PRETTY SMART FELLA
Now, John always considered himself a pretty smart fella except when he wasn't or tried to hide that he was. I mean, he didn't think he was an Einstein or anything. He knew didn't have any street smarts or common sense; you could ask his mother, she’d tell ya. But then, Einstein had someone looking after his mundane needs like what to wear and eat each day, when to get a haircut. Forget that last bit. I digress and I will again.
Let me tell you how John hides his intelligence.
There was this time he’s with a group of friends, some acquaintances really, not family. They got thrown together because of the evacuation during a hurricane in Florida. He lived in a mobile home and you know they’re the first to go.
So they’re together, see, at these folk’s house and there’s five adults; three women and two men, and five animals; three dogs and two cats. As he enters their home lugging in some belongings, he notices a colorful puzzle in disarray on the dining room table. It's got about 10 pieces. He stores his gear and goes to the kitchen with his wife, Gloria to get more acquainted with their friend’s home. He doesn’t know it yet, but they're going to spend the better part of the next three days together in this safe house.
John will help Bill to store things from outside the house into the garage. Get things tied down, put up and shut away from the onslaught to come. He’ll watch TV to boredom, keeping up with the weather reports, you know. That is, until the power goes out the next afternoon.
He’ll be reading the paper, talking, going out for groceries, sleeping, walking the dogs, looking out the windows, the usual stuff, making jokes and laughing at the other folk’s humor. He’ll start but not finish reading a new book for him, "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” by Carson McCullers. That’s the setup.
Now, Bill spends some time working on that puzzle and his daughter Julie joins him. Bill leaves the table after a while talking as how the fiend who gave them this puzzle, Bill's mother-in-law, said she knew of someone who solved it in 20 minutes. Yeah, right. Now, there’s a double positive that’s a negative.
So Julie works on it alone until her mother, Sara, joins in and it becomes a tadoodle while they talk of family stuff cause Julie's there from Orlando as her husband is a cop and will be working non-stop in some shelter while this hurricane goes on and Sara wanted the family together during the storm. Bill wanted that, too, of course.
Gloria goes over and spends some time on the puzzle with them. They all leave after a while, frustrated with it I guess. Sara and Gloria gather up the makings of a meal and ask John to go on a food run (jellybeans and chocolate covered raisins the most important items) while the stores are still open and if he sees one, “pick up a jigsaw puzzle while you’re at it”.
Quick forward. It's the third day. John hasn't looked closely at the puzzle yet, just a passing glance now and then. They’ve all left that puzzle in the dining room to rot in Hell. They’re at the kitchen table now, working on a 500 piece scenic and it's slow going. Small “Ah ha’s” when two pieces come together and the dogs are involved as well. A piece will stick to an underarm and fall to the floor, guilelessly. Later someone will find that piece, wet and chewed. This masticated cardboard will join others on the table already mangled. Thanks guys.
Now it occurs, that John gets a notion to go look at that abandoned puzzle in the dining room. He thought at one point yesterday that it would be embarrassing if he just went over there after the others had spent so much time working on it and he just did it. So he didn’t go, until now, and here he is at the puzzle staring at it.
There are nine square pieces to form a larger square. On the four sides of each segment is half a small bird, Finches perhaps. One is blue, another red, another yellow and one multicolored. Hmmm. Each bird is the head half or the feet half. Most have one bird of each color on it but two pieces have two sides with the same color bird. Hmmm.
John separates them out and figures it matters most which piece goes in the center. Gloria joins him and tells him they've been looking at the pieces focusing on matching the bird’s tops and bottoms like he’s doing. Then she let's on that Bill thought those shadowy areas on the segments were worth looking at, too. Hmmm.
Gloria leaves, and John looks at each bird match, the color match and the shadow match. Bingo! It's done. Hmmm, two minutes, less than that!
He says, "I got it."
Bill, Julie and Gloria come over to check and Bill says, "Yeah, that looks right."
Julie says, ”Let’s turn the pieces over and mark them."
John says, "The clue of looking at the shadows made it happen," and fades into the background… the other room… a chair… then back to reading the new book.
It's like that sometimes for John. He will do a brilliant piece of work and then hide under a bushel so as not to let his light shine. Been like that most all his life: feeling apart from most everybody and wanting to fit in but not knowing the way. So he diminishes himself.
Oh, yeah, he works at the local college… in the supply department.
Ask his mother, she'll tell you, and “John just doesn’t have common sense But that’s just John bein’ John."
Ron Eklof 2004