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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Blog Archive

11/2012

Hemingway's Coat

November 02, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I've been playing with fiction. Here's something new:   “I thought you wanted to be a writer,” the old woman said to fourteen year old Becky.       “I do, Granny. My brain is full of ideas, but I have trouble putting them down on paper. All of the kids at school have computers. I wish I had one.”      The old woman looked at the orphaned granddaughter she’d spent nine years struggling to raise. Every cigarette the old woman had ever smoked was present in her voice when she said, “Sorry, kiddo. Money’s tight. We barely manage to keep up with the rent on this old trailer.”      Becky’s cheeks turned crimson. &ldq ... read more

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Peculiar Picture # 16

November 05, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Here’s a picture I painted a few years ago. The inspiration came from a photograph taken in a stairwell in Florence, Italy. The initial illustration seemed incomplete and I was at a loss trying to figure out what the composition needed. I set it aside. Several years later, I dug out the unfinished illustration and figured out what was missing.      Painted with acrylic on untempered masonite, I used glazes to build up the translucent darkness from a mixture of viridian green and alizarin crimson; no black was used. I approved of the dark mood, inspired by the backgrounds in many of Rembrandt’s paintings, but the painting lacked an emotional counter punch. So I added the balloon.      ... read more

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Justifying The "B" Word

November 07, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Yes, I admit it; in a moment of weakness I looked my son’s godmother in the face and called her the “B” word. Horrible I know, but don’t condemn me until you know the facts.      Our son’s godparents (I’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. G.) are psychologists and a delightful couple. They live in Sacramento and are our oldest and closest friends—the reason we selected them to be our son’s godparents. They’d agreed to raise little CJ should a tragedy make him an orphan. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were visiting them a few weeks before our first trip to Hawaii. Mrs. C. and I hadn’t traveled anywhere since our son was born and we were bubbling over with anticipation of ... read more

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Birthday #60

November 09, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Mrs. Chatterbox is slightly older than me; she turned 60 three weeks ago. Since then I’ve pretended I was a younger man consorting with a cougar. But yesterday was my birthday. Now I’m S-I-X-T-Y, and taking solace in a post I wrote back in my younger days, when I was a mere 59:      There are benefits to not being good with numbers and I’m reaping one right now. I thought this was the year I hit the big 60 but I now realize it’s only my fifty-ninth birthday, which I thought I’d celebrated last year. Because I have difficulty accessing that part of my brain where mathematics lurks like a creepy spider I get another year before leaving behind my fifties. Twelve months that I thought I&rsq ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #17

November 11, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts

To my knowledge, this illustration from my royalty free CD Business Fundamentals has never been used. Years ago I sat in my studio imagining what sort of illustrations art directors could use. Altogether, I created sixty images for my CD and I still receive royalty checks. Most of these illustrations have made their way into books and magazines around the world, but this one has yet to be published. Can you think of a purpose for this picture?



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Someone Had To Be First

November 12, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
We know so many important names in history, the first human to set foot on the moon, the first person to fly solo over the Atlantic or the first intrepid souls to reach the poles or scale Mount Everest, but who was the first person to have their picture taken?      Having our picture snapped is an occurrence we all take for granted. You don’t need to be a famous fashion model to be photographed relentlessly. We’re photographed at the DMV, entering banks and convenience stores, enjoying ourselves at sporting events, pausing at stop lights and often just walking down the street, which many see as a violation of privacy. Conservative estimates place the number of photographs taken by year 2000 at an amazing ... read more

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A Golden Skeleton in our Closet

November 14, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Most families have their own stories and legends, and mine is no exception. In Hayes family lore, Great Great Grandpa Phil is credited with finding the second largest gold nugget ever discovered in the state of California.       As I understand it, my ancestors were once wheelers and dealers in Central California. They lived on an impressive ranch near Hollister and rode around in monogrammed carriages. The source of their affluence was the Hayes Gold Mine, until it began petering out in the 1880s. A chance for restored wealth came in 1886; Phil Hayes found a single gold nugget weighing in at nearly forty pounds. He was clearing out a dried-up arroyo near Sierra City when he saw something gleaming in the roots of a t ... read more

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Brown Bear

November 16, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
When I graduated from college, my art degree made me about as hirable as a shepherd. I was a newlywed living in San Francisco and my bride’s cooking had caused me to pack on the pounds I’d fought off in college. To make matters worse, because of the additional weight I didn’t have any clothes that fit to wear to job interviews. I was reduced to wearing a black leather jacket I tried to dress up with a tie. I looked like an inflated Fonz.       I checked out investment companies, insurance agencies and marketing firms.  Nobody was hiring, at least not someone like me. I contacted a job placement service that agreed to try to place me, on condition that I get rid of the leather jacket and in ... read more

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I Think We're Being Robbed !

November 18, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Conclusion: Brown Bear:   After graduating from bank teller school, all novice tellers at Hibernia Bank started out at the home office on the corner of Jones and McAllister, a grand old structure built right after the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906. I was assigned to Mrs. Werfel, a thin grey-haired woman who happened to be one of the senior tellers. I studied her and followed her around like a puppy until one morning when I was told to go to the vault and sign for a money drawer of my own. When I returned I counted the money under her vigilant eyes, terrified I was about to give away the bank.       I was unbelievably nervous over a job that only paid three-hundred and seventy-five dollars a month, and my ... read more

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What's the ClA Really Hiding?

November 19, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The CIA and General Petraeus are in the news so much lately that I decided to rerun a post I wrote last year. The timing seemed appropriate. I hope you enjoy it.   A few years back an acquaintance told me that she had retired after working twenty years for the CIA. I was shocked; she hardly fit my mental profile for a covert operative, but what shocked me even more was what she said next: “I still get an agency discount, so if you want to buy anything at the CIA Gift Shop, let me know.”       The CIA had a gift shop?      She had to be pulling my leg. Wouldn’t a gift shop be out of character for a clandestine organization celebrated and defiled in movies and spy novels? It wa ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #18

November 21, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Telling a joke is always risky because everyone has such a different sense of humor, but the so-called comedian only risks a few words while standing on stage. When you tell a joke with paint the result is often a prolonged waste of time, depending on how long it takes to paint a joke, in this case around three days.      This image is based on the popular theme of the decline of civilization. Artists throughout history have depicted broken columns and statues of the once mighty protruding from desert sands to remind us that everything comes to an end, even powerful civilizations. Not many jokes remain funny for three days and the inspiration that inspired this Peculiar Picture had long since ceased to be funny by th ... read more

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Best Turkey Ever!

November 22, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This morning I woke alone in bed. Mrs. Chatterbox got up before dawn and began working on the feast that is the hallmark of this special day. I don’t deserve having a spouse willing to get up before roosters crow just to please me with a sumptuous banquet, but I’ll accept this gift as graciously as I can.      As I lay here enjoying the aroma of onions and fried pork sausage that will add flavor to Mrs. Chatterbox’s dressing, I can’t help but think back on the best Thanksgiving turkey I ever had. It was shortly after Mrs. Chatterbox and I were married, and even she admits it was spectacular.      That year my parents decided to have Thanksgiving at their house. Mom went o ... read more

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Freshly Brewed Hype

November 23, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Some things in life just don’t live up to their hype. Every time I go to the grocery store, which my wife assures me is much too infrequently, I pause on one of the aisles and inhale deeply. I’m instantly born up on a magic carpet ride of intoxication that lifts me to exotic places and distant memories. I’m on the coffee aisle. And as usual I feel gypped.      I remember spending the night with my grandparents when I was a kid and waking up to the wonderful smell wafting beneath my bedroom door. My grandparents would have been up for hours, the little radio on their kitchen counter squawking funny-sounding words I couldn’t understand, words that nevertheless made me feel safe and loved—the lan ... read more

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Peculiar Picture #19

November 25, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts

Here’s another illustration that seemed like a good idea at the time, but I don’t think it’s ever been published. I’ve always been a lover of bold colors and that love is evident here, even if nothing else is. Does this picture mean anything to you?

 



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Uncle Sam and Kotex

November 26, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Ricky Delgado was my best friend, even though he’d spent time at Hotel Juvy and was a seasoned thief. When a new shopping center sprang up near our house my parents forbade me to go anywhere near it with Ricky. But Dad worked nights and big brother David was at Little League practice. That left me to run an errand for my mother, a task no boy should be asked to do, unless there’s a licensed psychiatrist in the family. I was allowed to go to the shopping center with rip-off Ricky because my mother needed something called…Kotex.        My mother spoke with an authority last seen during the age of absolute monarchies. “A blue box! There’s a little rose on the side. And be sure yo ... read more

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Conclusion: Uncle Sam and Kotex

November 28, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
The lady behind the counter pushed the unbagged box of Kotex in my direction, oblivious to the fact that she held my quivering soul in her hands.         My voice was squeaky as a mouse. “Excuse me..?”       “Yes, something else you need?” she asked sweetly.       “Could you put this in a bag, pleeeeze?”       I should have selected a smaller box. Kotex came packaged in different sizes, but unfortunately I’d selected a box large enough to supply an army of Amazons.       “Sorry, Hon’, no can do.”       “But ... read more

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Kindred Spirits: A True Story

November 30, 2012 :: written in: All Blog Posts
In 2002 when we bought our house it was nearly a hundred years old. We’d only lived in it a week or two, not long enough to learn about the neighborhood or meet our neighbors. We’d arrived in the Fall and the golden leaves on the old maple trees lining the street were falling with urgency. Our house was close to a trendy area filled with antique stores and restaurants.      One evening we were bundled up for the brisk walk home after dining at a popular bistro when we rounded a corner and approached our house. I was so busy taking in the autumn colors and crisp fall air that I failed to notice Mrs. Chatterbox’s hand dropping from mine. She’d stopped on the sidewalk, frozen like a statue. Color ... read more

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