THE STRANGEST JIGSAW PUZZLE
It was on the top shelf on an old bookcase, covered with dust and barely visible. Lisa decided she had to find out what it was. Of all the things in the old junk shop, it aroused her curiosity most.
She had looked through old books, prints, and postcards for hours. Nothing had caught her interest. Now the old box, high and out of reach, intrigued her. She looked around for the old man who ran the store. But he had gone into the back room.
She saw a stepladder across the room and brought it over to the bookcase. It shook on the uneven floorboards as she climbed to the top step. Lisa patted her hand along the surface of the top shelf, trying to find the box. The dirt was thick and gritty on the board. Then she touched the box.
It was made of cardboard. The cardboard was cold and soft from being in the damp room for such a long time. She lifted the box down slowly, trying to steady her balance on the stepladder. As the side of the box reached her eye level, she could read the words: 500 pieces.
She sat the box down on top of the stepladder and climbed down a few steps. Then she blew away some of the dust that had accumulated on the lid. It billowed up around her with a musty, dead odor. But now she could make out a few more words on top of the box: THE STRANGEST JIGSAW PUZZLE IN THE WORLD.
There were other words underneath that, but they had been rubbed off the cardboard lid. The big picture on the cover had been curiously damaged. Lisa could make out areas of light and dark. It looked as though the scene might be in a room. But most of the picture had been scratched off the cardboard box, probably by a sharp instrument. The mysterious nature of the jigsaw puzzle made it even more appealing to Lisa. She decided she would buy it.
The lid was taped down securely, that probably indicated that all the pieces would be there. As she carefully climbed down the stepladder, holding the box in both hands, Lisa smiled to herself. It was quite a find, just the sort of thing she had always hoped to discover while rummaging through secondhand stores.
The owner of the store came out of the back room as she was walking up to his sales desk. He looked curiously at the box when Lisa set it down. "And where did you find that?" he asked her. Lisa pointed to where she had set up the stepladder. "It was on the top of that bookcase. You could barely see it from the floor." "Well. I've never seen it before, that's for sure," the shopkeeper said. "Can't imagine how you found it."
Lisa was more pleased than ever about her find. She felt as though the puzzle had been hiding up there, waiting for her to discover it. She paid the shopkeeper the twenty-five cents he asked for the puzzle and then wrapped it carefully in the newspapers he gave her to take it home in.
It was late on a Saturday afternoon. Lisa lived alone in a small room in an old apartment house. She had no plans for Saturday night. Now she decided to spend the whole evening working on the puzzle.
She stopped at a food mart and bought some bologna, bread, cheese, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, to make her favorite sandwich. She would eat while she put the puzzle together. As soon as she had climbed the flight of stairs to her room and put away the groceries, Lisa cleaned off the big table in the center of the room. She set the box down on it.
THE STRANGEST JIGSAW PUZZLE IN THE WORLD Lisa read the words again. She wondered what they could mean. How strange could a jigsaw puzzle be? The tape that held the lid down was still strong. Lisa got out a kitchen knife to slice through it. When she lifted the cover off the box, a musty smell came from inside. But the jigsaw pieces all looked in good condition.
Lisa picked one up. The color was faded, but the picture was clear. She could see the shape of a finger in the piece. It looked like a woman's finger. Lisa sat down and started to lay out the pieces, top side up, on the large table. As she took them from the box, she sorted out the flat-edged pieces from the inside pieces.