At age three, Timmy lost one of his puzzle pieces in the park. He was sucking it. It tasted bitter like nothing else in the world. It fell out of the stroller and he could not get mummy to see what it was that he wanted, so it was left there. Ever after, Thomas the Tank Engine lacked most of his smokestack and boiler and the face of his driver. It was a fifteen-piece puzzle. The missing piece was important, almost as important as the one with Thomas’s face on it. When Timmy was old enough to put the puzzle together on his own, the lack of this piece made him sad. Mummy would say, where is it, have you lost it, but she didn’t accept that she had lost it in the park. Timmy said, but she didn’t remember.
They did not throw the puzzle away. Years later, the pieces were scattered in the toy box, and at some point Tim realised that he did not dare put them together (a task he could have performed by touch alone) in case this forced him to discover that another piece had been lost. He did not dare. He could not have borne it.
Eventually Tim was a dad, and at a garage sale he saw an identical puzzle, much battered by use. He quickly established that this puzzle had two missing pieces, but it had the piece he knew to be missing from his own. The excitement this generated was beyond sensible. He suddenly saw a wonderful opportunity. He bought the puzzle for fifty cents.
As soon as he could, he visited his parents’ home and combined the two puzzles, rooting through the old toy box like a crazy man to find the pieces. There was still only one missing. All those years he had been scared that further damage may have occurred, but no. How foolish he had been!
He replaced the missing piece with one from the new puzzle. When he saw the picture whole in front of him, he started to cry. His mum wanted to know what he was doing. He hid his tears and made light of the whole incident. She remembered the puzzle. She said it had always been a favourite of his. Yes, he agreed, and now he had restored it he was going to give it to his little boy, Ben.
This seemed right. It seemed reasonable.
So he gave the puzzle to his son, who didn’t like it.