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.