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


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 Mrs. Urbanick Experience

September 12, 2014




As I was driving home from swimming the other morning, the road in front of me was choked with school buses collecting kids and transporting them to school. Those buses reminded me that in the sixth grade someone briefly lit up my juvenile universe, outshining Helen Delgado, my best friend’s mother, who I’d had a crush on since I was five years old. Briefly eclipsing Helen was Mrs. Urbanick, my sixth grade teacher. Back then, I had no idea how quickly, or tragically, my new infatuation would end.




Every sixth-grade boy at our school had a thing for Mrs. Urbanick. Sophisticated, blond, regal; she was the Grace Kelly of our elementary school. Hers was the only class where the boys fought to sit up close in the front row just to be near her. It didn’t matter that we didn’t understand why we enjoyed studying her from behind as she scribbled Lake Tit-i-caca on the blackboard. She was the reward for toughing it out through grades one through five. When my time came, I was eager to participate in what was referred to as “The Mrs. Urbanick Experience.”

It seems that Mr. Urbanick wasn’t as infatuated with his wife as young boys were. He must have been what older kids called a homo because there just wasn’t any other explanation for how anyone could be so stupid as to let her go. But let her go he did, and when I returned to school after what seemed like the longest summer in history she arrived with a brand new name—Miss Copicado. This didn’t seem so horrible, even though the name “Mrs. Urbanick” conjured up perfume-scented images of someone lounging on the deck of a yacht. “Copicado” sounded like a fruit with a ridiculously large pit. 

It was exceptionally hot that first day of sixth grade, so hot that the indigo ink in my new Junior Huskies was heating up and beginning to run, staining my underwear blue. Mrs. Urbanick (make that Miss Copicado) was wearing a mauve heavy wool suit. Why she chose this outfit I’ll never know. Perhaps her ex-husband was a cross dresser and kept all the lightweight party dresses for himself.


Miss Copicado started off the day by picking up a piece of chalk to write her new name on the blackboard. When she lifted her arm to write, we all saw the large dark stain under her arm. I’d begun that morning idolizing her from the front row, but my infatuation with her withered and died that day. Miss Copicado had…pitted out.

 It was beyond me to feel sympathy for Miss Copicado or to consider all that this poor woman had lost, aside from the aura that had briefly captured my pubescent fascination. I don’t remember much from my “Miss Copicado Experience.” The months flew by in a blur—but a year or so later I spotted her crying in an empty classroom. “Are you all right?” I asked.

I could see she wasn’t, but she nodded, her lashes heavy with tears.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Do you want me to fetch the school nurse?”

Sniffling, she said, “Nat King Cole died.” 

“I was confused, thinking she was referring to “Old King Cole.”

She was wearing that same mauve suit and was now staining it with tears.  I didn’t know how to comfort anyone, much less someone blubbering over the death of a character from a nursery rhyme. 

I was too immature to forgive her for those stains under her arms but I’ve matured since then. I still think about her whenever I see an avocado.


Who was your first infatuation? Care to share?


My grade school teachers were all witches. But then I got to 7th grade, and my eyes were opened by my homeroom teacher Miss Holden. No, I can't tell you what happened, because nothing did happen, except in my mind. A cpl of years later she went into the Peace Corps, and I never saw her again.
By: Tom Sightings on September 12, 2014
7th grade, Miss Chiorello, all 4'10" of her! Hot, hot, hot.
By: Cranky on September 12, 2014
cute. i think when i was 5 i had a mad crush on little joe cartwright.
By: TexWisGirl on September 12, 2014
Most likely it was our 6th grade teacher Mr Jones. He was fresh out of college and was raring to go teach- he was a great teacher and we all liked him- it did not hurt that he was so handsome!
By: Kathe W. on September 12, 2014
I do not think I can go back and visit those stupid times. Too awful!
By: Tabor on September 12, 2014
Visions of... 'Summer of 42' come to mind.
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 12, 2014
Miss Malatesta, second grade, was very pretty, too, but I must agree that Mrs. Urbanik was quite a looker. For me it was Mr. Adams, 6th grade math! That white shirt and tie! lol
By: Linda on September 12, 2014
Even I thought Mrs Urbanik was the most beautiful woman. I too thought she looked like a movie star! And so did Mr Yamasaki who taught next door to her. Rumors flew about the two of them. I had a crush on him in 5th grade. But he has since ended up in jail and been ordered to stay away from children.
By: Becky T on September 12, 2014
Actually his name was Stephen in the first grade. I and half the female population of that grade adored him. He used us mercilessly. He would let us buy him candy till our allowances ran out. A 1st grade gigolo.
By: Akansas Patti on September 12, 2014
Fred from Scooby Doo. I still don't know why it never worked out!
By: Kinley Dane on September 12, 2014
Biology teacher, 5th grade. I was in an all girls school, and he was so handsome ALL the girls swooned over him. I still remember his anatomically correct drawing of the male organs. It was biology, after all.
By: Pixel Peeper on September 12, 2014
You've nailed a typical little boy infatuation. I couldn't tell you the first but there were enough so that I can identify with your story.
By: red on September 12, 2014
If you can call it infatuation, i was infatuated with Robin Hood and his men, and their carefree life. At least, the legend says it was carefree.
By: mimi on September 12, 2014
The band teacher was a cool guy. All five feet two inches of him. He had a couple of big Weimaraner dogs, and, sadly, a wife...
By: Val on September 12, 2014
Hi Stephen! It's been a while since I've visited my blogging friends and it's good to see that you're still here and still sharing your stories. I really enjoyed the walk down memory lane as I thought of my 22 year old sunday school teacher when I was 12. He set the bar pretty high for all the boys in my junior high. :)
By: Nancy Felt on September 12, 2014
Very touching story - silly to let her go like that. Miss Bush in primary school, who married to become Mrs Graham . . . well all have one . . . . and now I am single again, almost every woman I see . . . . lol
By: Eddie Bluelights on September 13, 2014
I can't remember. I don't think I was ever infatuated with a teacher--just plenty of boys who were a little older than I was and had pot and could drive. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 13, 2014
I never had a crush on a teacher. But there were plenty of teen age boys when I was about ten or so that I liked. I remember a hippie named George I was wild about. But then he married a man.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on September 13, 2014
Mr. Fox, my World History teacher in high school. I'd had other crushes, but he was 6ft 4, had strawberry blond hair, the most gorgeous bule eyes, and the build of an NFL linebacker!
By: Eva Gallant on September 13, 2014
It is sad how fickle we are when we are young! Little details like the stained armpits can almost hurt. :)
By: Jenny on September 14, 2014
All my teachers were women so no falling in love there. But I remember having this one big crush on a TV actor whose show I always loved watching after school. Never missed his show for anything.
By: Anne on September 14, 2014
None of my teachers who were more likle short tempered Grand mothers................Of course they were probably younger than I am now!
By: John on September 14, 2014
This is a really sweet and sad story, beautifully told. I really have no idea who my first crush was. I'll have to think about that for a while.
By: Mitchell is Moving on September 14, 2014
It wasn't any of my teachers, for sure. One hit me on the head with a dictionary and another tortured me in Games. I was infatuated with Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and many other schmulzy-schmoozy pop stars of the same ilk.
By: Fran on September 14, 2014
I don't think she was my first infatuation, but I had a Miss. Buch in high school. Devastatingly beautiful and a redhead. I had a thing for redheads even then. She taught Home Ec and cooking classes, so I only had her my senior year for Adult Living, but it was a good year.
By: Brett Minor on September 14, 2014
Ahhh I adored Richard Chamberlain of Dr. Kildare fame. How was I to know that he was probably more infatuated with Dr. Ben Casey?
By: Hilary on September 15, 2014
I do not remember having any hot teachers around until I made it high school, and there were Mrs. Remmick, who had been born and raised in West Germany, and Mrs. Cole, who was the head football coach's wife. Mrs. Remmick was a redhead on par with Ann Margaret and Mrs. Cole was the epitome of a blond cheerleader. Miss Sparkman joined the faculty for my senior year and completed the trinity by being a brunette on par with Kate Jackson of the original Charlie's Angels lineup.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on September 17, 2014

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