A few days ago I found a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in the back of a closet. It's probably been there for 30 years. When our family was young, assembling the pieces of a complicated jigsaw puzzle was a summer tradition. A card table with all the puzzle pieces (face-up) sat off in a corner of our home and became the go-to place when there was a rainy spell or an overabundance of mosquitoes outside.
The picture on the box in the closet was of superstars Larry Byrd and Magic Johnson leaping high in the air reaching for a basketball.
As we neared the completion of a jigsaw puzzle, late in August, our collective family excitement would rise. Occasionally, one of us would be found alone at the card table trying to sneak a few pieces into place in an effort to finish the puzzle. But this was discouraged. Jigsaw puzzles were considered a group effort.
I remember the Byrd/Johnson puzzle because, when we reached the end, we were short four pieces. Four exactly! This meant four gaping, impossible-to-ignore holes. Until those missing pieces were found, the puzzle remained merely a puzzle, not the picture promised on the face of the box.
Let me restate my point. 996 pieces do not make a picture when you need 1,000...
... That Byrd/Johnson puzzle? There came a moment when one of us—not to be named—confessed to secreting one of the missing pieces so that they could be the one to finish the puzzle. There followed two others who sheepishly admitted to the same intention. This left one missing piece …which was in my pocket.
You must never tell anyone I told you this.
The ending was a surprise I didn't see coming. But I thought it was terrific. GHT