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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Thanks, Dad

November 20, 2013

A rather large spider has erected its web above our front door and Mrs. Chatterbox has demanded I eliminate it. She refuses to exit our home through the front door until I practice spidercide. Some might comment that Mrs. C. should dispatch it herself if she wants it done so badly, but over the years we’ve devised an equitable plan dividing household chores (Mrs. C. would rightfully scoff at my usage of the word equitable.) Bug killing falls to me. I’m not fond of spiders but, unlike Mrs. Chatterbox, I’m not terrified of them. I would prefer to capture the critter in a cup and set it out in the yard where it can rebuild its web. Unfortunately, this “biggie” is not in an easy to reach spot and can’t be taken alive.

    

Yesterday, during our morning phone conversation, my mother asked about my plans for the day. I explained that killing a spider was the only thing on my schedule. (Life is slow right now.) She went on to explain, to my surprise, how much my late father detested and feared spiders. I was surprised to learn this fact about my dad.

    

I grew up in the Santa Clara Valley and our house was located in a former pear orchard. Rotting fruit attracts all sorts of insects, which in turn attract spiders. The orchards were gone but spiders remained, particularly black widows. Our house was inexpensive and poorly constructed; the structure occasionally slipped off the concrete blocks serving as the foundation, requiring Dad to crawl beneath the house to jack it up and reposition the concrete blocks.

    

The trap door leading to the crawl space beneath our house was located in my bedroom closet. Once or twice when bored I’d pulled open the crawl space door and aimed a flashlight into the darkness. I saw the webs and creepy crawlies that no amount of insecticide could kill. When I was little I had nightmares about spiders huge enough to push aside the door and grab me in my sleep. What I couldn’t imagine was Dad sharing my fear. I can close my eyes and see Dad disappearing beneath the house to make the repairs. He was just so darn stoic, never showing fear.

   

Now when I close my eyes and see my father in his overalls, twine tightly wrapped around his ankles and wrists, and a baseball cap covering his thick dark hair as he descended into the darkness, I realize how his heart must have been pounding in his chest when he confronted his fear, a fear he never spoke of and worked hard to keep from his kids.

    

I remember asking him if he was afraid of all the spiders beneath our house and he just ruffled my hair and said, “They’re probably more afraid of me than I am of them.”

    

During yesterday morning’s conversation, Mom also told me that Dad had a fear of water, even though I can recall many summers at pools or lakes where dad appeared fearless as he taught me to swim and jump from diving boards. Afraid of the water? Hard to believe, based on what I witnessed.

    

I realize everyone has fears, but I wonder how many parents have instilled theirs in their children? I know Dad would have bristled at hearing himself described as courageous; he probably thought of himself as an ordinary dad, an average Joe, doing what needed to be done because that’s what dads did. But hiding one’s fears, and refusing to let them define you, does take courage.

    

Thanks to my Dad, I can face the spider hanging in wait above my front door, even though Mrs. C. tells me it looks big enough to saddle.

 



Comments

29 Comments
That's impressive. I mean, protecting your kids from your own hangups and problems. My parents never let on about their money problems when i was growing up, and I've always appreciated that - being able to grow up in peace, I mean. On the other hand, spiders? I am a big spider fan. And when I say that, i mean I am a fan of big spiders... I need to post pics of my tarantulas sometime...
By: Katy on November 20, 2013
awww. he was stoic! my dad was afraid of water and refused to let us kids take swimming lessons (kind of ironic...)
By: TexWisGirl on November 20, 2013
What a great lesson your dad taught you. I can face down our largest bulls, but spiders make me go weak in the knees.
By: Shelly on November 20, 2013
I think it's really great of your dad to behave in this way. It probably is the way to act in the face of fear, - but so hard to do. I was really annoyed when a woman I had looking after my younger daughter a few hours a week, instilled in her a terror of bees and wasps. It's remained with her. The woman was so kind and nice in other ways, and she couldn't help her fear... but I wish she'd had something of your dad in her attitude.
By: Jenny on November 20, 2013
And hiding one's fears for the sake of one's children takes love. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on November 20, 2013
My son is deathly afraid of spiders. I always end up disposing of them, while his younger sister watches me with no fear.
By: David Walston on November 20, 2013
It's surprising how many of us share this type of behaviour. My father (as I learned later in life) has a particular fear of the dark. Any time my mother would ask him to get something from the car or outside up at our cottage he'd make up some excuse so that it could wait till morning.
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 20, 2013
Parents can be amazing people. Kudos to your dad. My mom told me some hilarious things about my father after he died. Three of the grandchildren, none of them mine, called him Paw-paw. He accepted it happily, but my mom said, Your dad just hated that. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on November 20, 2013
Now you have me thinking. I don't know of anything my father was afraid of, much like you, but for sure there must have been something...I think he was afraid of failure though he succeeded at almost everything, there must be other things, but I guess I'll never know. Probably that is the way he would want it. Loved this post!
By: Cranky on November 20, 2013
Your Dad was an amazing man. As for spiders, they are among my favorites, and i'm sorry this one has to go.
By: mimi on November 20, 2013
A couple of months ago I discovered a scorpion in a bathtub in our house. I had no qualms about dispatching him and flushing his body down the toilet. But SWMBO said they always come in pairs and now we'll have to watch out for the other one. Never saw him (or her). Until yesterday. I was sorting through a big stack of record albums, preparing to sell them, when a somewhat larger scorpion fell out. He (or she) is now also . . . no more. Nasty devils, scorpions.
By: Bruce Taylor/Catalyst on November 20, 2013
The more stories you tell us about your dad, the more respect and admiration I have for him- as for me? I must have been a cat in a former life because I can catch and dispatch bugs handily. The only animals or bugs I am afraid of would be poisonous ones and humans. Have a great day!
By: Kathe W. on November 20, 2013
The house I grew up in had one of those crawlspaces. I absolutely hated going down there, always worrying what sorts of critters would be hiding in there. Dads are pretty courageous to kill the spiders, take out the mouse traps, and so forth.
By: PT Dilloway on November 20, 2013
I use to be terrified of spiders--they could make me hurt myself. I have gotten MUCH better but still think your Dad a hero being able to enter a crawl space littered with them. Quite a guy.
By: Akansas Patti on November 20, 2013
I have no idea what my folks were afraid of--they never let it show!!
By: fishducky on November 20, 2013
My dad was afraid to order at a drive-thru speaker. Yeah. He didn't SAY he was afraid, but he wouldn't respond. Not even to the "May I help you?" He would drive up to the speaker, but my mom had to lean across the seat and do all the talking. Dad would pay the real live person at the window, but he could not speak at the speaker. That behavior certainly did not rub off on me.
By: Val on November 20, 2013
I think your father came from a different time period. My mother, too. They grew up in the depression (and then WWII) and learned to be stoic and never complain. We're kind of spoiled these days, huh?
By: Lexa Cain on November 20, 2013
Your father was a super hero to go down there. OMG. Creepy crawlies! For my Dad it was birds. He was a big man who could be reduced to screams if a bird got close. Great post!
By: Bouncin Barb on November 20, 2013
I'm not sure if my Dad was afraid of anything, but I remember my mother being scared of thunderstorms. If one would occur in the middle of the night, she'd have all five of us kids AWAKE in the living room (in case lightning would strike and the house would catch on fire we'd be easier to get ouf of the burning house, I guess), waiting out the storm. I remember reading just recently the reason why so many people are afraid of or dislike spiders: it's the eight legs thing, our mind can't comprehend it. That's why spiders don't make sense to humans, so we dislike them or fear them. Heh.
By: Pixel Peeper on November 20, 2013
I think that makes for a very nice memory of your dad taking care of his family and not imposing fears onto you. Sweet, very sweet. I am like you that I prefer to capture and release bugs and spiders but sometimes the placement or circumstances call for immediate action. I might get out some aerosol bug spray and douse anything big enough to saddle prior to retrieving it. Yikes.
By: Cheryl P. on November 20, 2013
I was aware of some of my Dad's fears. I know of one that was passed on to me and it's positive. Just like you I always pictured my Dad as fearless.
By: red on November 20, 2013
I never knew my father was afraid of going out on the water until I told him as an adult that I didn't like going on my brother's boat the single time I went. That's when he told me he felt the same; but he had never let on. (I think some of those things are in our genes!)
By: jenny_o on November 20, 2013
A very inspiring story, it takes a lot of courage to overcome our fears and not too show them.
By: John on November 21, 2013
I think my father was like yours. But I don't think he shared any of his fears even with my mother. My mother, on the other hand, shared every one of her fears, jealousies, and resentments with us.
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 21, 2013
For a couple of years, I dated a man who was an arachnophobe and I had to be the brave one. Now I am with someone who refuses to kill them (which is okay with me) and sometimes even refuses to remove them.. allowing them to live comfortably in our space (which is NOT okay with me). Anyway, your dad was indeed a brave man and thanks to him, he did not pass his fears along to you. That's a gift.
By: Hilary on November 21, 2013
What a great dad!
By: The Bug on November 21, 2013
Another one of your stories that has touched me. And that doesn't happen all that often.
By: Bryan Jones on November 21, 2013
Similarly, there are tasks which naturally fall to me. Crawling under our creepy, crawly deck to do this, that, or the other thing is one of those. But, one thing above all strikes me about your story: your house would sometimes slip off its foundation!!??
By: Al Penwasser on November 21, 2013
Dad's are special, Stephen. I enjoyed this post! :)
By: Michael Manning on November 21, 2013

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