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.

It’s Toxic

I’m currently being plagued by toxicity. No, I don’t mean I’m surrounded by toxic people—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I’m particularly fortunate to have many incredible people in both my life and work. No, when I say toxic, I’m referring to the song. Yes, Toxic by Britney Spears. I’ve had that f*cking song in my head now for several days and it’s evolved from an ear worm into a serpent. At first it was amusing. “What’s that song playing in my head?” I asked myself last week. “Oh, Britney. Fun.”  A couple of days later, I was like, “Toxic? Still? What the hell?” as it became more persistent and annoying. Yesterday, it ramped up to the point where I started getting worried. Every time I stop actively thinking, I realize it’s there, playing in the background, over and over again. And the worst part is that I don’t even know all the goddamn words so it’s mostly just Britney mumbling and then belting out the chorus. I actually woke up at 3 am yesterday and the first thing I heard was “With the taste of a sip I’m drinking rye/It’s toxic, I’m hearing thunder…” and it’s even more worrisome that my brain is filling in the lyrics like THAT.

Now, I’m no stranger to the ear worm. I get them pretty regularly, thanks to good old OCD, usually based on something I’ve just listened to, but after a couple of hours or a couple of glasses of wine, they disappear. And because I have a semi-eidetic memory, I usually know the lyrics and can sing along. The week before I began my battle with the Britney Army (slight tangent: I just googled ‘what are Britney Spears’ fans called?’ but first I misspelled ‘what’ and it autofilled ‘what are hemorrhoids?’. Then I misspelled ‘Britney’ and again it autofilled with ‘what are hemorrhoids?’ To be clear, I have never done any research on that topic and thus far in my life I haven’t needed to, but it concerns me that Google associates Britney Spears with butt ailments, so I investigated further and went down a rather terrifying hemorrhoidal rabbit hole and now I know more about the topic than I ever wanted to, and I still don’t know why I can’t get Toxic out of my head.), I had Shame by Foo Fighters playing on a loop, but that was okay because a) I love Foo Fighters and b) it’s an awesome song and c) I knew all the words so I just started merrily singing along.

But now? Is it an omen? Is it a warning? Is the universe trying to tell me something? Could it be related to the sudden upswing in my OCD due to all the adhesive rug grippers I bought suddenly letting go due to several rather vigorous games of boogedy boogedy with Atlas, resulting in my carefully symmetrized rugs being askew once again (I should have known there might be issues with the product when I saw the instruction that read “For renew the sticky, wipe with cloth”)? OR…hear me out: Is Britney in danger and needs my help to free her? Well, if that’s the case, she’s sh*t out of luck, because we’re under yet another stay at home order. Sorry, Brit. At this point, I’m just resigned to having the damn song in my head forever. And you know what they say—the next step after resignation is acceptance, so hit me baby, one more time.

Quilt Update: All patches are cut, and the design has been laid out. Ken figured out how to use the sewing machine because he made a wooden marionette out of some scrap wood and decided to sew it a little shirt and pair of pants. I’ve named the marionette Marty, and he’s adorable in a kind of grotesque way and definitely has Ken’s fashion sense, but at least now Ken can teach me how to sew. Also, just in case you think I haven’t been busy, I also made this cool bookcase out of a 1970s grandfather clock shell.