Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PUZZLE (11/24/16)
TITLE: She Dances in Her Dreams
By Jan Ackerson
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Rachel’s mood since the accident is one that she’s not been able to put a name to. She’s certainly not her former exuberant self, but neither is she depressed. She’s quiet, working hard, a little bit somber. Perhaps she’d call it calm expectancy. Something is going to happen, beyond the obvious goal of learning to walk again and getting back to college.
The quiet hours after the last therapy session sometimes drag on a bit, and one evening Rachel wheels over to a cupboard in the common room and rummages through the games and puzzles there. She’s not much interested in starting a game of Monopoly with the other patients, but she finds a large Ziploc bag full of puzzle pieces. The challenge of this immediately interests her; the box is gone, so she has no idea what the puzzle will be. She’s quite certain there will be several missing pieces—the puzzle could have been assembled a dozen times, and many of the patients here might inadvertently have knocked pieces off the table. Still.
Rachel dumps the puzzle pieces—there were probably five hundred of them, once—onto a card table and starts to search for the edges. This process is fairly quick, and even with just the border of the puzzle completed, it’s apparent that the picture is the interior of a building—a dark wood ceiling and floor are already evident. She’s unclear what all the brightly colored pieces will be, though.
She heads toward her room that night and dreams of running.
The next day, after therapy, she returns to the common room. Another patient is working on the puzzle, having gathered all the pieces containing the brightest colors. Rachel doesn’t know this woman—she’s older, perhaps recovering from a stroke—but they smile at each other and work side by side for a while. Yes, a stroke—the woman only uses her left hand. Nevertheless, the puzzle starts to reveal its secrets, with the two women working together.
It’s the interior of a large church, perhaps some famous cathedral or abbey. The camera angle is such that much of the timbered ceiling is visible, and large stained-glass windows at either side; it is these that the older woman is completing. There are a few doors visible beneath the brightly-colored windows, and polished wooden pews take up the lower fourth of the picture.
After some time, the other woman yawns and leaves. Rachel works for a while longer, finishing one of the stained-glass windows, then goes to bed. This night, she dances in her dreams.
The next day is a Saturday; there’s only one therapy session in the morning, and the rest of the day is free. Rachel returns to the puzzle. The stained-glass windows have both been completed now, and all the remaining pieces are of varying shades of black and brown: ceiling, floors, pews, walls. As she’s sorting out one particular shade of reddish-brown, one of the occupational therapists walks by, pulling on his jacket. His shift must be over—Rachel recognizes him as Stephan, one of the OTs who works with geriatric patients. His sleeve brushes several pieces onto the floor.
“Sorry!” Stephan says, and he stoops to retrieve them.
“It’s okay,” says Rachel. She picks up some pieces, too, and Stephan stays long enough to assemble a little of the ceiling. They chat a bit, and when he gets up to leave again, he stands well away from the table, laughing, while he puts on his jacket. “See you around, Rachel,” he says. He touches her shoulder and waits, smiling, for her to look up at him. Rachel realizes that no one has touched her in friendship for weeks.
When she finishes the puzzle that evening, she sees, toward the lower left corner, something hanging between two of the stained-glass windows. It’s very small; Rachel asks one of the nurses for a magnifying glass. One is found in a desk drawer, and Rachel examines the tiny rectangle. It’s a plaque containing the words of a long-gone saint: All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.
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