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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Time to Forgive Michael Jackson

March 30, 2016


In 1984 Michael Jackson was flying high with Thriller, voted the most influential pop music video ever. I was managing a jewelry store in Oregon at the time and Jackie, one of my employees, approached to ask for a few days off.

“Why?” I asked.


Jackie was one of my best salespeople when she wasn’t attending classes at a local college. She seldom asked for time off. “I want to buy tickets for the Michael Jackson Concert at the Tacoma Dome up near Seattle. The concert is in a few months and tickets go on sale in two days. I plan to camp on the sidewalk in front of Ticketmaster to have a crack at choice seats.”


Here was the solution to a problem I’d been struggling with; what to give Mrs. Chatterbox for her upcoming birthday. Mrs. C. was a big fan of the King of Pop. “Sure, I’ll give you time off,” I told Jackie. “And while you’re at it, pick up two tickets for me.”


Tickets were $35.00 and I handed over $70.00. Birthday problem solved. Two days later Jackie entered the store, dirty and disheveled but smiling. She handed over two tickets. “These are worth much more than you paid so be careful with them,” she said. “Scalpers will be selling them outside the gate on concert night for hundreds of dollars."


Two months later, Mrs. C. was ecstatic when she opened her birthday card and the tickets dropped out. The day before the concert she was delirious with anticipation. An hour before my shift ended, Jackie approached the counter where I was polishing jewelry. She looked upset; her bottom lip was sticking out and her eyes were damp. “A friend just called to give me the bad news. Michael Jackson cancelled tomorrow night’s concert. He has a sore throat.”


“Will the concert be rescheduled for ticket holders?” I asked.


“No. But Ticketmaster will refund the face value of the tickets,” she explained.


“Damn! This is the second time Michael Jackson has cancelled on me.”


I wasn’t looking forward to telling Mrs. C. about the cancellation, but a fellow had entered the store and taken a seat in front of the diamond engagement rings. I set personal business aside to earn my salary.


An hour later I was wrapping up a thirty-six hundred dollar sale. The commission I was about to receive almost made up for the sting of the concert cancellation. When I asked the young man if he’d like to open an account to finance the ring he smiled and shook his head. “I have an interesting way to pay for this ring,” he said. “Three weeks ago I bought ten tickets from scalpers for tomorrow night’s Michael Jackson concert. I’ll make a killing selling these outside the gate tomorrow night. Hold onto the ring and I’ll be back with cash after the concert.”


He looked pleased with himself; I hated to break the news.


“So you haven’t heard?”


His eyes widened. “Heard what?”


“Jackson has a sore throat. He cancelled the concert.”


He let out a long moan. “Shiiiiiiiiit! What about refunds?”


“Ticketmaster will refund the face value.”


“But I didn’t pay face value. I paid scalpers a hundred bucks apiece for ten tickets.”


I didn’t know what to say. He took a last look at the sparkling diamond in his hand before returning it to me. “Can’t afford this now,” he said.


He stood and walked out the door, taking my fat commission with him.


Mrs. C. was quite understanding about the cancellation. I tried to make it up to her with my employee discount and bought her a piece of jewelry. We never did see Michael Jackson perform live and I’ve held a grudge against him since 1984. I guess it’s time to say: I forgive you, Michael.




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The thought was there for her birthday, Steve. That's all that matters!
By: Linda on March 30, 2016
As I read this one I thought crossed my mind briefly. Will he tell the guy about the cancellation but before I read on, I knew what you would do...which was the right thing. I'm guessing there are salespeople who would not have told him. R
By: Rick Watson on March 30, 2016
My son-in-law holds grudges. I once asked him, "Are you going to hate this person until you die?" He said, "Yes--& then one more month!!"
By: fishducky on March 30, 2016
I heard about this. Reports said MJ was just "dead." Oooooh, too soon?
By: Al Penwasser on March 30, 2016
Too bad about the concert being cancelled and good for you to tell the guy about the cancellation- honesty is the best way to live!
By: Kathe W. on March 30, 2016
At least you weren't as screwed as that guy.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on March 30, 2016
That really is a piece of irony. Actually I don't believe I would EVER have forgiven Michael!
By: Jenny on March 30, 2016
That is a hard luck story. When Michael died I was interviewed by several media outlets around the world. A few years before I had written a piece about meeting Michael and his family when he was an adorable kid of about 5 or six. I was working at an Indiana radio station when on a Sunday afternoon the light and bell indicated someone was at the studio building door. Being a small station I was the only person there, so I went to the door to be greeted by a smiling little guy and a couple of his brothers and a sister. A black Cadillac was pulled up in the driveway and a man who I guessed to be his father stood by the drivers door. Michael explained his family had made a record and they were driving through Indiana asking stations to give it a listen. He explained they were from Gary Indiana. I asked them in and put the record on audition. I liked it immediately and told them to go back to the car and listen as they drove on. I played the record. Callers loved it too. A few days later I got a letter from the Jackson family thanking me for playing the song. It was the mid 60's and attitudes about race were at times challenging. I frankly thought nothing about that, but was simply impressed by a talented musical family and that cute little kid with a big smile.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 30, 2016
Alex stole my thoughts. Things could have been way worse and pretty sure that guy hasn't forgiven Michael yet. Luckily you had a decent plan B and a loving wife.
By: Arkansas Patti on March 30, 2016
You are right to forgive him, life is too short to hold grudges.
By: messymimi on March 30, 2016
I guess the man in the mirror has been waiting 32 years for that.
By: Val on March 30, 2016
what a great story Stephen.
By: fran on March 30, 2016
Great story! it looks like the only one to roll with the punches was Mrs. C.
By: red Kline on March 30, 2016
At least you didn't lose as much as your potential customer!
By: Pixel Peeper on March 30, 2016
$35 seems like a low price for a Michael Jackson concert, even in 1984.
By: Catalyst on March 30, 2016
You came so close! We once had tickets to see Nathan Lane on Broadway in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum. He canceled about an hour before the performance. I wrote a letter to him that he probably never received. It included the information that my six-year-old daughter had said Nathan Lane was too low to kiss her butt. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 30, 2016
Sorry your wife didn't get to see him--I remember my mom being upset that Elvis died before she got to see him. Interestingly, I was on a river trip for both Elvis and Jackson's death and didn't learn about it until later.
By: Sage on March 30, 2016
I noticed Catalyst said that $35 seems a low ticket price, even for 1984. When we saw Paul McCartney in about 1989, tickets were $25. I've never purchased tickets from a scalper and have never scalped tickets. It seems as if it could lead to trouble. And it did for that man. Love again, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 30, 2016
never saw Michael Jackson. I did almost meet the Rolling Stones once. They were on my plane to Hawaii in first class. I was in coach and the attendants had the curtain pulled between sections the whole time. didn't know they were on my plane til I disembarked and saw the crowds.
By: Ellen Abbott on March 31, 2016
A double hit for you. For the scalper, it is a risk reward business, don't feel sorry for him a bit. Well maybe a little bit.
By: cranky on March 31, 2016
I certainly do enjoy your stories, Stephen. Another good one. One of the things that really stood out to me when reading this post was how we had to actually camp out to get tickets. I did it a few times back in the day. Times have certainly changed. And you certainly made out better than the guy who bought all those scalped tickets.
By: Mr. Shife on March 31, 2016
There are two great stories here today, Steve - yours, and Tom Cochrun's (above)!
By: jenny_o on March 31, 2016
Stephen: That is quite a story. Your wife certainly knew you were as creative as Stanley Marcus in his book, "Minding the Store". I'm not sure Michael Jackson's life was a happy one. But he was a very gifted performer.
By: MICHAEL MANNING on April 1, 2016
During his BAD tour, Michael Jackson was supposed to play in St Louis. I didn't have tickets, but I knew a lot of people who did. That show got cancelled for a sore throat also. He did reschedule to do a show a few weeks later.
By: Brett Minor (Transformed Nonconformist) on April 1, 2016
I bet that was disappointing and I probably would have been miffed at Michael for ruining the birthday surprise for your wife. Good on you for being truthful to the man who could have made you a nice bonus!
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on April 1, 2016
I'm sure there will be seat in 'heaven' for Mrs. Chatterbox to see Michael perform.
By: Daniel LaFrance on April 1, 2016

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