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

12/2013

Returning Freedom

December 02, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
 As most of you know, I was pet deprived as a child, only allowed small pets that could be flushed down the toilet when they died. As a married couple, Mrs. Chatterbox and I have owned several dogs over the years and I’ve noticed an interesting dynamic—the dogs Mrs. C. picks live with us for many years while the dogs I pick don’t seem to work out. The reason for this is obvious; as an artist I tend to rescue beautiful dogs while Mrs. C. looks for animals with wonderful personalities. She couldn’t care less what the dog looks like. But ten years ago when we were between dogs I foolishly inserted myself into the process by selecting an Australian shepherd named Freedom from our local animal shelter. He was the mos ... read more

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Asking a Favor

December 03, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t normally post on Tuesdays but I’m here to ask a favor. I’m trying to solidify my relationship with a site called Retirement and Good Living, a wonderful resource I hope you’ll check out. They just posted a piece of mine you might remember called, “What to Give an Eighty Year Old Man.” Few contributors receive comments and I’m trying to stack the deck in my favor. I’d appreciate it if you’d follow the link and leave a comment. Thanks for the help. Here's the link:   http://retirementandgoodliving.com/what-to-give-an-eighty-year-old-man/   Chubby Chatterbox ... read more

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Dave

December 04, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Thomas Gainsborough was one of England’s greatest painters. In addition to painting the famous Blue Boy, he painted countless portraits of English notables and aristocrats. When asked how he dealt with flattering his subjects he once revealed the secret of his success.      “When painting a portrait of a duchess or famous actress,” he explained, “I position my canvas so the model can’t see what I’m doing. I barely look at my subject while I paint the most beautiful woman imaginable, a porcelain-skinned goddess, an angel. When I’m nearly done I position a mirror so the model can now see the picture and follow my progress. I slowly alter the features to resemble the model until ... read more

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Holier Than Thou

December 06, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
My mother went to work in the Almadén bottling plant in Los Gatos, California, when I was eleven. This occurred at a time when my grandmother’s life was slowing down and she had little to do. I don’t know all the details, but Mom and Grandma made an arrangement for Grandma to do our laundry. I doubt Mom paid for this service; Grandma probably did it out of love and was happy to have something to keep her busy.      Whatever the arrangement, it worked well for a few years. Grandma lived nearby and Mom or Dad would pick up our laundry once a week after work. This might have been Grandma’s real payoff because she loved company and always had coffee and freshly baked treats ready for whoever pick ... read more

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Garbage Disaster

December 08, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Friday we woke to snow here in Portland. The view from our window revealed a wondrous world of white. The garbage can Mrs. C. had dragged down our long driveway to the curb the night before was shrouded beneath a layer of snow. I decided to forgo my early morning swim at our local public pool. Around eight a.m. I was enjoying a hot cup of coffee and admiring our partially decorated artificial tree when I heard the grinding gears of the garbage truck growing louder as it headed our way.      A thought occurred to me. “Did you put out the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving?” I asked Mrs. Chatterbox.      Friday is garbage pick-up at our house and cans need to be out by six a.m. I usually ... read more

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A Favorite Christmas Ornament

December 09, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This is the time of year when boxes of Christmas tree trim are plucked from the garage, dusted off and brought inside. If you’re like me and have been married a long time, those boxes are sure to contain an interesting ornament or two, particularly if you have children or grandchildren. My favorite Christmas decoration was made by our son CJ when he was seven or eight. It wasn’t intended as a Christmas ornament.      An art teacher gave CJ’s class an assignment to create a vessel with a lid. What CJ brought home made me scratch my head. Instead of crafting something practical like a covered dish or box, my son molded clay into a….couch. When he brought it home from school and explained the as ... read more

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The Panic

December 11, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Modern art would be unthinkable without Spain’s Francisco Goya, who delved into his subconscious and exposed his deepest fears for all the world to see. He revealed an aspect about the foibles of existence that few before him dared explore.      I’ve said before that I prefer art that asks more questions than it answers. It’s unlikely this painting was intended for a client. It isn’t dated (most likely painted around 1809-12) and the title The Panic was ascribed long after the artist’s death. Goya left no notes or letters enlightening us as to the meaning of this painting. Some even doubt it’s his work. All we have is what we see—a giant rises from a ravine and stretches afte ... read more

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Goosie and Bonkers

December 13, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
First posted 12/16/11         When CJ was five, I took him with me to pick up our dry cleaning. He asked if we could check out the pet store next door. He enjoyed being licked by puppies and kittens when he poked his little fingers into their cages, but the goldfish captured his attention most. There was a big tank with ten goldfish for a buck. CJ begged for two fish. Since they were cheap, and flushable, I said yes. By the time we left the store, I’d spent nearly thirty dollars for a bowl and gravel, fish food and the coolest little castle CJ had ever seen. CJ held the plastic bag containing the two fish and tried his best to keep the water from jiggling as we drove home.      He named t ... read more

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The Grand Tour

December 15, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
    As many of you know, Mrs. Chatterbox works for the local police department. One of her tasks is to give tours of city hall, where our police department is housed. On Friday she hosted a Cub Scout tour of forty-eight second graders. These tours are extremely popular with youngsters. Mrs. C. escorts them through the records department, dispatch and several other departments but, charming though she is, Mrs. C. is not the attraction; the kids are here to talk to real live cops, and cops, when available, go out of their way to make the tour interesting for the kids. It was a lively crowd on Friday with hundreds of questions leveled at Sergeant Dawson, who happened to be on duty at the time.      “Can ... read more

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Old Friends

December 16, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I was hunting for an interesting illustration to post for Peculiar Pictures when these two paintings fell out of an old portfolio. They aren’t much, but they do bring back memories. These little pictures were painted in oil on scraps of canvas. They are small enough for me to place in my scanner without resorting to photography. Both are dated on the reverse—1966—back when I was fourteen years old. For better or worse, they are my oldest surviving paintings.      I remember receiving a box of oil paints for Christmas in 1965. I didn’t know how to use them properly. Oil paint dries slowly and my first efforts were little more than muddy colors and mushy drawing. I wanted to learn how to paint p ... read more

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A Live Christmas Tree

December 18, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This post was inspired by one of my favorite bloggers, Joeh at Cranky Old Man. If you haven’t done so already, treat yourself by paying Joe a visit.    *******************   Like many folks I’ve tangoed with the notion of buying a live tree for Christmas. Why kill a tree just to have it in your living room for a few weeks? In 1985 I decided it was time for a live tree, one I could plant in the backyard after the Holidays as a fond reminder of our boy’s fifth Christmas. The living tree I selected did serve as a reminder of that festive day, but not in the way I planned.      First of all, a living seven foot tree comes with a massive and heavy root ball. Getting this monster in and ... read more

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A Well-Written Police Report

December 20, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
I don’t normally post newspaper clippings but this one made me laugh out loud and I couldn’t resist sharing it. I’ve typed it out in case the text in the picture is too hard to read.   ***********      Orville Smith, a store manager for Best Buy in Augusta, GA., told police he observed a male customer, later identified as Tyrone Jackson of Augusta, on surveillance cameras putting a laptop computer under his jacket. When confronted the man became irate, knocked down an employee, drew a knife and ran for the door.      Outside on the sidewalk were four Marines collecting toys for the Toys for Tots program. Smith said the Marines stopped the man but he stabbed one of the Mari ... read more

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A Santa Face-Off

December 22, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Santa Claus is an integral part of our Holiday festivities but he has certainly changed over the years. The historical Saint Nicholas was a Greek bishop living in what is today Turkey. He loved children and often put coins in shoes left on stoops, and an interesting miracle is associated with him. Back in 300 AD in Nicholas’ day, a famine struck the region. A butcher lured three children into his store, slaughtered them and placed their remains in a barrel so he could cure the meat and sell it as ham. Nicholas happened by, somehow became aware of the murders, and prayed until the barrel’s lid popped off and the boys emerged, intact and alive. This is the authentic Saint Nicholas. In this early illustration, “Santa” s ... read more

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Waiting For Santa

December 23, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  This illustration was the companion piece to the Hanukkah picture I painted and posted the day after Thanksgiving. Both were commissioned for a greeting card company, but I can’t remember which one.      I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Holiday Season. Your wonderful comments, along with your support and encouragement, have meant so much to me this year. Take care and think of me if anyone hands you a platter of fudge.       Merry Christmas!   Steve (aka Chubby Chatterbox) ... read more

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Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
             Maxfield Parrish American Illustrator (1870-1966)         Seasons Greetings. I hope everyone has a wondrous and very Merry Christmas.                             ... read more

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Brontosaurus Ribs

December 27, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
  First Posted 12/28/11      I recently saw an online statistic claiming that more than seventy percent of American families enjoyed prime rib for Christmas dinner. At Chatterbox Manor we did not have prime rib for Christmas dinner; instead we opted for Honey Baked Ham.      Years ago shortly after we were married Mrs. Chatterbox decided to roast our first prime rib for Christmas. A few days before the holiday we drove to the grocery store and studied the meat behind the counter while waiting for the butcher to call our number.      “How much prime rib should we buy?” she asked me.      It should come as no surprise that I’m a mea ... read more

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Did I Have A Stroke?

December 29, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
Sure, it’s funny now, but when it happened I was in a panic and wondering how I was going to deal with such a dramatic change in my life, a change that would undoubtedly effect everything I cared about. I also had to think about my wife and how this dreadful turn of events might affect our marriage.      It happened a week before Christmas, the night before the Holiday Banquet Mrs. C. organizes for the police department and its volunteers. This is a sizable event and Mrs. C. puts months of work into making as festive an occasion as possible. Unfortunately, snow was forecast for the next day. Portlanders are not accustomed to driving on snow or ice and things grind to a halt after only a light dusting. Mrs. C. w ... read more

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A Magic Fish

December 30, 2013 :: written in: All Blog Posts
This short piece of fiction was inspired by a recent trip to the mall.   The mall was choked with shoppers returning Christmas presents and looking for end of year deals. My sister had gifted me an unsuitable sweater and I’d come to return it. With the refund tucked into my wallet I worked my way to the mall exit. The aisles were jammed with sullen children, screaming babies and tired parents. Maneuvering around them required patience which at that moment I sorely lacked. I dodged into a pet store to calm my nerves and build up energy to slash my way through the jungle of shoppers to reach my car.      A rude young boy pushed past me with a crinkled dollar clutched in his hand. He pressed his nose to a tan ... read more

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