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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Stand All Ye Faithful

November 13, 2013

 

First posted 9/30/11

 

 

Not long ago I realized a bitter truth; I’d been turning a blind eye to our environmental problems. I did very little recycling and took my gas guzzling car to places I could have, and should have, walked. My studio was downtown and I decided to take the bus to work. Leaving my car in the garage made me feel like part of the solution instead of part of the problem.
     

That first day, the bus was only partially full when I climbed aboard. I had one of the double seats to myself, but eventually someone plunked down beside me, a chatty morning person with solutions to all of the world’s problems. The next day a woman on the seat beside me applied make-up and doused herself with perfume. And more disturbing, several passengers informed me that I have a face that reminds them of someone owing them money. By the time we’d arrive downtown it was standing room only.
     

While it’s true that I’m quite a chatterbox, in the morning I need a few hours and several cups of coffee to rev up. I just wanted to be left alone to enjoy a quiet ride. I started bringing books with me; surely I’d be left alone if my nose were buried in a book. But this was not the case. Common comments were:
     

“What are you reading?” 
   

 “Is that book any good?”
   

 “I liked the movie better.”
     

“I read that; the woman’s uncle was the murderer.”

     

One morning I opened my briefcase to pull out a new action adventure, but in my haste I’d accidentally grabbed our dusty copy of the Bible.  

     

As an art history enthusiast, I was familiar with most of the stories, thanks to great painters’ fascination with the Bible, but in truth I’d never actually read it. With nothing else to occupy me, I began to do so. I started with the beginning…literally.
     

Halfway to work I looked up and noticed something odd. The bus, as usual, was filled to capacity but the seat beside me remained vacant. I watched as additional passengers clamored aboard, eying the empty seat beside me but looking warily at the book in my hand before moving to the back of the bus, where they preferred to stand.
     

This went on for several weeks. I assumed my fellow passengers were afraid I'd look up from my Bible and start quoting Scriptures at them. So long as that Bible was in my hands or on my lap I was spared being disturbed by someone sitting down beside me. No one prattled in my ear or made my eyes water with their perfume. No one said I resembled a person who owed them money. 
     

No wonder they call it “The Good Book!”

 

 



Comments

25 Comments
Wow...what a thing to discover~
By: Shelly on November 13, 2013
Like you, I enjoy conversing with others but after four or more cups of coffee. I don't think it is the caffeine as much as that is my time for myself, my giving me a chance to meditate and enjoy my morning. If a woman sat by me and applied perfume I would be sneezing and watery, red and itchy eyes and I would have trouble breathing. I hate hate hate strong scented products and have had to leave grocery stores when someone stayed too long near me with strong perfume. The real story here is the interesting reaction to a bible toting bus riding man. I myself don't like to get into heavy duty conversations about religion and I have strong viewpoints about organized religions since I believe there is a big difference between being religious and being spiritual. But God bless you for sharing this story.
By: CiCi Winningham on November 13, 2013
I agree in part with Shelly, the perfume would be the worst. I would be sneezing and wheezing. I find that a bit sad about the Bible keeping people away (although thankful about not being bothered part) On one hand I tend to steer clear of people trying to convert me to their religion but I respect people that have faith. I wouldn't be afraid to sit down next to someone reading the Bible, I think organized religion has it's problems but being spiritual and being religious aren't mutually exclusive. I can belong ot a specific church as still be a spiritual person. Anyway, I would of sat next to you on the bus, kept my mouth shut, and if you started to talk to me about your faith, I would of put in my ear buds and listened to my playlist.
By: Cheryl P. on November 13, 2013
It's a shame that most people feel that if you're a christian, or reading the Bible that you must be some sort of loony.
By: David Walston on November 13, 2013
oh, that's very funny! and kind of sad when you think about it. but true...
By: TexWisGirl on November 13, 2013
So you've gone GREEN... good on you. I have no idea why they kept their distance while you read 'The Good Book'.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 13, 2013
I don't think that story says people are afraid of Christians, just that Christians who are reading the Bible on a commute are probably the type to proselytize and no one wants that in the morning. I wish I knew that trick when I was a commuter...I would have hidden a good book inside "The Good Book." I hated conversation with strangers on my commute...usually they were not commuters themselves. Great post on several levels...as usual.
By: Cranky on November 13, 2013
I'm reminded of an old cartoon: A guy is wearing a t-shirt that says "Ask me about Jesus". He says to his friend, "Say what you want about the shirt. All I know is that it gets me a seat on the bus!!"
By: fishducky on November 13, 2013
Being a crazy old church lady type, i would have sat next to you, and stayed quiet if you wanted me to!
By: mimi on November 13, 2013
Great story! You're just lucky that some bible basher didn't sit with you and start discussing scripture. That would have fixed you!
By: red on November 13, 2013
The Bible. Your unintentional weapon of choice.
By: Val on November 13, 2013
Hah - interesting story, clever solution, funny comments! Not sure I would have thought of such a solution...well, you didn't either. If I don't want to talk, I usually answer in a foreign language (and hope the other person doesn't speak it!).
By: Pixel Peeper on November 13, 2013
It's a shame people feel it necessary to avoid someone reading a bible, but at least you were left in peace to read on the bus. I had a similar situation recently when I was handing out leaflets, to advertise my son's gym, and was walking near the church. I spoke to 3 men who initially refused the leaflet I was offering, with one hour's free personal training if they wanted to call in to see Tom. They turned back to take the leaflet when they realised what I had said as they walked quickly past. One of them replied that he thought I was "selling Jesus" instead, which was why they hadn't been interested.
By: Sharon Bradshaw on November 14, 2013
An interesting comment on our times. I never ride the bus, but I'm gonna try it next time I take the train to the city.
By: tom sightings on November 14, 2013
Hysterical! I once scared away an old acquaintance I didn't want to talk to by asking them if they had "accepted Jesus Christ in their life as their personal savior," but this seems more useful and systematic. This is really brilliant... You can just throw a leather cover that says "Holy Bible" on anything you want to read.
By: Katy on November 14, 2013
Very interesting observation, but I don't think it would work everywhere. Here in "the buckle of the Bible belt" for example, it would probably draw a crowd.
By: Scott Cody Park on November 14, 2013
Interesting. I wouldn't want to chat with people on the bus, either, but I would never get on a bus in the first place. I don't get out much. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 14, 2013
That's truly telling and amusing - the powers of the Bible. Glad it brought you so much solace, Stephen. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on November 14, 2013
I once worked with a girl who, when she wanted to get rid of a man pressing her for a date, told him she was a born again Christian and that she would like to convert him. It always worked.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on November 14, 2013
Whatever works! Hallelujah!
By: Bouncin Barb on November 14, 2013
Stephen: That's one way to upgrade from a Coach Seat to First Class! :)
By: Michael Manning on November 14, 2013
That's the weirdest thing ever. I admit Bible reading people unnerve me, but I thought I was in a tiny minority. Well, at least you solved your problem. :-)
By: Lexa Cain on November 15, 2013
Now that's power.
By: Hilary on November 15, 2013
A great story on the bible and it included a miracle too, getting your own space on a busy bus.
By: John on November 17, 2013
Good story. My husband is a public bible reader, but definitely not a proselytizer. He likes his space. I'll have to ask him if he's had the same experience. If he has, I'll have to do as Cranky does, and hide my novel inside of it. Nothing like sitting in the waiting room of the doctor with your "I don't want to be bothered head buried in a book" and spot from the corner of your eyes, someone coming towards you with a smile on their face.
By: Anita on November 19, 2013

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