Koko lives in the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee, and is becoming well known to lovers of arts and literature there. Her introspective memoirs Suspended and The Lie have been getting a lot of attention, and of late she has been turning her hand to fiction. The story in this anthology, "The Puzzle" -a fantasy tale about a bitter elderly woman who realizes that the jigsaw puzzle she is working on is communicating with her, and offering answers to more than just a cardboard puzzle. Her newest, Beans and Greens, is a anthology of short stories that focus on the foods and traditions of small-town Southern life.
Here is an excerpt from "The Puzzle":
Martha Jane Hatley sat in her dimly lit parlor, waiting to die. She was old, sick and crabby. She wasn't really a bad person. She was just angry that Life didn't turn out the way she planned. Several of her children and grandchildren preceded her in death. Children were not supposed to die first. It wasn't right. Why couldn't she die now and escape all this earthly grief?
She pulled the ratty pink cardigan tighter around her frail shoulders. "This old drafty house is always too cold," she moaned.
She got out of her rocking chair, being careful to steady her wobbly legs, and toddled to the other side of the room where her biggest source of entertainment was spread out on a flimsy card table. Her vision was one of the first things to fail, so she squinted at the small pieces of the large puzzle. She bent over to the point where her nose was almost rubbing the tabletop, but rarely succeeded in finding any matching parts. She peered at the cover of the box in hopes of finding a corresponding shape. The box top displayed an antique picture of her own image. Well, at least it was what she looked like a long, long time ago. The puzzle was a gift from her youngest boy. He sent the old photograph to a company that made specialty gifts, thinking the puzzle would be a nice pastime for his mother.
"Humph! Confounded thing!" she grumped. "Thanks a lot, son! You cut me up into a thousand pieces and leave me here to die!"
It was true. Her remaining children rarely visited. Neighbors and members of the local church tried to offer a helping hand, but Martha Jane usually ran them off. She didn't want their pity. She just wanted to be left alone.
After a few minutes of perusing the card table she yelled, "BINGO! What do you know! I've got an eyeball! Big Whoop!"
Satisfied with her accomplishment, she turned off the light and went to bed.
The rest of the story is in The Foxleaf Anthology, available HERE