There's one on the porch right now that i've managed, somehow, not to kill, but it needs to be repotted.
By: mimi on August 29, 2015
I am also guilty of being a plant killer. I have tried everything over the years and even talked to them but they just looked at me and gasped. I then met my hubby who knew nothing about plants. I told him what they needed. he did the same as I did and they thrived. They still thrive and look wonderful. I took this very personally since the plants obviously hated me so much they rather try to commit suicide than live with me. My hubby has now forbade me to touch any plants:)
By: Birgit on August 29, 2015
That plant is a hard house plant to kill and I hate to tell you, it is in excellent shape. Maybe take it to a nearby rest home?
By: Tabor on August 30, 2015
Stephen: You're hilarious---a "one way relationship"! I was laughing myself silly. :)
By: Michael Manning on August 30, 2015
I could maim that plant in 3 notes :)
By: Rick on September 3, 2015

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