The steel door shuts behind me with a loud clang which seems to reverberate forever. In here, everything seems louder than life. Making my way to the visitor cubical, I sit and pick up the phone. I look at it with disgust and wipe it as best I can on my jumpsuit, which isn't overly clean itself.
The man on the other side picks up his phone and, after wiping it with a handkerchief, says: “I'm Roger Overleaf, a lawyer. I've been assigned your case by the court.”
Looking at the file in front of him for a moment, he begins: “It's says here that you attacked and beat a man senseless at a Starbucks coffee shop. Put him in the hospital…lets see…broken arm, concussion, multiple teeth missing, etc. etc. For a small man you seem to be pretty fierce. Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“It was justified,” I begin and my voice rises until I'm practically yelling. “He got only a portion of what he deserved. He should rot in hell—”
“Ok. Ok. Ok,” holding up his palms to calm me. “Calm down, calm down. Why don't you back up and just tell me what happened.”
* * *It was that kind of night. I roll over and look at the clock. 2:30, just an hour since the last time I looked. I really need to get some rest because tomorrow was the day…the 365th day.“Well, Mr. Overleaf you know the rest…you have the hospital reports.”
Every morning for a year…a year minus one day that is, I have done the same thing. I connect to a sudoku website, download and complete a random Evil sudoku puzzle. Evil being their most difficult level. Besides the sheer accomplishment of completing 365 puzzles in a row, I will have won a thousand dollar bet. And much more importantly, the respect of my father who—although he doesn't doubt my mind—does doubt my stick-to-it-ative-ness.
When the alarm finally goes off, I get up make coffee and download the puzzle with anticipation. I transfer the puzzle to the wooden puzzle board my mother gave me last Christmas—I like it better than using the mouse and computer screen.
So I whip through two thirds of the puzzle when suddenly my next move is wrong, there is already a five ball in that row. Which, of course, means I have made a mistake somewhere previously.
If you don't know about sudoku, there is a board of nine squares—three by three—and each square has a grid for nine numbers—three by three. Every square, every row, both horizontal and vertical must contain all numbers—one through nine. The way the puzzles work, you are given some of the numbers and using logic, you must figure out where all the other numbers belong. There are literally billions of puzzles…but every one is unique.
Anyway, making a mistake happens to me about once every twenty to twenty-five games. So, a little disappointed, I just reset the board and begin again. Then about three quarters of the way through a seven ball is already in the row where my next move would be. What! Two mistakes on the same puzzle. This has only happened twice before in the entire past year.
So I reset the board again, being especially careful that all the 'given' numbers are in the right places on my board and begin once again. The same thing happens. Three mistakes on the same puzzle. This is unheard of. Not in the last year and I can't even remember the last time.
I start over, this time starting in a different area of the puzzle. I go slow, double and triple checking every move I make. After a half hour, I am stumped. I can not see any next move. After staring at the board another frustrating fifteen minutes, I reset the board, hoping that maybe I just misplaced one of the given numbers and begin again. Again same result. Reset, fail. Reset, fail. FAIL! On the 365th puzzle.
Well…after four excruciatingly frustrating hours working on the puzzle to no avail, I finally have to give up. A whole year and stumped on the last day. I am bummed beyond belief and consolability. FAILED! On the 365th puzzle. The 365th! I dejectedly throw the puzzle board in the trash with disgust and head out the door and go for a walk. I wandering aimlessly for hours, feeling like a black cloud hangs over my head raining. You know, like the guy in the old Lil Abner comic strips. I have the puzzle memorized and I continue to run parts of the puzzle over and over in my head. I dejectedly end up at a Starbucks.
I order the strongest coffee they have and punish my empty stomach by not adding milk. As I sit there staring into my cup, rueing the day I was born, to make matters worse there are two annoying guys at the next table bragging about dirty tricks they've pulled. One guy starts laughing and begins telling about his latest “rat fuck” dirty trick. He is bragging how last night he hacked a sudoku site and changed one number in all the puzzles so no matter what you do, they are all unsolvable. “Imagine all those poor schmucks trying to solve an unsolvable puzzle.”
He is still laughing up a storm when I…
Lester L. Weil is an ex-professional bassoonist, ex-professor, ex-custom furniture maker and ex-house builder. He is retired and living in Arizona on the Mexico border.