#AtoZChallenge, April 11, 2018, Jigsaw Puzzle
26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.
Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.
“How are you doing today, Jimmy?”
Jim McLaren looked up from the library table where he fiddled with pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. The librarian leaned over and snapped one in place. He frowned, unable to remember her name.
“Every day above ground is a good one,” he said, his trembling fingers playing with the edge of a piece.
“That’s right. We must count our blessings.” She patted him on the shoulder and returned to the circulation desk.
Hmph. What blessings could he count? He spent every morning at the library putting puzzles together because his doctor said it was a good way to keep his mind active. Afterward, he’d have soup at the King’s Table then ride his golf car home to watch depressing news until bedtime at eight.
Jim shook his head. He guessed he could count beating cancer as a blessing, but why bother living when his reason for doing so had died a year after his recovery?
Marion. The thought of his wife plummeted him into a deeper depression. She’d been his heart, his soul, his reason for existing. Five years of emptiness had passed since the stroke took her away from him.
Why did he continue living when each day was harder than the one before?
Jim reached for his cane and grunted as he rose. His parents had made the same noise at his age, and he’d rolled his eyes. Now he understood the body’s betrayal, each function descending into its inevitable conclusion. He’d be glad when he shut down for good so he could be with Marion again.
The hot Arizona heat hit him like a blast furnace when he left the cool confines of the Twilight Library. He squinted in the unrelenting sun, afraid he’d forgotten where he’d parked his golf car. Once that began, he’d have to stop going out, like some of his neighbors. They sat in their living rooms all day long, hibernating against the heat and dementia.
Not today. He located his golf car under the coveted shade of one of the few trees.
Jim drove three blocks to the restaurant. At one time he’d have walked. At one time . . .
No sense wasting energy on trivial wishes. He’d save it for the wish that mattered the most—seeing Marion again.
* * *
When he entered the library the next day, he found that someone had completed the puzzle. New York at Night lay on display for the benefit of anyone who’d worked on it. In a week or two, the librarians would dismantle and store it until another time.
Jim glanced around for the new puzzle. He hoped it wasn’t something stupid like a city map of London or a castle. Castles were boring.
“Where’s the cover?” he asked Pete, one of the regulars.
“It’s a mystery puzzle.” The octogenarian waved to the circulation desk. “We’re not supposed to know what it is.”
“Well, that’s a first.” Jim settled in a chair and picked up an edge piece.
It hummed in his fingers. He dropped it and stared at his hand. Nerve damage? He touched the table surface, his shirt, and the back of the chair. Nothing happened. But when he picked up a puzzle piece, a low vibration passed from it to him.
The other man hadn’t heard him. Oh, well, he probably imagined the sensation.
All morning, Jim worked on the new puzzle, the vibrations stronger when he snapped two pieces together. A thrill jolted him each time, and his excitement grew.
The puzzle was like no other he’d assembled. Its completion became a quest gnawing in his gut.
Pete left and others came and went. Jim bought a candy bar for lunch from the vending machine in the adjoining village hall.
By mid-afternoon, his level of excitement peaked. However odd or bizarre, he knew the image he’d see when he’d completed the puzzle.
Marion, when he’d met her, twenty years old, with ivory skin and ink black hair. Marion swinging under the apple tree in her uncle’s back yard, the prettiest smile in the world on her lips.
Was he crazy? Had the tumor reappeared in his brain? If so, it was a small price to pay for the chance to see her again.
Ten minutes before closing, a few pieces remained. His hands no longer trembled as he hurried to finish.
Two pieces left—her eyes, the sparkle reaching through the cardboard and paper to pull him in. The vibration thrummed through the table to the floor and the soles of his shoes.
The library lights blinked out. From the corner of his eye he saw the librarian walking toward him to tell him to leave.
Jim held his breath and pressed the final pieces into place.
Tears misted his eyes, and her image blurred and shifted. Marion smiled and held out her hand.
“It’s time,” she whispered.
He took her hand in his.
* * *
A week later, the librarian swept the pieces into its box and shelved the puzzle. During the week it had been on display, no one had noticed the difference between the completed work and the cover.
On the cover, a beautiful young woman swung under the branch of an apple tree.
In the puzzle, a smiling young man pushed her.
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Tomorrow’s #AtoZChallenge, April 12, 2018, Knit, Purl, Miss, Kiss
Famous doll designer Kathryn Palmer may have gone too far with her latest creation in the next Twilight supernatural tale.
Until then, blessings,
Twilight, Arizona now available
Puzzled on how you’ll remember to visit this blog every day and read all of the Twilight stories?
Don’t want to wait until April 30th to read all twenty-six Twilight stories. For a limited time, they are available on Amazon for 99¢. From Arizona Heat to One-Zero-Zero, read and enjoy twenty-six stories set in the strange retirement community of Twilight, Arizona.
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