The Puzzle by Cerridwyn Tiponi

Morning dawned cold and grey. A light rain had been falling for some time, slowly drenching the ground. Aoife peeked out through the curtains and sighed, ‘Guess I’m not doing the laundry today after all.” She moved out of the bedroom and down the hall to her study. Walking onto the room, she headed straight to the specially made cabinet and opened one of the drawers. The drawer was shallow and only contained one item of major importance to Aoife. She carefully reached in, took hold of the tray within and gingerly removed it. She turned toward the large desk and placed it down on the surface. She didn’t move, didn’t even sit down on the chair. Instead she just stared at the puzzle, her mind a jumble of thoughts. Without realizing it, she slumped down on the chair and placed her chin in her hands. What was she hoping to see this time? She had no idea, but she felt compelled to study the puzzle again.

The puzzle had been completed many years ago, long before she was born. Someone had cared so much for it they had glued it together and framed it at some point. Time hadn’t been too kind to the puzzle for the once vibrant scene was now faded, probably from hanging directly with the path of the sunlight. When Aoife discovered it in the attic of her parents’ house the frame was dusty and falling apart. The glass was grimy and cracked. It had appeared to be abandoned since it was buried behind some large boxes. Forgotten. Neglected. However, she sensed that it meant something since no one ever threw it out. Instantly falling in love with it, she extricated it from the darkened space and took it to her home. Once home, she had set to lovingly care for it. Aoife had carefully dusted and cleaned the frame, although she had no intention of keeping the puzzle inside. It was merely a way of preventing the debris from attaching to the puzzle when she did remove it from the frame. She had then removed the matting which held the puzzle and inspected it closer. Although most of the puzzle had still adhered to the board, there were a few areas where she spotted flakes of dried glue and noted several loose pieces. Picking up a large, new and unused paintbrush, she gently brushed away the flakes. While she could have applied more glue to it, something or someone chided her and urged her to let it be. She had located a special display tray like the ones often used to cradle delicate artifacts and placed the puzzle, matte and all onto it. She then turned to her art cabinet with its oblong, shallow drawers and placed the puzzle inside. And there it sat for the last 15 years, only coming into the light when Aoife had felt the need, desire or inclination to gaze at it.

Over the years, she gently cleaned it by brushing off any dust and debris which would accumulate between her visits. Each time, she noticed more and more of the glue would flake away and she would feel sadness. She felt as if a part of her history was falling apart. All she could do was sigh dejectedly and tenderly care for the puzzle like she always did.

Gazing at the puzzle, she followed the flow of the faded scene as best as she could. Even taking her finger and lightly tracing the images underneath. She smiled wanly and mused about its origins. Still running her finger lightly over it, she came to the bottom right corner and noticed that the last of the glue had become brittle and flaky. She picked up her brush and swept the remains away. That was it. ‘The glue has finally come undone,’ she sighed heavily. There is nothing holding the puzzle together anymore. As she returned the treasured puzzle to its drawer, tears slowly ran down her face.

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Creative Writing: Four Genres in Brief 
Writing Creative Nonfiction
The Soul of Creative Writing