I dubiously stared at the pile of old board games and puzzles precariously stacked from shelf to ceiling in my parent’s garage. I wondered when someone last went through all this junk. Junk. But there were a lot of good memories crammed up there—fighting over Scrabble words, cheating at Monopoly.

My brother stood next to me with a bowl of ice cream and we nostalgically talked about our favorite games before I saw it at the very bottom of the heap. It was a black box with gold scrolling and fancy letters that read, “Mystery Puzzle.” I searched my memory and could not remember it.

“What’s that?” I asked my brother as I tried to point it out. “I don’t remember that.”

“You don’t remember Yahtzee?” Except it came out all jumbled around a mouthful of mint chocolate chip.

“No! The black box.”

“The Mystery Puzzle? Yeah, you shouldn’t do it.” He shrugged.

“What? Why not?” Sometimes, the surest way to get me to do something is to tell me I shouldn’t do it. “Help me get it down.”

“But it’s at the very bottom!”

I rolled my eyes at his laziness. “You’re taller than me, you have to help!”

He put down his ice cream and sighed. I could be a serious pain when I wanted something.

“Fine!” he shouted as he picked up the step ladder and strategically placed it near the shelf. “But for the record this is ill advised and you should just leave the puzzle where it is.”

“Well, what is the mystery then?”

“I can’t tell you that. It would be cheating.”

“Okay so go get it then,” I said nodding toward the step ladder.

“I said I would help, and I got you this. You’re on your own. Good luck!”

“You’re such an ass!”

“You should just leave it…” he warned ominously.

Five sneezes, one dead mo’o (R.I.P.), two spider scares and a bruised elbow later I had my prize. It was time to get my puzzle on. Mystery Puzzle you’re going down! I’m gonna solve you because I’m a closet genius, a puzzle master, a brainteaser savant!

I hastily cleared off the dining table and opened the box. Casually sorting through the pieces I knew this would be difficult. There was very little color delineation in the puzzle at all and the box said there were 1500 pieces! I decided to separate the edges so I could put together the outer frame first.

Two hours later, I only had two parts of the frame assembled and I wanted to rip my hair out. My head was pounding and my eyes were sore.

“You’ll never solve it,” my brother taunted from the living room.

“I will! I won’t give up”

Two more hours later, and I was only able to fill in the bottom left corner.

“I give up. What’s the mystery?” I asked.

“No idea. I never even tried since a whole bunch of pieces are missing.”

Talk story

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