Q: Was there a golden puzzling hour?
Orange: When I first started in the morning, or if I’d just come to the puzzle fresh, all of a sudden pieces fell into place that I couldn’t find for hours the day before. But you come to it fresh and you see things that, when your eyes tire you don’t see. There comes a point, I think, after about forty-five minutes when you’re not doing anything very productively anymore and you have to stop.
Q: Was it a big moment when you connected God’s finger with Adam’s?
Orange: The way the puzzle is made, that doesn’t happen.
Q: Bastards! They deprive you of that?
Orange: It’s all cut in such a way that it takes four or fives pieces and then you see “Oh, that’s what that is.”
Q: Do you now have a favorite scene from the chapel?
Orange: Yeah, cause I’ve looked at it so long, and I took a real interest in some of it, because I didn’t know what those scenes were. I guess the scene that I like the best was the picking of the apples from the tree and the banishing of Adam and Eve from the garden.
Q: Did you have any weird rituals or swearwords to get you through the tough times?
Orange: I didn’t find the puzzle frustrating….
Q: I wonder why I found it so frustrating.
Orange: Well, you were doing it with time limits, but I didn’t care how long it took me to do, I was just doing it as a hobby, and if it took me ten years that would be all right too.
Q: How many pieces did you fear would be missing when you finished it?
Orange: Oh, I thought as many as thirty pieces would be missing. I was very careful, but I figured, with 9,000 pieces. Toward the end, the last, say, four or five days, there were so few pieces left in the box, and what seemed to be so much puzzle, that I thought, “Here I go, there’s going to be a whole bunch missing.” But it turned out there were only two.
Q: How did the two sections of the puzzle come together?
Q: But, I mean, how did you actually get them back together?
Orange: Your brother and I found a way of moving the section in the den into the family room without tilting it, we plastered something against it really tight. Once I got that in, it came together so well that it was no problem at all.
Q: And how long after that did you put the final piece in?
Orange: Three weeks.
Q: Were you alone when that happened?
Q: How did you celebrate?
Orange: I didn’t, because I’m still waiting for the other two pieces.
Q: You didn’t get drunk?
Orange: [scoffs] I don’t get drunk!
Q: Michelangelo probably got drunk.
Q: Okay, I’d like to take this opportunity to have you on record as saying you’ve only been drunk once in your life.
Orange: Maybe twice.
Q: Maybe twice. When was the second time?
Orange: When I was a teenager.
Q: But the main time was at Uncle Carroll’s in 1971?
Q: So you insist on this hoary legend? When you stood on the table and called Uncle Bob, whom some called Robin, “a robbin’ bastard”?
Q: Why do people call it getting ‘tight’? Is that just an F. Scott Fitzgerald thing?
Orange: My dad used to say that too.
Q: What gets tighter? Your pants?
Orange: No, I think it must come from getting tight with people.
Q: Like close-talker tight?
Orange: Yeah, ‘those two are really tight,’ drunks sort of get intimate with each other.
Q: Okay, now, how are you going to get the two missing pieces?
Orange: There’s an order form in the puzzle box and it tells you how to count the number of pieces up and across, and then put down what pieces you need and send it off. Which I did.
Q: To Spain.
Orange: Yeah. But that was more than six weeks ago. Eight weeks ago.
Q: Will you ever forgive me for giving you the puzzle?
Q: What are you going to do with it now?
Orange: That’s the big question I don’t know what to do with it.
Q: Are you going to shellac it all together? Give it to me?
Orange: I could… but there’s no way of transporting it. You mean you want me to break it up in the box and give it to you?
Q: No, no! Nooooo! I just think it needs to go somewhere.
Orange: What could you ever do with it?
Q: I’d put it on the wall. Would you say you have a predilection for puzzles now?
Orange: No, I did before, I’ve done all the puzzles I want to do because I did this one. The mother of all puzzles.
Q: Have you ever felt the urge to lie down — is it lie down or lay down? —
Orange: Lie down.
Q: Lie down on the puzzle and roll around on it?
Orange: No. I wouldn’t… wreck it. It’s too pretty.
Q: Did you know that… that I rolled around on it?
Q: It’s very smooth!
Orange: [laughing] Well you dusted it anyway, that’s good.
Q: So when I went to Rome this spring and visited the Sistine Chapel, I looked up and saw all those familiar toes and folds and faces, and got a case of the giggles that almost got me kicked out. You’re going to go next year, what do you think your reaction will be looking at the ceiling?
Orange: What interests me are how accurate these colors are, I want to see if they are as bright on the ceiling.
Q: I think you might giggle. You’ll have an unexpected reaction.
Orange: Yeah, I imagine.
Q: You may even twirl. Just watch out for those guards.
Orange: The last time I saw it, the only time I ever saw it, it was so dark and full of soot that you couldn’t make out much of anything. Adam and Eve — you couldn’t see bugger all. It must be spectacular if it’s like the puzzle.
Q: It is. You used to make me feel guilty about being away from the puzzle by saying it called out my name at night. Did it?
Orange: No, it kept calling my name.
Q: In Italian?
Orange: You had abandoned it and given up on it and it mourned your loss and then moved on.
Q: Well, it did well by itself to do that.
[Note: Two days after this interview was conducted the missing puzzle pieces arrived from Spain. The fit was a little tight.]