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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The Appendix Couch

August 27, 2014
During the summer break before my sophomore year of high school I woke one night with a terrible pain in my side. I should have figured it was my appendix since the Hayes appendix isn’t worth a damn and all male members of my family have had theirs out, my brother when he was only two, but for some reason my appendix wasn’t suspected of being the problem.

    

When I couldn’t stop moaning my dad took me to the hospital. I sat in the waiting room for a long time and was eventually sent home and told to give myself an enema, which I later learned was not a good thing to do if you happen to have an inflamed appendix.

    

After more bouts of agony my dad rushed me back to the emergency room a few hours later. A nurse gave me another cursory examination. The ER was crowded; I was told it would be awhile before I saw a doctor. I waited…and waited…and waited. My dad, a wonderful guy but one of the most passive human beings I ever encountered, looked uncomfortable as I screamed in pain. It seemed the world was moving in slow motion and doing its best to ignore me. I’m sure the doctors and nurses moving past me in a blur had other important injuries to deal with, but at one point I told my dad I thought I was going to die. He patted my shoulder, checked at the desk and was told to be patient; someone would get to me as soon as possible.

    

NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

    

Figuring my end was near if I didn’t do something, I started screaming every foul epithet I could think of to draw someone’s attention. My best friend Ricky Delgado could swear like a sailor so I was in possession of quite a few colorful phrases. I remember seeing my dad covering his face, trying to turn invisible. I finally stopped cursing when my appendix burst and I passed out.

    

I slumped against my dad until someone noticed I was turning green. The hospital staff must have been worried about their liability for having ignored me for so long because I was prepped and in surgery within a matter of minutes. Back then a typical appendectomy only required an overnight stay; my recovery took a week.

    

When discharged I was weak as a blade of grass. My mother took time off from work to tend to me, which felt peculiar because she wasn’t the nurturing type. She showed her true colors one day while handing me a bowl of chicken noodle soup. “As you know, your father and I are both insured by our employers. Because of the double coverage, we actually made money off of your appendix, enough to buy that couch I’ve been wanting for the living room.”

    

I didn’t say anything as I slurped my noodles.

    

“We could use a matching love seat. How do your tonsils feel?”

    

In her defense, my mother doesn’t remember saying this and she might have been joking, even though she isn’t known for having a sense of humor. But she did buy a couch for our living room with the money, prompting several conversations on ethics over the next few months. For years I refused to sit on that couch, which my brother said was stupid since my suffering paid for it.

      

Let the record show: I still have my tonsils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

      



Comments

29 Comments
This is too funny but not the part about you in pain and in the waiting room, more than once. Gads. Anyway, you make it funny with your sense of humor. I don't blame you for not wanting to sit on that stupid couch.
By: CiCi on August 27, 2014
I felt every bit of your agony. And sofa? I could have gotten a new sofa? I was ripped off somewhere...
By: Shelly on August 27, 2014
oh my word!!! how awful for you!!! and then at home, too!
By: TexWisGirl on August 27, 2014
I don't think insurance lets you get away with that double payment anymore, but you deserved it for almost dying...of course you still didn't benefit...oh well got you a very good story! I'm sure the hospital had some cuts to bandage and didn't have time for some spoiled kid with a belly ache. Oops!
By: Cranky on August 27, 2014
Been there. Done that. Got ignored, too. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 27, 2014
I was doubled up reading this story, and now I'm laughing about your mother's response. But I'm sorry for the hell you went through. One would like to think that the medical system has come a long way. If only.
By: Robyn Engel on August 27, 2014
I remember when I got my appendix removed a few years ago. I felt a little "off" all through the day and so I finally decided to go see the doctor (we men are typically reluctant to seek medical attention). Anyway, when I was told I would need to have surgery to remove it, I smiled and said, "Well, thank goodness!" When they asked why I was so happy, I told them it was good to know there was an actual reason why I wasn't feeling good, instead of just a stomachache. This happened on Halloween. Which I thought was appropriate.
By: Al Penwasser on August 27, 2014
my folks did something similar with monies made on my tonsils so I get it...only mine was new outdoor furniture for the backyard. Yikes. I met a guy today that is "our" age and he is of Portugese heritage. Such a sweet guy. He would like to move back to California but his Mom and Dad moved here several years ago and his Dad just recently passed away. His Mom is adamant about not moving and so he says he is here for the long haul. Kinda reminded me of you and your Mom. Must be that family thing that you talk about all the time. Just got my computer back to working thanks to this nice man....you're the first place I came to read and I told him about you and I hope he'll become a reader too. Oma Linda
By: omalinda on August 27, 2014
These days the two insurance companies would get in a fight about which one owed the money, and meanwhile the hospital and doctor would insist your parents pay out of pocket because they didn't want to wait for the arguing and suing to end. Anyway, i'm very sorry they ignored you, that was awful!
By: mimi on August 27, 2014
Unfortunately there are too many stories like yours. My wife's for example. She was unconscious for 7 days.
By: red on August 27, 2014
Interesting how you were initially fobbed off with the suggestion that constipation was the source of your discomfort. That happened to my dad recently when the actual problem was a life-threatening bowel obstruction! I've still got my appendix, but lost my tonsils at 8 years old - it was customary in the 1960s in the UK to routinely remove them as they were deemed to be a magnet for infection. Interesting how medical practices evolve.
By: Bryan Jones on August 27, 2014
Oh I am feeling so sorry for that poor dear boy!! Today they would take you in pretty fast because of fear or lawsuits.
By: Tabor on August 27, 2014
I can only imagine how aggravating it would be to sit there in that much pain. Oh wait....I have, except in my case it was a kidney stone. But as yours could have been life threatening, I'll play Ed McMahon to your Johnny Carson. :)
By: Scott Park on August 27, 2014
When my mother was 4 years old she was placed into a Detroit Catholic orpanage by her parents ( could not feed her and her sister in 1925) My mother had a horrible stomach ache and the nuns disciplined her for faking...consequently her appendix burst and she was lucky to survive perintonitis (sp?) . A year later she was adopted and never did know where her sister ended up. Your story was amazing how a USA hospital would treat a child- especially the bit about an enema.
By: Kathe W. on August 27, 2014
My appendix burst when I was 12 years old. The only good thing I can remember about it was that the nearest hospital was in another town about 30 miles away and I got a nice ride there in the back seat of the doctor's new Cadillac.
By: Catalyst on August 27, 2014
Mine burst also when I was 10 so I was feeling your pain till I cracked up at the tonsil statement from your Mom. Too funny.
By: Akansas Patti on August 27, 2014
Whew! For a minute there, I was worried. Not about you. We know you survived. I was worried, because I have a "Toenail Rug" which was named because my grandma gave me a beautiful braided rug that cut my foot, the implement of bloodletting being a petrified old toenail from my uncle's clippings when he visited Grandma. So...I was worried that your couch had an appendix in it.
By: Val on August 27, 2014
So...did your family call the couch the "appendix couch?" As in, "Oh, Aunt Jane, so nice of you to visit. Come have a seat on our appendix couch..." Hahahaha.
By: Pixel Peeper on August 27, 2014
It seems to me that we baby boomers have paid for far too many blunders through the years. While in college a friend passed away following the removal of her appendix.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 27, 2014
Sounds pretty similar to the service you get on the NHS here in the UK, although in fairness, they do tend to put kids at the top of the list. Well apart from the ones that shout out foul language, they go at the bottom. ;)
By: LL Cool Joe on August 28, 2014
You're a good kid, Stephen Hayes!
By: Tom Sightings on August 28, 2014
Hilarious story... since you survived it (and your parents got a couch out of it). So nice they didn't let your appendix burst in the waiting room.
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 28, 2014
I feel for you- the same thing happened to my son in law. He sat in the ER waiting room all night waiting to be seen0 then rushed in to remove his appendix. Crazy!! I'm glad you still have your tonsils..I have hung on to mine for over 50 years and they are a big pain in the well..throat. LOL!
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on August 28, 2014
Wow Stephen, your appendix nightmare and mine sound similar. The hospital kept sending me home and I kept coming back. 3rd time around I went from x-ray to OR in no time flat! It took me screaming threats too. A week later I came home. Thank goodness we survived and can laugh about it years later!!
By: Bouncin Barb on August 28, 2014
Your dad was the passive type? I would think he'd have to be to live with your mother's character. Sounds absolutely awful... the appendix that is.
By: Hilary on August 29, 2014
This has got to be one of my favorites of your posts! I'm laughing out loud about the sofa but I feel terrible that you had to writhe in pain that long. My daughter had the same thing happen when she was about 11. We didn't think it was anything serious until she was doubled over in pain. When we arrived at the hospital, her appendix ruptured. Very dangerous situation. I'm so glad that you (and my daughter) survived the ordeal. Now whenever someone complains about lower pain the gut, I take them seriously!
By: marcia @ Menopausal Mother on August 29, 2014
I suppose the very sad truth of the matter is that healthcare in this country has always been generally sorry. For I can remember South Barry County Hospital in Cassville being well known as a good place to die, and Arlynda has told me that the hospital in Houston, Missouri had the same thing often said about it. Of course, none of that mattered all that much to me back when I appeared to be virtually immune to all illnesses and diseases. For while everyone around me thought they were dying from the latest batch of the flu going around, I would be going about my business in perfect health, but now that I am so very sick all of the time, something must be done about our healthcare system!
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on August 29, 2014
You have a great sense of humour, Stephen, and the creative ability to turn even the worst ordeal into an amusing situation for us to read about. I'm not surprised though that you couldn't sit on that couch! Thankfully, you lived to tell the tale and write your fabulous posts! :)
By: Sharon Bradshaw on August 30, 2014
How frightening for you and how easy for things to take a turn for the worse especially when one is surrounded by professional people who are supposed to know better.
By: John on September 1, 2014

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