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 Leopard Changes Its Spots: Conclusion

October 15, 2014

This tale is from “The Kid in the Kaleidoscope.” If you missed Part One catch it (here

 

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By the spring of my junior year, it was time to do something about the abuse heaped on me by Coach Jenkins. The time for revenge had arrived, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Ricky Delgado had spent nearly as much time at Juvy as he had at Wilcox but he was curtailing his criminal behavior so he could try out for the swim team. He was available and eager to assist me.

     

Over the summer, my art teacher Miss Veasie and Coach Jenkins, both single, had connected. Throughout my junior year, Jenkins was hanging around the art classes when not intimidating kids on the football field. It unnerved me to have him there. Jenkins scowled whenever Miss Veasie lavished attention on me, and I swear he ratcheted up his intolerance of me. 

    

But Miss Veasie only saw Coach Jenkins as a mighty Apollo. She couldn’t stop making goo-goo eyes at him whenever he visited the classroom. If horrors were ranked, discovering that your teacher was boiling with lust for someone you couldn’t stand ranked right up there with imagining your parents doing “it.” Before long, Miss Veasie was being referred to by her students as “Easy-Veasie.”    

    

Miss Veasie went so far as to involve her students in a scheme to play footsie with Jenkins. She convinced him to join her at posing for our drawing class—shoeless. As the rest of the class concentrated on his muscular feet and her petite ones, I focused on their commingling toes and noticed what a big baby he was whenever she nudged her foot against the bottom of his. He didn’t like having the soles of his feet touched. He tickled easily.

    

One day I was walking by Easy-Veasie’s desk and glanced at her open weekly planner. For Friday she’d penciled in: sculpture. I asked about this. “What kind of a sculpture are we going to make?”

    

“We’re going to use quick-drying plaster to make a body cast.”

    

I was a budding painter, not a sculptor, but taking a cast of someone to make a statue seemed like cheating. I didn’t need to ask, but did. “Who’s going to pose for this plaster cast?”            

    

“Coach Jenkins has volunteered to pose for us. Isn’t that nice of him?”

    

“Yeah, he’s quite a guy. I’m sure he’ll make a great sculpture.”

    

Easy-Veasie looked incredibly happy at the prospect of troweling plaster over Coach Jenkins’ muscular body. “Many modern sculptors use quick-drying plaster to make casts of models and friends.”

    

The school library had a few books on modern sculpture, including a how-to book on creating ghostly human replicas by piecing together castings of friends, models or anyone patient enough to leave their impressions in plaster. A plan began jelling in my head…one of sweet revenge.

    

That Friday, Easy-Veasie used the book I’d returned to the library to give a lecture on making plaster casts. During her talk, Jenkins arrived and quickly disappeared into the supply room. He reappeared a short time later wearing only a swimsuit. Since he often filled in for the swimming coach and was a fairly good water polo player, our seeing him in a bathing suit wasn’t that odd.

    

At Easy-Veasie’s direction, he walked over to a folding chair, sat down and assumed a stiff pose resembling Rodin’s Thinker, with a red crew cut. Most of the pictures I’d seen in that How-To book showed sculptures of people clothed in everyday attire, but Easy-Veasie must have had a reason for wanting a replica of the coach wearing only a swimsuit.

    

She’d done her homework, learning it was first necessary to coat the model in Vaseline to prevent the plaster from sticking and making it easy to remove. With a furtive smile on her face, and with her students looking on, she greased Coach Jenkins like a Thanksgiving turkey.

    

Next came the quick-drying plaster. If someone hadn’t accidentally torn a certain page from the how-to section of the book, Easy-Veasie might have learned that it’s not a good idea to cover the entire body all at once; it’s safer to apply the plaster in sections, which can later be pieced together. While he breathed through an extra-wide straw, the whole class took part in covering him in plaster. Naturally, he’d ordered us to leave his sensitive feet alone. This sculpture wouldn’t have feet. During the plastering, I went to the sink to wash my hands. Ricky was standing just outside the door. I gave him the nod, our agreed-upon signal. A few minutes later, everyone but me was startled by the blare of a fire alarm.

    

The administration at Wilcox took fire drills seriously, even if we students didn’t. I knew there was no fire, along with Ricky, who’d donned a plastic parka and held a cigarette lighter taped to a broom handle up to a ceiling sprinkler in French #101. The French class was conveniently away on a crepe-hunting expedition.

    

Easy-Veasie ordered us to file out of the building. We headed to our designated safety spot on the playing field. Students seldom stayed with their classes; everyone mingled about enjoying the unexpected opportunity to socialize. I knew Easy-Veasie wouldn’t notice I hadn’t left the building; she’d be too mindful of the poor bastard she’d just covered in quick-drying plaster, who couldn’t move at all and had to remain motionless, eyes forward, as he breathed through a straw. Before leaving to join her students, Easy-Veasie reassured Jenkins that this was just a short drill and she’d be back in no time. She kissed one of his plaster-covered ears as I slipped into the supply room. 

    

Coach Jenkins’ shoes and clothes were on one of the shelves, neatly folded. On a higher shelf were half a dozen brightly painted papier mache head masks Easy-Veasie had purchased on a trip to Mexico. Whenever she thought our use of color too timid, she’d bring out these gaudy masks and make us wear them in order to “feel the colors from the inside out.” I peeled off my shirt so I couldn’t be identified, then pulled down a mask resembling an orange-and-black spotted leopard. Finally, I got to be predator instead of the prey.

    

I could only imagine what Coach Jenkins thought when, from the corner of his eye, he saw me slinking up to him with that leopard mask covering my head. His eyes, the only exposed part of him (except for his feet), bulged like those of a deep-sea diver who’d surfaced too quickly. I produced a dirty grey feather from the side pocket of my jeans, the same feather I’d desperately clutched that terrible day at the chin-up bar when I’d failed to break Chris Ferris’ record.

    

I wasn’t in a hurry. A quick survey of the classrooms would show that a sprinkler had actually gone off, making this more than just a drill. I had a good twenty to thirty minutes to enjoy my revenge.            

    

If I was hot beneath my papier mache mask, I could only imagine how hot the coach was under all that plaster. But I wasn’t about to feel sorry for him. I ran the feather slowly over one of his soles. He let out a muffled bellow of rage, spit dripping from the end of his straw. Again the feather, only the other foot this time. His muscles were flexing in his plaster cocoon, and the folding chair shook back and forth. But the plaster held.

    

How I wanted him to know it was me avenging myself on him. I wanted to pull off that leopard mask and shriek, How do you like being tormented, asshole? But I could only let a feather talk for me. I wormed it through his toes, spit draining from the straw and forming a puddle in his lap, his eyes red and puffy.

    

Until then, I’d rarely showed toughness. My childhood hero Zorro might have summoned mercy for this guy, but not me. I imagined all the chubby kids he’d tormented over the years—tender, frightened kids yearning to belong, frustrated at being picked last for every team and snickered at for having less-than-perfect bodies. Coach Jenkins might not have been personally responsible for all this, but at that moment he was the living embodiment of everything wrong in the world.

    

When I thought he was getting used to the feather, I ran my fingertips up and down the soles of his feet, varying the motion like a great pianist coaxing perfect sounds from a Steinway. His eyes were now closed, but he was still jerking and flexing, moaning like a vampire stuck in his coffin. If he could have broken free at that moment, he’d probably have killed me.

    

I decided he’d had enough and returned to the supply room, tossing the leopard mask on the shelf with the others and pulling on my shirt. Since Jenkins was still immobile, he couldn’t turn to see me as I hurried out of the supply room, just as the all-clear siren rang out.

    

Easy-Veasie sprinted back to her classroom and took a hammer to Coach Jenkins, who’d nearly passed out from being mummified so long. Vaseline didn’t do much to keep the plaster from sticking: Jenkins staggered around with chunks of it glued to him, looking like an outraged Abominable Snowman. He grabbed his clothes in the supply room and bolted for the locker room to shower.   

    

Coach Jenkins became meaner to everyone, and wasn’t seen in the art room after that. He and Easy-Veasie seemed to have cooled it as a couple. I always wondered what he thought when he found that dirty grey feather in his pants pocket, where I’d placed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Comments

32 Comments
Never would have thought this ending! You are lucky you survived your youth.
By: Tabor on October 15, 2014
When I read this, I was reminded of Mr. Heyman, the gym teacher on 'Seinfeld' who mispronounced George's name as "Cant-Stand-Ya."
By: Al Penwasser on October 15, 2014
you'd like to think he'd have learned a lesson from it, but bullies are hard-headed as well as tender-footed. :)
By: TexWisGirl on October 15, 2014
He had it coming! I wish it had made an impact on him though.
By: Mari on October 15, 2014
What an entertaining story. Thanks for sharing it with us :)
By: Michael Offutt on October 15, 2014
You weave a very fine story, CC.
By: Hilary on October 15, 2014
How very thoughtful and considerate meting out punishment as "light as a feather"! :)
By: John on October 15, 2014
Oh, you got him back but good! There are a couple of teachers i wouldn't have minded having something like that happen to them, not that i would have been brave enough to do it.
By: mimi on October 15, 2014
Ah poetic... I mean ARTISTIC justice!
By: Mitchell is Moving on October 15, 2014
Haha! Nice to enjoy this vicarious revenge. Plaster is just so tempting isn't it. At art school one of the guys told the dimmest student in the group that he would make a plaster cast of her beautiful hand. Off he went, came back with a large tin bucket, a bag of plaster. and some water.......
By: Jenny Woolf on October 15, 2014
well....revenge is great served best with a side order of knowing. Congrats on both not getting caught and teaching the coach a lesson
By: Oma Linda on October 15, 2014
As the saying goes ... revenge is best served with vaseline, plaster and a feather!!
By: Bryan Jones on October 15, 2014
Wishfull thinking, it never happened.
By: Coach Jenkins on October 15, 2014
An ingenious plan... and a fertile mind! Bravo!
By: Daniel LaFrance on October 15, 2014
What a truly sinister fellow you were but boy did he deserve it. I was wondering if Coach Jenkins might read this and sure enough he commented--or someone pulling your chain.
By: Akansas Patti on October 15, 2014
Brilliant telling of a great story. Not at all what I expected. I love it that you can surprise me. You don't write in cliches. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on October 15, 2014
You little scamp!
By: Val on October 15, 2014
"...she greased Coach Jenkins like a Thanksgiving turkey..." Bwahahaha! Well told!
By: Pixel Peeper on October 15, 2014
Hah, hah. These days Easy Veasie would probably get arrested. And so would you!
By: tom sightings on October 15, 2014
Revenge. Oh, sweet, sweet revenge.
By: Catalyst on October 15, 2014
I think I wold have put chili powder in the plaster of paris....you were nice only to tickle his feet! Excellent revenge!
By: Kathe W. on October 15, 2014
Ha, love it. Great story!!
By: LL Cool Joe on October 15, 2014
Love it! Loved the comment by Coach Jenkins too. Reminds me of a late tackle I did on the games master.
By: Mike@A Bit About Britain on October 16, 2014
Your adventures with Ricky Delgado would make a wonderful sitcom. Love this story-
By: Shelly on October 16, 2014
Great, funny story, even if it is fiction.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on October 16, 2014
I loved this story!! Was that really Coach Jenkins commenting?
By: fishducky on October 16, 2014
Funny, but that wasn't Coach Jenkins leaving a comment. He drowned in a scuba diving accident off The Channel Islands in 1988.
By: Chubby Chatterbox on October 16, 2014
ANYONE, WHO ENJOYS PLAYING FOOTSIE SHOULD BE TORTURED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on October 16, 2014
Stephen: I felt like Bill Murray uttering that line in the movie "Tootsie": "THAT is one crazy show!" Glad you survived! That took guts!!
By: Michael Manning on October 17, 2014
I never knew that under that sweet, artistic exterior beat the heart of such a wily, sneaky, and vengeful kid. Sounds like the coach deserved it though.
By: Lexa Cain on October 17, 2014
Oh, a lovely story. I confess I've had some revenge fantasies over the years. Never acted on them, though.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on October 18, 2014
This is spectacular. I'm very proud of the young Stephen. It was ruthless (but not overly so), elaborate, creative, and simply brilliant.
By: Robyn Engel on October 18, 2014

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