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THE PUZZLE'S PICTURE
I pulled off the freeway and into a gas station to allow my Granddaughter, Madison to use the bathroom. While standing outside the doorway, I noticed several boys climbing over a fence and begin picking pecans up off the ground. Remembering back to a very dangerous incident in my life, I began shaking my head.
I must have been fourteen or fifteen years old when I met another boy who was also living on the streets of Jacksonville, Florida. For some reason, he and I were out in the country and were walking past a large orange grove. He decided to cross over the fence and get us a few oranges. He couldn’t have been over the fence for more than a minute or two before we saw an old army jeep, throwing dust and dirt everywhere, come racing down one of the dirt rows. Before he could make it back over the fence, the old farmer raised his gun and took a shot in our direction. That scared the heck out of both of us. After giving us a ten minute lecture, the farmer let us go; but not before telling us that he would have given us a few oranges had we only asked. I remember thinking that it sure would have been terrible to have to die when all we had to do was ask.
The boys took about a handful of pecans each, climbed back over the fence, walked back to their vehicle, got in and drove away. Less than a minute later, I notice an old green pickup truck come barreling down one of the rows, like a bat out of hell. Still waiting on Madison, I walk over to the fence, about twenty feet away, and I just stand there looking at the old man.
“You see anyone in here?” he asks.
“It was just a couple of young boys, but they are back on the freeway by now.”
Shaking his fists, he turned and began looking about the orchard.
“Would you mind if I pick up a few of these pecans?” I asked, as I pointed to a small pile of pecans which were within reaching distance of the fence.
“If you want to go to jail; go right ahead,” replied the farmer.
“Pecans are worth going to jail for, but I just thought I would ask.”
Having answered a question that had puzzled me for many years; I took Madison by the hand, got into my truck and headed back onto the freeway.
Several hours later we pulled into a McDonalds to get a bit to eat.
“Papa, I want some chicken nuggets,” Madison told me, as we made our way inside.
“Sounds good to me kid.”
Well, I am not a PhD, ABC or DeF college professor or anything like that, but then again I am not the dumbest person on the planet either. But for some reason those darn signs at McDonald’s are so confusing to me. I might as well be in a pharmacy looking at thousands of little boxes of sinus medicines, all lined up in a row. My mind just cannot seem to grasp what is what or what goes with what. Finally, I said “Just give me two darn burgers, two fries and two cokes.”
Just at that moment a young teenage boy walked up to the counter.
“Can I help you,” asked a gentleman, in a white shirt and tie.
“If I pick up all the trash in the parking lot will you let me have something to eat?”
“Do you want to place an order or not,” said the man, in a very harsh tone.
The young boy just stood there.
“I guess McDonald’s don’t really want to see you smile when you don’t have any money,” I said, somewhat loudly.
The manager gave me one of those side-eyed-looks that I generally get from my wife when I say something stupid.
“Papa, you said I could have chicken nuggets.”
“Madi, I have already ordered us a burger and that’s good enough.”
“But you said...”
“But you made a mistake Papa.”
“Can I change my order,” I asked the manager.
“Sorry, but it’s already being cooked,” he responded.
“Well, go ahead and add on an order of chicken nuggets.”
Just then the young boy turned to walk away.
“Where are you going,” I asked him.
He shrugged his shoulders and just stood there.
“You got a burger to eat here kid,” I said, as I pointed at the extra burger on my tray.
A great big smile appeared on the boy’s face.
The manager looked at me with much surprise.
Looking over the top of my glasses and directly into the manager’s eyes, I said, “Now that wasn’t very hard, was it?”
The man turned, picked up our order of chicken nuggets and laid them on the tray along with the burgers, fries and cokes.
“Just a minute,” said the manager, as he turned back around, reached over and grabbed a large French fry and extra paper cup and sat them on our plastic tray.
“Thank you, sir.” I told him.
“NO, thank you,” he replied.
I handed the young boy his burger, fries and his empty cup and Madison and I made our way over to an empty table, where we sat down.
I was rather surprised when I saw the boy fill his large cup with water, rather than a soda. He then made his way out on the terrace where he sat down and ate his meal.
As we ate, once in a while, I would look up at the young man. But then, all of a sudden, he was gone. Madison and I finished our meal and headed back to the truck. As I turned to head out on the street, there was the young boy picking up trash in the parking lot.
All the way home I began to think about what all had happened that day. How did it all fit together? Was life nothing more than a puzzle? Did I order two burgers rather than a burger and chicken nuggets because my piece of the puzzle that day was to feed that hungry boy? What did the two boys stealing pecans, the orange grove and pecan farmers have to do with the puzzle? Was it the unkindness of the pecan farmer or the possible lie of the orange grove farmer that made me feel compassion for the boy? Were their actions their two pieces of the puzzle? Was it my concern for the boy that made the McDonald’s Manger give him a free French fry and a large coke? Was that another few pieces of the puzzle?
Why is there no picture on the front of the puzzle’s box?
Maybe there is no picture on the cover of the box because it has yet to be printed. The picture can only be printed once all the pieces of the puzzle have been put together. The completed puzzle will turn out to be whatever we human beings create. That is the picture, good or bad, that will be printed on the lid of the puzzle’s box.