Story for button 39Button 9



Elbows out I join the scrum. When the lady in a flowery housecoat opens the double doors we cascade in like a tidal wave. We surge past another good lady, sat behind a rickety trestle table, throwing a twenty pence entrance fee into her plastic tub.

I snatch and grab going for wool, silk, anything lace. Within seconds the material is whirled into a tangled mess. My arms disappear into it and I plunge down and feel around in the bottom layer, groping for the texture of natural fibres, shunning anything nylon. It is a lucky dip and I feel like a gold prospector.

I tug at a soft flannel piece, unsure whether it will be an old grannie's nightie or a trendy tartan shirt.

I crush the material in my hand, it is warm and comforting. I pull it clear of the table to see what it is.

I almost throw it back, then I recognise the buttons. I remember them holding back a broad chest. The top button starting a v that revealed the v of collarbones. I looked up from that button and wanted to trace that v, with my finger or tongue. Later I had. Warm, salty, a lingering aromatic hint of aftershave trapped in that little hollow of skin, soft, smooth. It had been a brief encounter. Short and sweet a memory for grey days.

I sniff the shirt, I hadn’t known him long enough to recognise his smell and the shirt smelt only of jumble. “How much?” I wave the shirt. “£1.50." I weigh this up, I only want a button, “It’s ok I say” and I put it down, without letting go. I bury it under more clothes keeping tight hold. I feel a tug on it, someone next to me has unearthed a sleeve so I turn my back to her and with my elbow push more clothes over toward her. I struggle under the weight of two pairs of jeans, a cardigan, a suit jacket and an arran sweater, to pull the button off, chaffing at the thread with my finger nails, while pretending to rummage. Eventually I have to put both hands through, down to the ocean bed and succeed with a satisfying rip, which I feel, but no-one hears above the excited clamour of the scavenging women flapping round the table. I keep the ripped off button in my palm while I seek out other plunder. Finally it goes in my bag, dropped in with a pair of crimson silk pyjamas. Of course, it may not have been his shirt, just one like it.

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