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Tuesday, February 24, 2009


She spilled the puzzle pieces across the tabletop and began sorting, slowly, methodically, searching for edges, for corners, making sense out of the chaos of five-thousand pieces. It took some time, but she finally separated the straight-edged pieces from the others, and divided them into piles. Next, she took all the edges and sorted them into like colors, pieces that looked like sky, she sorted from those that looked like green grass. The more methodically she worked, the more her breathing slowed, the more her stress melted away, and the more ordered her own emotions became.

At some point, an hour or so into the exercise, she started matching pieces---the parts that stick out with the parts that go in, edges all turned the right direction. Suddenly she was stuck, frustration knitting her brows and tightening across her shoulders. She grabbed the lid to the puzzle box and set it in front of herself, peering at the photo there. Something wasn’t right… this one was more difficult than she expected.

She skipped from the pile of pieces with yellow to the ones that looked like the fluffy clouds. She sorted the ones without the edges, and divided piles from piles, twisting and turning pieces until she started making progress again. Soon she had patches scattered across the tabletop; but always there were those pieces she picked up, turned this way and that, and discarded again, because they didn’t seem to fit. Whole sections seemed to come together and look nothing like the picture on the box.

Still, she worked diligently, trying to make sense of it all. Time passed, and she fumbled with pieces, matched shapes and hues. At some point, the problem became obvious. She wasn’t working with a complete puzzle. In fact, some of the pieces didn’t even belong in this box. She couldn’t finish.

I wonder if she felt cheated, or felt like she’d broken out of the box?

How would you feel?

Written Monday Feb. 23, during a prompted writing exercise at A Cup of Words Writers' Group. Prompt: Write about the failure of a reasonably expected outcome.

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