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The Puzzle

Knetter's Monthly Blood

Nick was able to get a dumpster delivered to their house within an hour of getting the papers. The papers were hand delivered by some pasty faced young man with a ponytail and a shit-eating grin plastered on his face. Nick closed the door and carried the papers to the kitchen table where he sat down to read them. It only took him a few minutes to get the gist of it. Lydia, his wife of nine years, had decided that the break in their marriage they had been taking should become permanent. The first thing he did, after setting the papers down, was to pick up the phone and call his garbage company. They said they would have a dumpster on his property within three hours. Nick thought that was just the right amount of time to get completely and thoroughly sloshed.

He stood in front of the liquor cabinet trying to decide what to drink. He picked Jagermeister, and Southern Comfort. The Jagermeister was only half full, but the So Co had barely been touched. He eyed the bottle of Sophie Marie rum sitting at the back of the cabinet. They had picked that bottle up while on their honeymoon in the Bahamas. Each year, on their anniversary, they would take a shot and toast to their marriage before spending the rest of the night making slow, sweet love on the floor in front of the fireplace. He turned and looked longingly towards the fireplace, remembering the good times. Nick closed the cabinet and walked into the living room and sat down on the couch.

The dumpster arrived just as he was finishing the bottle of Southern Comfort. He heard the loud diesel engine rumbling from outside. There was a loud bang that he guessed was the dumpster being dropped to the ground. When he saw the truck pull away, he stood up and began walking towards the kitchen. To the left of the kitchen was the door that led to the attached garage. He stopped and dropped the empty liquor bottle into the garbage can and walked back and picked the Jagermeister up off of the counter. He pushed the door open and stared into the garage. His beat up Chevy Nova sat in the garage, dusty and dirty. He had planned on starting to fix it up this summer, but now all he wanted to do was sit in it, roll the window down, start the car and disappear from this world. Had the dumpster been delivered in three hours instead of one, he probably would have. He was plastered all right, but not enough to kill himself; at least not yet.

He walked down the three wooden stairs into the garage and turned left. Located between the garage door and the front entry door to the garage was a little rectangular doorbell. Nick pushed it and the garage door began sliding on its tracks. Light began to shine into the darkened garage. When it was open all the way, he saw the beat up blue dumpster resting directly in front of the garage. He stared at the dumpster for quite some time. What exactly was he planning on doing? He couldn’t remember. He twisted the top off of the Jagermeister and took a big swig. He grimaced as he fought back the taste of black licorice. He screwed the top back on and set the bottle on the small table next to the door.

“Why did she want to end it?”

He really didn’t know. On the day she said she wanted to separate for a while, he was completely taken for a loss of words. He hadn’t seen it coming.

He had come home from work at the normal time. He spent his day working in a factory. He was a quality control expert; at least that’s what his bosses called him. In truth, he sat for nine hours each day and watched cans of corn move past him on a conveyor belt. He would look for defective cans. It was a boring job that took no skill, however it paid very well. Not many people were able to do this mundane, routine job day after day. He had worked there since he graduated high school fourteen years ago. In that time, the longest he saw anyone last in a position like his was four months. It was so boring that it would drive people crazy. They would try and make it work, after all the money was good, but most couldn’t handle the monotony. Luckily for Nick, he had great patience and was able to do the job without being bored at all.

He arrived home that night in great spirits. He had gotten a performance review earlier in the day and had earned a quarter an hour raise. He was going to share the news with Lydia over dinner. Most nights they picked up takeout for dinner or if all else failed, stopped at a fast food joint. Thursday was her day off from the flower shop and she always cooked dinner for them. It was his favorite time of the week.

His smile faded as he walked through the front door of the house. He couldn’t smell dinner cooking. He wasn’t upset that she didn’t cook dinner; he wasn’t that type of husband. Instead he was concerned for her safety. In the past year they had skipped cooking dinner at home on Thursday night only once, and that was the night her appendix burst and they spent the night at the hospital.

“Lydia, I’m home”, he called out, looking around the room.

There was no answer; her car was parked out by the street, so she had to be here. He began to get really nervous. His heart started thumping in his chest. The temperature of the house seemed to climb twenty degrees. He walked into the kitchen and gasped. Pots and pans were lying all over the floor. His heart stopped beating. His eyes started to water and he ran to the phone to call 911. As he picked the receiver up he heard her crying from upstairs. He dropped the phone to the ground and quickly ran back through the living room and bounded up the stairs to their bedroom. He pushed the door open and she was sitting Indian style on the floor, crying.

“Lydia, are you ok? What’s wrong?”

She just sat with her head down, sobbing.

He walked to her and crouched down. He put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently, trying to comfort her. It was no use. She just continued to cry.

“What’s wrong honey?”

She lifted her head up and looked at him through bloodshot eyes he hadn’t seen in that much pain since….

Tears began welling up in Nick’s eyes as he leaned against the dumpster. He was so happy to be married. Growing up, most girls dream of that perfect wedding to that perfect person. Nick had the same dreams. Being with someone, holding them, hugging them, kissing them and knowing that they felt the same way about you as you did about them was heavenly. It couldn’t be ending. He lifted his head up and wiped his tears away with his left arm. He turned and walked back into the garage, unsure of what to do. He really just wanted to kill himself. He couldn’t picture what life would be like without her. Why? He just didn’t understand. He wanted to call and talk to her, but couldn’t. He had no idea where she was staying. He picked up the bottle and drank the rest of the liquor in one swig. His stomach lurched and he wanted to vomit, but didn’t. He stood and stared at the boxes that littered the back wall of the garage. He felt suffocated by sorrow. He picked up a box and that’s when he saw it.

The puzzle was buried under a couple of boxes of old magazines and books. He stood above it and looked down, puzzled. Nick lifted the small, black, cardboard box up and shook it. The puzzle pieces shifted around. He didn’t recognize the box, but he recognized the sound all right. As a child he had been fond of putting puzzles together but he had never seen this one before, he was sure of it. He carried the box over to the table in the corner and set it down. The cover of the box was all black, except for a small white dot, located on the lower right side. Nick opened the box and found thousands of little, black puzzle pieces. Solid black. No picture. No nothing. Just inherit blackness. It would be one tough puzzle to put together. He had seen these kinds of puzzles in the store before but had always shied away from buying them. He put the cover on the box and hit the button again, closing the garage door. He carried the puzzle back into the house and closed the door, deciding that he wasn’t going to end his life today. Not today, but there was always tomorrow.

He awoke early the next morning and vomited on the floor next to his bed. He lay with his head hanging over the edge for a couple of minutes. A mixture of vomit and drool dripped from his mouth onto the floor. God he felt awful. He vaguely remembered getting the divorce papers and ordering a dumpster, after that it was a blur. He rolled back on his bed and struggled to keep from vomiting again. After a few seconds he sat up. It felt like a two by four to the back of the head. Every inch of his head ached. His eyes felt like they were going to explode out of their sockets. He steadied himself, walked to the mirror that hung above his dresser and looked at himself. His eyes were bloodshot and there was a crusty substance dried around his mouth. One look at his stained shirt and it was easy to tell that when he woke up and vomited it wasn’t the only time he had vomited recently. He looked down at the picture frame on the dresser and picked it up. The picture was taken on their wedding day. They sat on a white swing in a garden, kissing. It was one of his favorite pictures. Lydia was very pregnant and very beautiful. She glowed. He looked from the picture back at himself in the mirror and a single lonely tear flowed down his face. He hugged the picture close and the single tear was soon joined by many more. His chest heaved as he cried. When he was done he set the picture back and left his bedroom and went downstairs. There was dried vomit at the bottom of the stairs. He stepped around it, fighting the urge to add more to the pile. His throat was dry and ragged and he headed to the kitchen to get a drink. As he walked into the kitchen he noticed the table. Sitting on the table was a box of black puzzle pieces. About a dozen or so of the pieces were connected on the table, the beginning of the border, the easiest part of a puzzle to put together. He had a quick recollection of carrying the puzzle in but didn’t remember starting to put it together, however he also didn’t remember vomiting all over the damn house, so it was no surprise. What surprised him was the strong feeling he had in his heart towards the puzzle, he wanted to just sit down and continue to put it together. He wasn’t going to, though. Today he was going to call Lydia at the flower shop and beg her to come back. If she didn’t he was going to kill himself, simple as that. He didn’t know how yet, but he would think of something. He had ruled out the car. If it was totally rebuilt he might use it, as it stood he didn’t want to die in something incomplete. Even he knew it didn’t make any sense at all, but still it was how he felt and dammit you only die once so even if it was a stupid reason it was his choice to make. He stepped to the fridge and opened the door. He looked for something to drink. Milk? No. Orange juice? No. Nothing sounded good. The mere thought of them caused a cramp in his belly. Instead he closed the door, walked back to the liquor cabinet and opened it. He grabbed a bottle of cheap vodka and closed the door. He reached up for a coffee mug that hung above the sink but stopped short. Why dirty a glass? Who was he kidding? He was going to drink the whole bottle anyway. Might as well just drink from the bottle. He unscrewed the cap and set it on the counter and took a small swig. He braced himself for a stomach cramp but none came. Instead it made him feel better. He walked into the living room and looked at the clock that hung above the TV. It said 11:11, his favorite time as a kid. Lydia wouldn’t be at the shop until noon so he had some time to kill. He went back to the kitchen and sat at the table. He looked at the pieces already put together. It was really going to be a bitch of a puzzle to put together. How long had it taken him to get this much done? He began rummaging through the box and found a couple more of the border pieces. He set them to the side and slid the box and cover forward. He began to move the pieces from box to the cover looking for the border pieces. There were a lot. It was going to be a huge puzzle. Probably about as big as the damn table by the time he would finish. When he had taken all the pieces out he began the arduous task of trying to finish building the border. He had to move the mail and candles from the table as the puzzle stretched out. After some time he had it done, all except for the corner piece, the piece with the white dot. He stood up and his knees popped. How long had he been sitting here? Lydia….he forgot to call Lydia. How could he forget? How could he forget about his love? He rushed to the living room and looked at the clock. It said 3:41. Four fucking hours. He spent four fucking hours on the puzzle. The time seemed to zip by. He picked the phone up and dialed the flower shop. Lydia picked it up on the third ring.

“Good afternoon, Suzie’s flowers”, she said.

The sound of her voice caused his heart to ache. He loved her so. He opened his mouth to talk and couldn’t.

“Hello, Suzie’s flowers”, she repeated.

He fought the tears and pain back. Before he could say anything there was a click and the line went dead. She hung up.

He cried for a long time while he held the phone. The recorded message telling him to hang up and call again played at least twenty times before he was finally able to hang the phone up. He picked it up and dialed again.

“Good afternoon, Suzie’s flowers.”

He closed his eyes.

“Listen if this is some sort of joke it’s not funny”, she said.

“Hello Lydia”, he whispered.

There was a long pause where he could hear nothing but breathing on the other end before she replied.

“Did you get the papers Nick?”

“I got the papers”, he said, crying quietly.

“Listen Nick, it’s busy and I don’t have time to talk right now.”

“Why Lydia, why? What did I do? I’m sorry. Whatever it was I’ll change it I promise.”

There was a click as she hung up on him. He hung the phone up and sat on the couch. He was surrounded by pictures of her…them. Each picture was a defining moment in his life, their life. A time filled with happiness and joy. It was all around him. He turned around and laid on his right side, facing the back of the couch. He grabbed a pillow and held it tight to his face and for what seemed like the thousandth time in the last few days he cried.

He answers the door and she is standing there, smiling wide, holding a bouquet of flowers.

“I’m sorry”, she says fighting back tears.

He just looks at her, totally and completely in love. She reaches both of her arms up and wraps them around his neck. Feeling her soft skin against his sends shivers down his spine. He grabs her around the waist and pulls her close. Their foreheads touch together and they look into each other’s eyes and instantly know things will be ok.

Nick wakes from this dream by the phone ringing. He sits up groggily and wipes his eyes. His neck aches something fierce. The sun shining through the window is bright and he has to squint his eyes. He looks at the clock and it says 12:15. Confused he gets up to answer the phone. Before he can get there the answering machine turns on.

“Hi this is Lydia and Nick, were not available right now, please leave a message”, Lydia’s voice plays from the machine. It pains Nick’s heart to hear her voice again. The machine beeps and he hears someone clearing their throat. This goes on for a couple of seconds before he hears his boss’s voice.

“Nick. I’m just calling to see if you are ok, man. It’s not like you to miss work, let alone three days in a row. We’re starting to get worried. Give me a call when you get this.” Click.

Nick stands perfectly still. Did he say three days? He couldn’t have said that. If the clock was right he obviously missed work today but three days. He played the message back again and heard the same words. He walked to the front door and opened it. Laying on the front step were three newspapers.

He walked through the house trying to make sense of it all. When he entered the kitchen things began to make sense. Located on the counter were nine empty bottles of liquor. He went to the bottles and picked them up one after another. He didn’t remember drinking any of it. The last thing he remembered was the phone call with Lydia. A blackout. He had a blackout. He slowly walked to the bathroom. What he saw in the mirror shocked him. His face was gaunt and slightly gray looking and he was sporting the beginnings of a beard. His hair was greasy and matted, and bits of what was either food or vomit clung to it. He looked terrible. He ran the water in the sink and took a whore’s bath. He picked as much of the shit out of his hair as he could. His fingers were covered with little cuts that stung when soap was put on them. He looked at her hair dryer sitting on the vanity and longed to crawl into the bathtub with it. Of course the plug ins were protected so it wouldn’t do any good anyway. He’d have to think of a different way to do it.

He walks to the kitchen. Three days of his life gone….what’s three days really compared to nine years? Three days, that would make today Thursday. Home cooking night. His stomach rumbled as he looked through the fridge and cabinets. He picked up a can of beef stew and looked at it for a second before he set it back on the counter. He walked over to the liquor cabinet and could see through the glass that it was empty, except for the Sophie Marie rum. He looked away quickly, not wanting to see it. It hurt too much. When he looked away he looked towards the table. The puzzle looked to be completed. He had been a busy boy the last few days. He looked at his hands again and it dawned on him that he must have gotten some cuts from the damn puzzle pieces. He stepped forward and saw a puzzle piece lying on the floor under the table. It wasn’t completed after all.

Sweat poured off of his head as he picked up the last puzzle piece. Nick held it up and looked at it. He felt a mixture of sadness and relief as he held it. This damn thing had taken over his life for the last few days and he was glad to see it done. He could now go ahead and kill himself. There was nothing left for him to do. He sat down and placed the piece into the last remaining open spot and pushed down. For a second it didn’t quite fit in place. His knuckles turned white as he forced it down. There was an audible snap and it fell into place. He leaned back and put his hands behind his head. It was done. Finally, it was done. Nick stood up and looked down upon it with great pride. He wondered if the previous owner had ever been able to complete it. He hoped not. A good puzzle is like a virgin. You really want to believe that you were the only one who did it.

He looked at it, grinning for the first time in days, when he saw the movement. In the upper left corner there was a wave in the blackness. He closed his eyes for a second and then looked again. Sure enough it was still there, moving like some desert mirage. There but not there. He ran his fingers across it and felt a slight shock surge through his body. It felt electric. His fingers sunk into the puzzle and disappeared into the blackness. A small part of him wanted to pull away, a larger part wanted to jump into the puzzle, swim in the madness. He leaned forward and pressed his face against the blackness of the cardboard puzzle. It sunk into it and into darkness. There was something and nothing there all at the same time. It felt empty…hollow. It felt like his life. He pulled his face out and looked at the puzzle. The waves had now pulsed through the whole thing from one side to the other. A tidal wave of the unknown. He touched the last piece of the puzzle he placed in and was surprised to feel the coldness of the cardboard. He lifted the piece out and the waves stopped dead. He ran his hand across the whole thing again. It didn’t sink in. It just glided across the pieces. Nick looked at the piece in his hand and wondered if he had gone mad. Did it really happen? He pushed the piece back in place and the waves started again, even more powerful than before. He reached down and removed another piece from the puzzle. The waves continued. He lifted up a second piece and nothing changed. He put the two pieces back and then removed the dotted piece. The puzzle regained its two-dimensional appearance. Once more he placed the piece in, and this time, he stuck his whole head into the puzzle. When he pulled it out twenty minutes later he was crying again and had finally figured out how he was going to do it.

He walked into the living room and saw the message light blinking on the answering machine. He must have gotten a call while he was in the puzzle. He pushed the button and listened to the message.

“Hello Nick”, Lydia said, “I’m sorry I hung up on you the other day. This is just …it’s so hard for me. I’m going to stop over tonight to pick up the div…uhh”, there was an abrupt pause before she continued, “papers. Please sign them…for me. I’ll bring copies if you…don’t have them anymore. I….I…”

There was a click and then the message stopped. Nick stared at the answering machine for a long time before he lay down on the couch. Sleep came to him quickly and took him back to the day their lives changed.

They sang songs as they drove to the grocery store. Although she was only two years old she had already learned the words to an amazing amount of songs. Nick looked at her in his rearview mirror and smiled. She was beautiful. She had her mother’s curly blonde hair and blue eyes. When she smiled it felt like the world stopped and watched.

She caught him looking at her, scrunched her nose up and made a funny face at him and he burst out laughing.

“I funny, daddy”, she said giggling along with him.

“Yes you are, sweetheart.”

“Go see mommy?” she asked.

“Yes, we go see mommy. Silly mommy locked her keys in the car at the store.”

She held her small hand over her mouth and started to giggle again.

He looked back at the road ahead of him. Another song began to play on the radio. Some teenybopper stuff that he couldn’t stand. He reached his hand forward to change the station and just before he did he heard her singing along in the back seat.

“How do you know this song?”

“Mommy play song”, she replied.

His hand hovered in front of the radio for a second before he turned the volume dial up a few notches.

Ginny began to clap from the backseat as she sang.

Nick took the next exit and turned right. In the distance past all the fast food restaurants, was Poppa’s Market, the grocery store they shopped at. He turned into the parking lot and saw Lydia standing there next to her car. There was an open parking spot only three down from where she was. He pulled in and shut off the engine.

“Ginny, I’ll be right back ok?”

“Ok”, she repeated.

He opened the door and got out. Lydia was already standing there waiting for him.

“Don’t say it”, she said, smiling.

He smiled and handed her the spare set of keys and gave her a kiss on her cheek.

“I hope the ice cream didn’t melt”, she said.

“Melt, why would it melt….oh yeah, you locked your keys in the car again so it’s been sitting out”, he said with a mischievous look on his face.

She made an angry face and grunted at him, there was no anger in her eyes though; he could always tell how she felt by looking at her eyes.

“Mommy, mommy, mommy”, Ginny screamed, noticing her mom standing outside the car.

Lydia walked over, leaned her forehead against the window, and cupped her hands around her eyes so that she could see through the tinted windows. Ginny held both of her hands out towards her and smiled. She was holding her stuffed cow, Moo, in her hands. Lydia waved.

“I think she wants you, mommy”, Nick said.

“Of course she does, she likes me best”, she said smiling.

Lydia walked around to the other side of the car and opened the door.

“Hi mommy. Hi Moo”, she said waving her cow.

“You want to ride with mommy?”

“Uh huh”, she said.

Lydia unbuckled her from her car seat and lifted her out of the car. She carried her over to Nick.

“Hi daddy. Moo go with mommy.”

The three of them walked down to her car. The shopping cart sat directly behind it. She used the key Nick had just given her and opened the trunk. Nick began loading the groceries into the trunk as Lydia walked around the car. She looked in the window and walked back around.

“What’s wrong? Don’t tell me you lost the keys already.”

“Ha Ha, Mr. Smarty-pants. Don’t push you luck. I don’t have the car seat with me. I left it at Judy’s house yesterday.”

“You can drive the other car home and I’ll drive this one. Just don’t lose my…”

He saw the look in her eyes and knew not to give her another poke.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought”, she said, winking at him.

Ginny saw the wink and tried to copy it. She blinked both eyes a few times before giving up.

“Uwe”, Ginny said pointing down.

They both looked down and saw a slow, brown trickle dripping from the cart.

“Poopie”, Ginny said.

They both laughed.

“No poopie. It’s ice cream.”

Lydia set Ginny down and looked at the bag. It did look like poopie. Nick had put everything else in the trunk but the paper bag that was leaking.

They both laughed as he picked up the bag with the ice cream. Ginny stood between them.

“Ice cream poopie, ice cream poopie”, she sings, watching it drip from the corner of the bag.

“I guess the ice cream melted”, Nick said laughing.

“Shoosh”, Lydia replies, trying to hold the laughter in.

They heard the screeching tires from behind them and turned around quickly. The sound of the tires haunted their dreams for months. The car had skidded past them about ten feet. They both turned back and looked down. Ginny was gone. Lydia started to cry immediately and Nick couldn’t move. Everything started to go black. A scream pulled them out of the darkness. They stepped forward and saw a man standing in front of the car, looking down. He was white as a ghost.

“I couldn’t see her”, he kept mumbling.

They both walked forward to the front of the car and saw Moo lying on the asphalt covered in blood. Darkness engulfed them once again, and this time they both passed out.

Nick woke up screaming, praying and wishing that his wife and daughter were there with him. He looked out the window and saw headlights pulling into the driveway. He stood up quickly and walked to the door. The only thing running through Nick’s mind as he opened the door was his dream from the night before. He continued to hold onto a shred of possibility that he would be able to make things right. If they were able to make it through Ginny’s death they could make it through anything. One look deep into her eyes dashed those thoughts. He stared at her for God knows how long before she spoke.

“How you doing Nick?” She asked.

He opened his mouth to respond. Perhaps a “how do you expect” or a “peachy keen” but words failed him. Instead his lower lip started quivering as though it was going through an epileptic fit. She brushed past him and stepped into the house leaving him standing at the door. He looked down at the little mat that sat in the doorway. “Welcome”, it said. He closed the door and followed her into the kitchen.

“I’m sorry Nick, you have to know that. I never wanted this at all.”

He just stood and stared at her. It was amazing how much he loved her. When Ginny died a piece of both of them died along with her. The only thing that kept them whole was each other. Now it was over.

Lydia reached into the front pocket of her pants and pulled something out. It sparkled under the chandelier lights. Nick knew immediately what it was, her wedding ring. She set it on the table, and that’s when she noticed the puzzle. She looked at it for a second and then looked back up at him.

“I need you to sign the papers Nick. If you still care about me at all then you’ll do it.”

“Ok”, Nick whispered.

Lydia reached into her purse and pulled out a copy of the documents. She turned and set them down upon the puzzle. She then handed Nick a ballpoint pen. He took the pen and held it in his hands. Was he really going to do it? Deep down even he didn’t know. He held the pen tightly and began to feel nauseous. He stepped forward and held the pen in the air. In one fluid movement he brought the pen down to the sheet of paper and signed his name on the dotted line. He then dropped the pen on the paper and walked towards the sink. He stood with his back to her and looked out the window at his backyard.

“Thank you Nick”, she said. She looked down at the paper and her eyes began to water. At that moment she couldn’t decide what was blacker, the puzzle or her soul. She stared at the puzzle. It was missing a piece. In a way that was the perfect description of their lives since losing Ginny. No matter what they did, there was always hollowness to them. A suffocating darkness hanging over them, waiting to devour their lives.

Sitting on the table next to her rings was the missing piece. She picked it up and pushed it in place. The documents and pen disappeared into the swirling darkness immediately. Lydia gasped and stepped back.

“Wha….what…what the fu”, she managed to get out before he placed both of his hands on her back and shoved her forward as hard as he could. Her upper body slid into the puzzle leaving her legs dangling out and kicking at him. He reached down and grabbed her feet, holding them as still as he could. He slowly began to push the rest of her into the blackness inch by inch. There was no sound, only her legs kicking violently towards him. A final hard shove sent her all the way in. Nick quickly pulled the dotted puzzle piece out and looked at the puzzle. He looked at the piece and took a deep breath. Instead of one white dot it now contained two. He ran the piece between his fingers, feeling its cardboard exterior. His hands were shaking. He felt like he was going to pass out from exhaustion. Pushing her in took a lot more out of him than he expected. He walked over to the sink, turned the faucet on, splashed some water onto his face, cupped his hands and drank directly from the sink. The water was cool and refreshing, but did nothing to calm his shakes. He looked up at the liquor cabinet. He supposed he knew why his hands were still shaking. He opened the liquor cabinet and became transfixed by the bottle of Sophie Marie rum. He would never celebrate another anniversary with his wife. He would never share the rum with her and remember their wedding. Tears began to stream down his face and he picked up the bottle and hugged it. He carried it over to the puzzle, placed the puzzle piece back in the spot and held the bottle above the swirling blackness. Lydia’s hand shot up quickly and grasped his wrist. He screamed. There was no real strength in her grip. He didn’t know if she was trying to pull him down or pull herself up, but he didn’t leave her any time for either. He pried her fingers off of his wrist, pushed her down and removed the piece again.

He sat at the table for a long time, drinking and looking at the puzzle. He wanted to believe he could see her in there, screaming, looking back at him but didn’t think he did. In his inebriated state, he disassembled the puzzle and packed it back into the box, all of it that is but the dotted piece. That he kept out. He carried the puzzle outside and threw it in the dumpster. He then returned to the table.

He thought back to what he saw in the darkness when he put his head in there. He saw Lydia over and over again, with other men. Kissing, fucking. There was no joy of love in it. He was certain of that. Just a need to try and fill the hole in her heart Ginny’s death had caused. She met most of the men at the flower shop. They would sneak back here, to their house for a quick fuck and then she would head back to work. Why hadn’t he noticed? He supposed because he loved her, truly and completely. He was blinded by love. Over and over again he watched her fuck. It hurt him deeply. How could she do these things? He saw her, on the day he found her crying, fucking in the kitchen. The pots and pans had been laid out for dinner. They swept them to the floor as they fucked on the counter only minutes before he got home.

He wondered what she was doing. What lay in the darkness? He hoped nothing. He hoped she sat completely alone, screams echoing in her ears as her eyes adjusted to nothing. He hoped she felt a little bit of what he felt. He looked at the puzzle piece and cried. He imagined that dot being her life force, her cheating soul. As he held the piece it didn’t feel any different than your run of the mill puzzle piece, simply cardboard. He looked at it for a long time before passing out.

***************************************************

Lydia stood with her back to Nick. She was wearing a red see through teddy. Nick slowly walked up to her. She didn’t turn; she just continued to look into the darkness. He had done a bad thing and he hoped she could forgive him for it. He set his hand on her shoulder and she disintegrated into a pile of ash. Before he could scream hands shot out of the darkness all around him squeezing and pulling, tearing him apart.

Nick sat up quickly. He was sprawled out on the kitchen table. He rubbed his eyes and sat up.

Sitting in the center was her wedding ring. He picked it up and put it on his pinky finger. He walked over and went back into the garage. He closed the door behind him and locked it with the keys he took off the hook. He walked down the stairs, climbed into the front seat of his car and started the engine. It sputtered a few times before it roared to life. He rolled down the windows of the car, leaned back and closed his eyes. Carbon monoxide filled the car and he choked as he breathed it in. He opened his eyes and he could see exhaust fumes filling the garage. Within the fumes he could see two shapes standing there waving at him. For the first time in days, he smiled.

Hours earlier, Dwayne Bates drove his truck to a yellow house on eighth-street. He was scheduled to pick up a dumpster. It was his last pick-up of the day. Normally, he would continue to do pick-ups and drop-offs until dinnertime, but today he had told his bosses at the garbage company, that he needed to take half a day off for a doctors appointment. It was a complete lie. He was going to meet a girl he met at a bar last night. He squeezed his cock through his pants when he thought of her. She was young, attractive and dumb as a box of rocks. Just how he liked them.

He pulled in front of the driveway and smiled. It really was his lucky day. Usually, the dumpster would be overfilled and shit would be sticking up all over, ready to fall out. He couldn’t see anything sticking up out of this one. He pulled ahead and backed the truck into the driveway, right up to the dumpster. He let the engine continue to run and got out of the cab to situate the dumpster for the lift. He looked into the dumpster and walked back to the cab to get his work order. He double-checked the date, scheduled pick up today. He threw the clipboard back into the truck and walked back to the empty dumpster. Fucker never used the damn thing, he thought. That is when he noticed the box, in the corner. He walked around to the backside and released the latch that held the door closed on the dumpster. The door squeaked as he opened it. He picked the black box up and shook it. He could hear something rattling inside. He opened the box and saw a bunch of black puzzle pieces. A fucking puzzle, he thought. They rented a dumpster for a fucking puzzle. He went to drop it back in the dumpster and stopped. A single puzzle piece lay on the rusted metal floor of the dumpster. He bent over and picked it up. It had two white dots. He opened the box and put the piece in with the rest of the puzzle. He shut the door and carried the puzzle towards the front of his truck. He figured he’d give it to his wife tonight. Hopefully it would keep her off his back for a while. His thoughts drifted from his wife, back to the delicious slut he was going to see in just under and hour. Damn she was hot, big tits, a fine ass, very fuckable. He whistled as he placed the puzzle into the cab.

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