It’s Puzzling

I, like many people, have adopted new hobbies during the long cold never-ending winter that was the lockdown. I had always been disinterested in jigsaw puzzles, didn’t understand the thrill of putting a piece in its rightful spot, and certainly couldn’t see myself spending hours on something whose only end goal was to finish it then take it apart again. What a fool I was. Having now spent those many hours doing exactly those things, I, Ken, and Kate have completed numerous jigsaw puzzles, and the quest for new puzzles online when all the stores were closed has kept me plenty busy. We’ve done some beautiful puzzles, some easy, some hard, and some near impossible. And they’ve all been very normal in their own way—until now.

Not too long ago, I wrote a short story about a creepy jigsaw puzzle (it’s called “A Surprise In Every Box” and you can find it in my recently released short story collection Feasting Upon The Bones*, and I apologize for that shameless plug) but I never imagined I would find an insidiously creepy puzzle of my own until Thursday. My parents quite often prowl around thrift shops looking for cheap puzzles too, and they brought us one last week, a seemingly typical Dowdle puzzle of Peggy’s Cove in (she googles ‘where is Peggy’s Cove’ because even though she’s Canadian, she has a terrible knowledge of any country’s geography) Nova Scotia. I started to piece the edge together as one does and immediately discovered that one of the pieces was all chewed up and distorted, like a dog had eaten it and spat (or sh*t) it back out. Oh well, I thought, at least it’s not missing, because I HATE when a puzzle has a missing piece, and I think I’ve written about suspecting Atlas of stealing puzzle pieces before. But it got worse. See, there are a lot of tiny human (?) figures in the puzzle, and as I started to pull them out, it became clear that the artist who designed it was, perhaps, really more into horror stories than pastoral scenes of a harbour town.

Like, OK, it’s bad enough that there are 4 dudes standing on a rock looking like they all want to talk to me about Jesus, and numerous people are hoisting lobsters in the air and swinging them around like that’s a completely normal activity (and maybe it is in Peggy’s Cove) but then there’s this guy:

What the absolute f*ck is this guy doing, crawling out over a rock towards you like that girl from The Ring?! You don’t notice him at first, because there’s so much else going on, what with all the proselytizing and lobster waving, but once you do, HE’S ALL YOU SEE. And then suddenly it seems like maybe instead of an idyllic fishing village, this is a zombie town, and all the figures are now ominous and the lobsters are screaming for help. So far, I’ve only found his face. In the poster that comes with the puzzle, he appears to be wearing large, weird mittens on his hands, and I really don’t think I want to find the rest of him in case he comes to life and starts crawling over the back of my couch.

And why do you have so much time to do jigsaw puzzles? Don’t you have a quilt to finish?” I hear you ask. In fact, I don’t. Partway through row 11, when my second sewing machine once again lost its mind and refused to work, I threw down my denim patch in dismay and announced that I was going to find someone to finish it for me. This is not “giving up”. This is simply a recognition that there are things I’m good at, and things I’m not. So I went in search of someone who was better at sewing than me. I posted an ad on the local Facebook page, and that was a bit of a bust, giving me only advice on how to fix my machine. I did get one offer to come over and “consult” because the quilter in question was “very particular” about her projects and didn’t want it to look like two different people had done the quilt and I didn’t realize that was even a thing, because I am not particular AT ALL. But then Ken mentioned that the lady across the street had said she taught sewing once, so on Monday, I walked over and interrupted her mowing her lawn to inquire about her willingness to help me out. A long shot, some might say, but she immediately said “Sure”, that she could try a few rows to see.

I bundled some up and gave them to her in a bag. Less than half an hour later, I saw her coming up my sidewalk carrying the bag, and my heart sunk. She’d changed her mind, obviously. But no. As it turned out, she’s a VERY GOOD sewer, unlike me, and had done the three rows in the time it took me to sew one patch and swear at my machine like a sailor. The next day she called me over to look at all the now-completed rows, laid out on her living room floor, and I was a little overwhelmed and very grateful. Also, my carefully/haphazardly chosen pattern looked awesome. She’s going to finish the whole thing for me, and if she gets it done by Christmas, that’s still faster than I would have been able to do it.

*Speaking of kind things that people do, and speaking of Feasting Upon The Bones, if you bought it and liked it, could you leave a review? In exchange, I’ll name a character after you in the next collection, which I’m already working on now that I’ve contracted out the quilt and have all this free time.

70 thoughts on “It’s Puzzling

  1. You know, with all that free time, you could always take up Madden football. Over the next several weeks you could simulate out all 4 preseason games, all 16 regular season games and, if you’re lucky, you could run a playoff game or two. If you’re the Patriots you might even get to the Super Bowl. Then the offseason, with re-signings, free agency, the draft, and final roster decisions could be put together in 3 hours, 4 hours tops. And then off to start again with new personnel, new strategies and game plans, and renewed hope to climb the mountaintop. Really, sister, it’s a puzzle and a patchwork all rolled into one.

    Fine. Write books and such. Suit yourself.

    I know the look on that guy’s face in Peggy’s Cove. He lost a contact. I hate that.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I read that piece “A Surprise In Every Box” and it’s AMAZING!! No spoilers here but, now I’m never going buy a jigsaw puzzle. 🤨

    Finding that puzzle piece is creepy as hell. Like who made it and why did they paint it so dark? That guy is obviously in trouble.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Wow, Suzanne, the quilt is beautiful. You lucked out with your neighbor. And yes, a very creepy puzzle. I thought the guys in suits were mobsters. I’m not sure which is worse. And the Creature of the Cove looks like he’s in pain or starting his rampage. A fun post as always. 🙂

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  4. I love your imagination because your brain takes you places I thought only mine did. I always love your descriptions crying with laughter. Every Sunday I look forward to your post. And almost always I end up laughing so hard I am crying. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ooh! A haunted jigsaw puzzle–spooky! I am popping over to Amazon now to order your book and I will eventually do a review on my other blog/website and link it to Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks, but there is no need to name a character after me. A neighbor who babysat me when I was about four or five years old, named a cow after me (she lived on a dairy farm), and I’m okay with that. That’s enough naming for me.

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  6. I am perplexed by many things in this puzzle. The guy climbing over the rock seems like the only person who knows the truth, and that is that something dreadful is about to happen, and so he is trying to escape, but it’s too late for him because he’s about to be murdered by the lobster-wielding mob. Truly bizarre. Great find!

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  7. I was working on puzzles for a while. Enjoying it. Then I began having this series of experiences where I was writing in my head, and whenever someone completed a person in the puzzle, they were sucked in, becoming that person. No one knew where they went; the people couldn’t escape until the puzzle was completed. But the puzzle wasn’t being completed because they were looking for the missing people. Meanwhile, the missing people were experiencing the duality of knowing who they were ‘in reality’ but living life in the puzzle world. The tentative working name was puzzle world.


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  8. As Ken is a photographer and part-time carpenter… You might explore the “create your own jigsaw” concept. There are services, you know, on the web. Or, get a jigsaw/scroll saw and cut your own. Hire-out your hubby to do the work yourself, of course.

    The mittened dude in the puzzle is climbing over an oyster shell midden. One wears heavy gloves to shell oysters.

    (My remade Hansel & Gretel story is completed. ‘Fraid it drifted long, 6k words. My editor/mother is now at work polishing it. Will update the blog(s) when complete.)

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  9. The crawling guy and whatever is wrong with his hands is disturbing enough but I’m distracted by the claws and what I think are antennae rising out of the water in the lower front of the puzzle. Clearly Peggy’s Cove is a place of terrifying goings on and whatnot, a patchwork, if you will, of horrors, but I suspect the real horror is just about to begin. The lobsters have been thrown around enough. Now they’re about to get their revenge.

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  10. Piecing a quilt can be worse than putting together a jigsaw puzzle – when all the shapes are the same it’s easy to put one in the wrong spot (which I did several times). I love the pattern of your quilt.

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  11.  Very nice!  Love it!  I only do jigsaw puzzles on the Boy Howdy free jigsaw game app on my iPad.  I don’t have room for boxes.  It’s easy and when I can’t get to sleep I’ll do a couple to clear my mind and relax.  My hands are not conducive to tiny pieces of cardboard so it works for me.  My grandkids all learned quilting from a math tutor—also sewing, knitting, etc.  I met her just a few weeks before moving away but she is a great friend and very interesting.

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

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  12. I think the guys is suits and sunglasses look like mob guys, come to do a shake down at the pier. Typical.
    We have done puzzles too, also for the first time in our lives. It’s actually a nice way to be together, chatting, and keeping your hands busy. We’ve been quite proud of several 1000 pieces puzzles but someone just gifted me a 3000 piece one that looks like a real marriage-ender, and one that is simple a black to white gradient that looks like a spirit ender if ya know what I mean.

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    • Jehovah’s Hitmen! I only like puzzles with very identifiable patterns—I need to relax, not get more stressed out—an black and white gradient is as bad as a whole blue sky!


  13. I scoffed at jigsaw puzzles for years until I got involved in a huge one my parents were doing over Christmas one year. The thrill of finding and completing a difficult section!
    That guy on the rock gives me the creeps!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Wow, your quilt is so different from what I’d been envisioning as you wrote about its progress. I am the absolute worst with hand-eye integration, so seeing your layout far surpasses anything I’d have imagined. Great work, along with a great lesson: help when you need it is A-OK. It’s really lovely!

    Liked by 3 people

  15. If you’ve never read it, Suzanne, I recommend The Club Dumas by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. It’s an occult mystery — The Da Vinci Code for bibliophiles — about an antiquarian book dealer (memorably portrayed by Johnny Depp in merely a half-good movie adaptation) attempting to authenticate a manuscript purportedly written by Satan himself. I mention it because it includes a number of woodcut illustrations that are full of creepy details like the characters in that too-weird puzzle! It’s really fun studying the pictures and growing more disturbed with each new detail!

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  16. Hey Suzanne,
    It is puzzling, isn’t it? I wonder what the creator had in mind as the back story to the picture? Creepy. Love the quilt. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at quilting. Started in my late 30’s and the moment my eyes changed when I turned 40, I kind of gave up. So I have a half-finished quilt…but one of these days…maybe. Mona

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  17. That’s puzzling. It’s truly a creepy puzzle! Why are the 4 guys wearing 3/4 length coats that look like they are from another century and then with wrap around sun glasses, seems weird. Are they aliens from another planet? What about those giant lobsters that the smiling folks are swinging around like they a celebrating some pagan ritual? What about the lobster in the foreground half out of the water? Is it signaling “Yoo-hoo, I’m here!” And the creepy guy with the mittens, what can I say? So much for folk art. I’m so enjoying you book of short stories. I just read “As The Crow Flies”. This story of George finding the fastest route and saving time for later in his progression from maps to GPS was so familiar. His passion was his obsession. The surprise ending was a kicker for me and a lesson! ( No spoiler alert.) this collection is an entertaining and twisty look at life’s little corners. I’m so enjoying reading them as they take me to so many new places. 😁Thanks!

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