[The Puzzle box cover.]
Several days had passed and I was still saddened by the way I had left the Troll. He looked so dejected as he headed back to his self-isolation under the bridge. I made a mental note to make sure I go back in the early summer and pay him a visit.
I had been standing in the kitchen for the last forty-seven minutes staring at the humidity level on my Costco Weather Monitor. It still read Very Low-Dry. Mariam was busy assembling the ingredients for tonight’s dinner: Blond Puttanesca (Linguine With Tuna, Arugula and Capers). Don’t get me wrong, Mariam has a full life here and doesn’t do all the cooking. She does like working in the kitchen and trying new recipes but, on occasion, I’ll make a Three Bean Soup or my signature Corn, Bulghur and Cheese Casserole.
“Hand me the capers, please?”
I told Mariam to keep an eye on the Weather Monitor and let me know if the humidity level shows any sign of changing. Returning to the dining room table I put all my brain power and skills of observation on finding the missing piece that would complete the perimeter. It was an edge piece and was snow white. Sounds easy but I just couldn’t manage to find it.
This was not like a normal puzzle. It was a Murder/Mystery version. One is supposed to solve the puzzle which is supposed to look like this:
[The box top. You have to admit, it’s a bit “busy” isn’t it?]
Then read this:
[A short story to accompany the puzzle.]
Then solve the Whodunit. Sounds simple and fun. But…
Late in the evening, after binge watching Ozark, Mariam and I would spend an hour or three working on the puzzle. On our first night, after we had turned all the pieces face-up, Mariam said:
“This will be extra hard because of your color-blindness, Pat.”
“I’m not color blind.”
“Honey, remember when I sent you shopping for a few baking potatoes? You brought home six rotten apples.”
“They shouldn’t have been offered for sale.”
“But they were in the discard bin, dear.”
I had a flashback to something about bins, but I couldn’t put my finger on the memory. Mariam sighed and went to bed to play a few games of Words With Friends. I was left with this:
[Photo is actually sideways, but you can see the gap in the white edge.]
Out of desperation, I rechecked the box to see if the white piece got stuck inside. It was then that I noticed the notice. It was a RECALL NOTICE that was five years outdated. I failed to seen when I opened the box. Essentially, it read that this was a defective puzzle that was missing a vital piece. Apparently, a fellow on the second-shift at the printing factory had fallen asleep while watching a Hallmark TV movie called “My Second Honeymoon in Passaic”.
I was furious. I was seeing green. I went downstairs to my art table and found my Exacto knife. I was going to find another jigsaw puzzle and alter a white piece to make it fit. Then life would return to normal or whatever passed for normal lately. I put the notice in our recycle bag and went to work. Mariam called down to me and said:
“Honey, we forgot tonight is Thursday. The garbage and recycling bins have to be put out.”
A strange shudder ran down my already sore back. Those bins.
“Okay, I’ll get to it in a minute.”
“Don’t stop what you’re doing, the bins are light and I can manage,” she said from the top of the stairs.
I continued to carve away at the piece.
“What’s this?” She stood in the doorway holding the RECALL NOTICE. I held the altered piece behind my back.
“We’ve been wasting our time on this stupid thing,” she said with a tinge of anger. With that she grabbed another recycling bag and pushed everything off the table.
“I’m going to bed. I’m taking a half a Valium.”
I quietly opened the bag and dropped the altered piece in. I walked over to the refrigerator and found a can of Guiness. I stood in front of the Weather Monitor and stared at the humidity reading.
It was the same. It read Very Low-Dry.