Story 10Button 2



I crashed once. It was back when I was working for Berkley, driving coast to coast. It was one of those nights when the rain fell in waves, like the sea had taken to the sky. I woke with my head on the steering wheel. It was the countryside. There was a light up in the hills.

The light was a cottage. A few minutes knocking and an old woman answered. I told her I needed to phone the office. They had to send someone out from the breakdown service. The old woman told me it was half past three in the morning. I must have slept in the car. My head felt thick.

An old man leered over the banister at the top of the stairs. He wore glasses, thick black frames, like one of those burglar masks. The old woman said I could stay the night but the old man barked down they didn’t have any room. The old lady said of course they had room. They had plenty of room. She would make tea and cake and I would stay the night. She insisted on it. The old man clicked his teeth out into his hand, and gave his gums a lick. I couldn’t help but stare.

She was right, there was room, an enormous room. Four-poster bed with pink curtains. Along the tops of the walls someone had painted jesters’ hats, varying in artistic skill, also pink. The room seemed to take up the whole first floor of the cottage. There couldn’t have been much space left for the old couple’s room.

I sat on the bed. The tea was sweet. The cake tasted like coconut and soap. It was then I noticed the rag doll, smiling from the dressing table. Its eyes were two green buttons, stitched with blue thread. I reached out and touched one, rubbed the plastic with my thumb. I shut my eyes, pretended it was a poker chip. I was in some casino in one of the world’s most famous cities. I had a full house. That’s when the button slipped from its thread, rolled down into the palm of my hand.

The door opened. I tucked the button into my jacket pocket. The old man was there. He asked if everything was ok and I said yes, I was just going to sleep. He said ok then. He watched me take off my jacket and shoes and climb under the covers before closing the door.

It must have only been a couple of hours later when I woke. My brain felt split in two. I left immediately. The sun was rising. I found a payphone and rang Berkley himself and he sent someone out from the breakdown service.

I found the button a few months later, at a friend’s wife’s birthday. I didn’t wear that jacket all that much. There was no way of returning the button, so I put it back in my pocket. I still have it, tucked away in there. Sometimes I take it out and rub it, like a lucky penny – think back to that doll, sat there, winking at me from the dresser.




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