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 Dinner Party: Conclusion

July 17, 2015

 

I stared at the sap seeping through the white paint on our dining room table and taxed myself to think of a creative solution. Maybe I could tell Aarone the sap was hashish and she’d smoke it. Better still, maybe she’d arrive having already imbibed and she wouldn’t even notice the amber goop.

           

The sap had broken through the white paint in too many places to count. Had these blobs been in a straight line down the center, I could have covered them with a runner, or hidden them under the silver candelabra Mrs. Chatterbox’s godmother had gifted us. An idea began taking root in my head. Candles…. I removed the candles from the candelabra and stuck them directly into the sticky sap. They held their positions perfectly, standing like chess pieces.

           

Mrs. C. approached. She looked at me like I’d gone out of my mind. “What are you doing?”

           

“We don’t need candle holders. We’ll just stick the candles and silverware directly onto the sap.”

           

“Isn’t sap flammable?”

           

I hadn’t thought of that. But time was running out and we were out of options.

           

I began sticking knives, forks and spoons in the sap and they all stood at attention, as if defying gravity, yet the sap left no sticky residue, releasing the utensils without a mess.

           

“It looks ridiculous, especially with lit candles where some of the place settings need to go.”

           

“True, but we’ll just place the settings in an asymmetrical design. The tables at all the dinner parties I’ve been to have been designed symmetrically. Ours will be different. Our guests will think it’s intentional, artistic.”

           

I’d never been to a fancy dinner party and had no idea how tables were set, but the moment didn’t call for honesty.

           

“But it isn’t artistic. It’s stupid,” she said.

           

Mrs. C. was, and is, many things, but she has never been someone who enjoys thinking outside the box.

           

“If we say it’s artistic, then it’s artistic.”

           

She shook her head and walked back to her kitchen.

           

When finished, it looked like a table where Salvador Dali would entertain Alice in Wonderland. Some diners would be squeezed together, others would have room to stretch out. Some would have to eat around candles glued to the table directly in front of them. Knives, forks and spoons were scattered about, as if they’d come to life like Mickey’s broom in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I hoped it was artistic, because it looked weird.

           

Aarone arrived, sailing into our little duplex with our other guests on her heels. Her reaction to our table was better than I could have hoped. She stared, and broke out laughing. “Marvelous, just marvelous. I must meet the delightful woman who did this. What an artist she is!”

           

Calling someone an artist was Aarone’s highest compliment.

           

After cocktails and appetizers, Mrs. C. announced dinner, and everyone found places at our whacky table. Aarone positioned herself in front of one of the candles.

           

I don’t remember much about the food Mrs. C. prepared. I’m sure it was wonderful. Even back then she was a tremendous cook. Wine flowed freely and I don’t remember much else about the evening, except how hard we all laughed when I got too close to one of the candles and my sleeve caught fire.

 

 

           

           

              

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Comments

31 Comments
At least that worked out for the most part. So did you throw the table out after that?
By: PT Dilloway on July 17, 2015
Funny how art can be perceived.
By: Daniel LaFrance on July 17, 2015
Great thinking!
By: John on July 17, 2015
This requires a picture. If I visualize correctly what you describe I see a hot mess! Still you are a genius. Funny how that impression thing was so important in those days, today you might just say, "excuse the sap everyone...who knew?" and laugh it off. Great three-parter.
By: cranky on July 17, 2015
funny the things we obsess about when it isn't the trappings that is important but the friends and camaraderie.
By: Ellen Abbott on July 17, 2015
now THAT'S creative!!!
By: TexWisGirl on July 17, 2015
That's what I call brilliant thinking outside the box. Bravo! Too bad you don't have any photographs of that "artistic" table.
By: Susan Swiderski on July 17, 2015
I loved how you did this story in segments. I definitely couldn't wait to come back everyday for more. What a funny story and a lovely memory. Cheers to the artist in all of us. Beckie
By: Beckie on July 17, 2015
What a brilliant idea and a fantastic story! I just love how you and Mrs. C get along. Truly a great newlywed story.
By: Bouncin Barb on July 17, 2015
Loved it. :)
By: Izdiher on July 17, 2015
Funny story & a brilliant solution!!
By: fishducky on July 17, 2015
I'm not sure if it's art, but I know what I like. Well done! I think I paraphrased someone there.
By: Al Penwasser on July 17, 2015
This is great! You created something quite unique out of something that could have been very messy. What happened to the table afterwards?
By: Birgit on July 17, 2015
Too bad cell phones weren't so ubiquitous then - a picture would have been fabulous! :D
By: The Bug on July 17, 2015
Now if that had been me I would have gone to a diy shop and got a plastic dust sheet, thrown it over the table then covered that with a white sheet. But that would have been a very boring story wouldn't it? :D
By: LL Cool Joe on July 17, 2015
A fun saga and it ended well. I guess necessity can also be the mother (in your case father) of art as well as invention.
By: Tom Cochrun on July 17, 2015
Quite a clever fellow you are. Perfect for the guests she had invited. Maybe not so cool for a group of accountants but you had the right guests. I had thought of some things, none as imaginative as you came up with. Well done and worth the wait.
By: Akansas Patti on July 17, 2015
oh hahahah too bad you don't have a photo- but wait! You could conjure up a painting of that soiree! Loved this! More please.
By: Kathe W. on July 17, 2015
At last, the conclusion! I am not a good installment reader. This story was sapping my patience. See what I did there? If you were a science teacher, you might have trapped an insect in each drop, and passed them off as amber fossils.
By: Val on July 17, 2015
What a clever rescue of the dinner party!
By: Pixel Peeper on July 17, 2015
Well, my prediction was wrong. I could see the dinner party coming right off the rails. So the ending was a happy one.
By: red on July 17, 2015
Heeheehee! Yep, if an artist says it's art, it's art! Excellent thinking and i hope you let your wife take the full credit.
By: mimi on July 17, 2015
Now that's some quick thinking :) What a great story!
By: jenny_o on July 17, 2015
A good host should always do whatever it takes to keep their guests entertained. If it takes lighting themselves on fire, so be it.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on July 18, 2015
What a riot! You really saved the day. Or, maybe as Mrs. C would think, lucky you had a guest like Aarone who was full of herself enough to believe in the Emporer's New Clothes...
By: Lexa Cain on July 18, 2015
I thought your wife was going to tell you to remove the things you had stuck in sap, and Iâm glad she didnât because I would see it as suggestive of an excessive concern with appearances and a dislike of spontaneity. I say all this to compliment your wife, and to indicate that Iâm glad you have her.
By: Snowbrush on July 18, 2015
Art is always an excuse. Good work.
By: Catalyst on July 18, 2015
I'm glad it all worked out. X set our dining room table on fire ten minutes before 50 or so guests descended on us for an open house. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on July 19, 2015
I wish you had photos. Glad it worked out and was memorable.
By: Robyn Engel on July 20, 2015
So Aaroneâs approval was all that mattered.
By: Haddock on July 21, 2015
I would love to have attended that party. Andy, you got killer blog posts to boot :) R
By: Rick Watson on July 21, 2015

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