Two Missing Pieces

My love of reading most certainly comes from my mom. My mom is a book addict and raised me to be a book addict. I remember Dr. Seuss books arriving by mail in cardboard wrappers, and random days suddenly becoming Christmas morning. And there were the thousands of times I made her read Go, Dogs Go and Harold and the Purple Crayon with me. On any road trip, if we spotted a bookstore off the highway, I would squeal and point and she would hit the blinker.

Later in life, we formed a habit of working the crossword puzzle together, taking turns, two clues apiece, until we were both stuck and had to put our heads together. She taught at my high school and later at my college, where we would meet for lunch and scribble in those little squares. We also did jigsaws puzzles together, and recently added backgammon to the ways in which we spend quiet, quality time together. But it was mostly the two of us with books, and later our Kindles, and the puzzle. I couldn’t add up the hours I’ve spent with my mom like this.

When I started writing, she became my first and biggest fan, my beta reader, and my red-pen editor. She urges my writing along by always reminding me to send her something, to ask what I’m working on now, when I’ll write another Molly Fyde book, and so on.

Which makes our recent collaboration really special. It shouldn’t be a big deal, just an exhibition at her local library that mixes the written word with a piece of art, but it means the world to me. My mom has always painted and been crafty. I remember as a kid her cross stitching or painting on blocks of wood or rocks. She has covered hundreds of canvases. It’s something she loves, just as I discovered that I love to write. But I never thought we’d team up and put these separate loves together. When the library called for submissions from anyone in the community who wanted to mix words and paint, she asked if I would join her.

Below is a picture of our work on the library wall. I love that she dabbled in my wheelhouse by painting a robot’s arm. The other piece is the small white table where we’ve put together many a jigsaw puzzle. Thanks for letting me be a part of this, Mom.



Two Missing Pieces

Under the table, behind a flap
of cloth, a jumble of cardboard boxes
each missing a piece

A schnauzer ate one, another is
under the sofa cushion, and a piece
lives in the vacuum cleaner

There’s a barnyard scene, with golden
hay bulging from the bright red, and
a hole in the cloudless blue sky

There’s a sailboat race, and somehow
the boat in the lead is missing
part of its sail

But the hardest puzzle is the great
bowl of candy, all that repetition,
with a jelly bean gone missing

Hours and hours and hours go into
what can never be completed

So the table sits empty, mother and son
far away, not even the border sorted
and started

Always better to spend those hours,
even though they can’t last forever

Nothing is ever complete.


The Things We Built

An engineer sits at a workbench. There are bolts and screws and bits of wire scattered about; a soldering iron leaks a curl of gray smoke.

Old hands rub one another — tired and sore. There’s a keyboard nearby, many of the letters worn off from years of use. By the time a keyboard is worn this well, the letters don’t matter anyway. Ancient muscles have the most memory.

A computer screen asks [Y/N]?

The engineer knows where the Y is. A finger poises, a conversation remembered, a man asking “are you sure?”

There is a baby growing in a womb, and no question whether they’ll keep it, but they have the conversation anyway. Are they sure? The engineer wonders if the child will become a president. Very few wonder if they’ll become…

The memory of gunshots. The old engineer pushes that day away. Poised finger trembles. A conversation and a question.

There’s a robot nearby, lifeless. All it takes is a keystroke. A press. Permission.

Everyone thinks of all the terrible things these machines might do. Movies and books full to the brim of metal men pulling triggers.

But what if one might become president?

This one?

So many fears over the things we might create,

so few conversations about the men we built.


12 responses to “Two Missing Pieces”

  1. Love you Hugh! And I love your mother more. Thank you.

  2. Fantastic!!

    My boys are both game players and readers. It’s so fun to see the love of reading get passed on.

  3. The dining room had a beautiful chandelier; the second of such lovely chandeliers in less than a year since the last one crashed down in the middle of a cardgame with the neighbours. We had all burst in laughter at the peculiarness of it all. Four decks of cards strewn about the dining room and the chandelier askew in a big bowl of doritoes while my father cussed, more because he had finally been winning a hand, than in a rush to quell the oddly green coppery flame still burning from the exposed wires dangling down.
    This new chandelier was well fastened we jokingly reassured one another as we set out the family puzzle for the Holidays.

    Your mother is a very talented artist. I especially love the table painting as it immediately took me to one of my own comfort memories.

    Would that my cat could shuffle a deck or stop cheating all the time ;) online games never have the same depth of interaction.
    Thank you for sharing. Please pass on my comliments to your mum. -Cheers,

  4. Glorious…both the art and the verse.

  5. Kevin Gyscek-Strauss Avatar
    Kevin Gyscek-Strauss

    Beautiful collaboration; enjoyed it a lot.

  6. Wow. Wasn’t expecting this, which is another missing piece. Reminiscent of somethings not quite there.

  7. Beautiful. No, nothing ever is complete.

  8. Fun to read. ‘The Things We Built’ is very evocative, I loved it! I shared a similar love of reading my whole life too. Thanks for the thoughts.

  9. What a beautiful collaboration — the art and the poetry. My mom has always been my biggest supporter, too, when it comes to writing, or really anything creative. I don’t want to drip with too much sentimentality here, but, oh hell, why not? It really is a good feeling to have your mom as such a proponent of your work. If you can’t count on your mom, who can you count on, you know?

  10. My mother is still with us, but she will never paint another pictures. I have ten or more of her paintings, where I see them every day.

    I still find it hard that art outlives the artist. How can something material last when she will not?

    But that’s the way it is, and no one every benefited from fighting reality. Not in the long run. At least I have her paintings. And her words in my heart.

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