The Missing Piece

A piece was missing. The scowl hardening in his mind crossed boundaries, cementing his face into a likeness of dark irritation. A piece was missing! He’d tried every damn piece that he could find. None fit. None.

Well, that just ruined the jigsaw puzzle. Ruined it. It could never be finished. That meant it was ruined.

He clenched his fists. That’s why he despised buying used puzzles. They set you up for the chance, like this, that you would fail. (Well, it wasn’t him that failed — the piece was missing, so he didn’t fail), but it subverted any pleasure he could achieve, stealing the tangible joy of solving a puzzle. That wasn’t to be this time, which wasn’t fair. In fact, it was cruel.)

Vignettes of how this travesty may have come about began quiet visits. The people who’d donated the puzzle had lost the piece. They found it later, after giving the puzzle away. “Oh, look,” the husband said, picking a piece up off of the floor. “We missed a piece.” He looked around. “One of the cats must have been playing with it.” (Of course a cat had been involved.)

“Oh, no,” his wife said, hand to mouth. Reality sank into place. They’d taken the puzzle to the Goodwill over a month before. Maybe two. Nothing could be done now.

He would hunt them down. All he needed to do is get their DNA — probably some on the puzzle pieces, wasn’t there? — and access to a DNA database that had their DNA (hmm…that might be trickier, but he would find a way), and then —

“Found it.” His wife applied the piece with a flourish, pressing it down until it clicked solidly into place.

“How? Where was it?” Disbelief waxing like a warm sun, he stared at the piece. He’d literally tried every piece in the box, taking them out one by one, trying each piece, and then putting the eliminated pieces into a bowl. There was no way…

Well, there was one way. He eyed her. “Did you hide it?”

She giggled. “I’ll never tell.”

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