(Okay, here's the deal. I've got an artist friend and we started a thing a year or so ago that we'd do rapidfire creative shit back and forth at each other. He'd shoot me a drawing and I'd write a story in one sitting that used it as a reference, and then shoot the story back to him and he'd use it as a reference for another drawing, which he'd send to me, etc, etc. This was all my idea, and I think I figured if we kept this up and had like an exchange a week, we'd both end up with a bunch of new stuff in rapid order.

Yeah. He sent three drawings, and I responded with two stories. That was about a year ago.

Okay, so the dropped ball is all my fault, but, hey, I suddenly, tonight, I had an idea about the last pic he sent. The last pic being a rough sketch of a youngish woman standing in a bathroom, attempting to...well, that's in the story. You should be able to figure it out.

Anyway, I'm posting this tonight 'cause it's been a while since this page got anything fresh and I can't figure out what the fuck Davey and the Sheik are getting up to. So, anyway, it's rough, but it was written in about two and a half hours, listening to endless loops of 'Gigantic' and 'Where is my mind?'

How come I can only write to Pixies?)

David’s Lovely Button

The problem, Annabelle decided, lay not in the thread, which was a silk certainly fine enough to slip easily through iris and lens and strong enough to bind but not break when pulled taut, nor with the button, which had large, even holes through which to do the work, nor, even, with her hand, which was as steady as an old oak on a calm summer day. No, the problem was most decidedly with the needle itself.

The needle, though quite sharp and of the highest quality steel, was one she had plucked from the tomato pincushion in her sewing basket. Her favorite needle, in fact, smooth and shining and still arrow-straight even though she had run it through any number of hems and pleats and, of course, buttonholes, since she’d purchased it at the drugstore on Grove Street. It was that very straightness, however, that was the problem. How to return the stitch once she had passed it through her eye?

She very briefly pictured the mechanics of a scenario in which she might be able to drive the needle not only through her eye, but back through the socket, through the interior of her skull, out through the carefully coifed hair in the back of her head, and then somehow repeat that, reverse it, and return the stitch and catch the back of the button, pull the thread taut and secure. This was impractical, she decided, and there would most likely be blood. Annabelle had no stomach for gore. She pushed the thought away and filled her mind with thoughts of purring kittens.

She lowered the button from her eye and stared into the bathroom mirror. The blood that concerned her so had made an appearance already, it seemed. Tiny flowers of red just to one side of the muddy brown cornea, where her initial probing with the needle had ruptured the membrane. She took a tissue from the ceramic dispenser and dabbed away the watery red that was beginning to pool along the bottom of her eyelid before it could run her mascara. She had no desire to repair the makeup that she had just now so painstakingly applied.

She set the button on the edge of the sink and sighed and leaned closer into the mirror. She puffed her cheeks to examine the line of rouge she had brushed on, wondering if the dark streak was too garish, too obvious. Truly, she had no practical experience with cosmetics, and had been too intimidated by the perfectly made-up and perfumed countergirl at Macy’s to ask for advice. Annabelle’s mother had taught Annabelle how to cook and to sew and to keep a neat house, but she never seen the decoration of one’s face as a skill valuable enough to pass on to her only daughter.

The button sat on the counter, gleaming in the soft white light from the overhead fixture. It was a lovely button, really. Larger than most other buttons Annabelle had come across, large enough, she had soon seen, to fit precisely in the socket of her eye, framed by eyebrow and cheek. White bone, perfectly cut, polished to a glossy finish with not the slightest chip or pit or scratch to mar the surface. The holes were absolutely round, beveled, spaced with an exactness that spoke to her of engineers and craftsmen conspiring in a basement, working in feverish union to contain soulful beauty and precise design within one simple object.

It was not the sort of gift she had been allowing herself to hope that David might give to her tonight. She had thought that he might present her with flowers, a box of chocolates, perhaps even earrings or a pendant necklace from one of the shops downtown. But, she now realized, she had damned him by imagining him capable of such mundane thoughts. Would a man who could think of nothing more unique than dying plants or mass-produced jewelry that might be spotted on a woman at the next table be the one for her?

No, the gift was exactly what she should have been expecting this whole time. Well, not exactly, of course. She should be able count on him to constantly surprise her, but only in ways that absolutely delighted her. Although she very nearly didn’t allow this particular surprise to come to her. When the messenger boy had buzzed the apartment, Annabelle had initially ignored the cawing of the intercom, as was her usual action. The buzzer was always a mistake, a delivery man or infrequent visitor to the building mistaking her apartment for one of the several others occupied by families named Smith, as listed under scratched plexiglass on the listing next to the lobby door. But the cawing continued. Twice, three times, four, five, until she had finally stormed from the bedroom, where she had been agonizing between her mother’s black satin cocktail dress and the pink gown Annabelle had once intended to wear to her junior prom, and punched the button and yelled into the speaker that whoever it was had the wrong apartment.

“Wait, is this, uh…Annabelle Smith?”

Annabelle thought for a moment, attempting to remember if any of the Smith women she’d met in the laundry room or at the mailboxes had shared her first name. She was sure they hadn’t, but couldn’t be sure that she had, in fact, met all of the Smith women who lived in the building.

“I’ve got a package here from a David Hargrove. He said that you’d recognize the name.”

Annabelle hesitated, finger resting on the button that would release the lobby door, wondering if this was a trick. A little voice inside of her insisted that it must be, that whoever was waiting down by the lobby door had nothing from David, but was instead a predator, an urban cheetah, a slavering lunatic who, if Annabelle allowed him entrance, would find her and break through the locks on her door and pin her to floor and devour her whole. But how would such a beast get David’s name? There were possibilities, of course. That David had been kidnapped and tortured by this lunatic, and that he had coughed up Annabelle’s name only at the very edge of death, after the bastard had nipped off his fingers and toes with a pair of bolt cutters, had inserted burning sulfur matches into razored slits in his flesh, that was one way. Or he was rogue telephone repairman who had climbed up the pole that David’s line was hooked to and had tapped it and traced the call he had made to Annabelle’s apartment and was now going to kidnap her to force David to produce a massive ransom or to kill an important celebrity. That was a distinct probability. And, of course, there was a whole slew of scenarios that involved the CIA, the FBI, the KGB, MI5, Skull & Bones, the Masons, the Illuminati. Annabelle’s father had impressed upon her at quite a young age extensive knowledge of the sheer number of cabals and power brokers that existed in the world, who amused themselves by kidnapping and torturing anyone foolish enough to be noticed by them in the first place. But as Annabelle had been keeping her head down and her lips sealed for the last thirty-some-odd years, she was fairly certain that none of the shadow organizations were involved in this.

In the end, it was simple curiosity that won out. She buzzed in the messenger and stood with her back to the wall next to the door with one of her father’s golf clubs held in both hands and called through the door, her voice nothing but tremor and squeak, for him to leave the package on the welcome mat. She stood with her back to the wall, the golf club in sweating palms, until she heard his footsteps clack to the end of the long tiled hallway, and the distant bongbong of the elevator departing. She waited ten minutes, listening carefully for a telltale creaking of floorboards or heavy maniacal breathing, then opened the door and found a small cardboard box on the mat, half-covered by the messenger’s receipt. She brought it inside quickly, barely taking the time to slam the door shut and turn the locks, slitting the tape with a kitchen knife and then stepping back, anxious to see but wanting to savor the moment.

And there it was, perfectly cradled in pale green tissue, that lovely, lovely button shining up at her, and a note, written in David’s distinct, swooping hand, Annabelle, I saw this in an antique store and immediately thought of you. I hope you’ll find a way to wear it this evening. See you soon – David.

She couldn’t remember ever having smiled so widely as she did as she read his note. Such a perfect gift from such a perfect suitor. Perfect because she had told him that she liked to sew, and he had filed that information away and brought it forth at the perfect time. She recalled the conversation perfectly. He had come into the bookstore for the third day in a row and had milled about in the poetry section, randomly picking tomes off the shelf and putting them back, occasionally sneaking glances at her behind the counter. She was watching him do it, pretending to read a novel, a small smile on her lips, knowing that he had come in for no other reason than to see her, to speak with her. He’d settled on a volume of Milton, perhaps to impress her, and had complimented her dress while she rang him up. She had stood back as far as she could behind the cramped register stand and posed for him, and then told him that she had made it herself. He had been suitably impressed and three days after that he came into the shop and asked her to dinner. She had accepted with a small smile and flushed cheeks.

But where to wear the button? It looked horribly out of place on the shimmering black cocktail dress and it practically disappeared against the pale pink of the gown. Neither would do, would it? Such a gift, such a thoughtful, meaningful gift, deserved to be the centerpiece of her outfit, not an accessory that would get lost in the clatter of shiny cloth, to be noticed only by the giver and no one else. She had held it against her throat, thinking that perhaps she could string it on black ribbon, make a choker out of it, or, laughing as she held it against her forehead, build it into a tiara and pretend she was a princess for the evening. And then lowering it down, across her face, seeing, in the mirror. Something about how it so perfectly occluded her eye. Seeing how it just…fit, placed into the socket, how it settled smoothly into the angles of the nose, the cheek. How it looked as though it had been designed to fit her, and to fit perfectly in just that one spot.

And so. It had to be. Once placed properly, there was no doubt at all. And, of course, there was simply only one way to attach a button. Assuming of course, one could figure out how to get around the tricky business of the needle.


Her father’s old tackle box in the back of the hall closet, all the gear he had gathered over years of fishing in back country lakes, the lures and bobbers and weights. And the hooks, of course. Razor sharp, designed to pierce and return in one motion. And, she was delighted to find, just the right size to slip through the holes of David’s lovely button.

And later, examining herself in the bathroom mirror, she had to say that it was an excellent job, even though she’d had to knot the silk on the outside. Her stitches were neat and straight and taut, the button nestled snugly against her nose. She smiled at herself and touched up her hair and daubed a tissue at the pinkish liquid seeping out from between the button and her cheek. She hoped that it would stop before David called for her. Wiping at her face throughout dinner was hardly an invitation to romance.

The intercom cawed and Annabelle dashed into the master bedroom to bid her mother and father goodbye. Their shrouds shown pale white in the darkened room, freshly laundered and replaced just that morning. She kissed her mother’s cheek through the thin white silk, and patted her father’s shriveled hand where it peeked out at the edge of the bed. She smiled at them, the button riding up as her cheek rose. She felt fresh drops spill out and she patted them dry. David would understand. He was an understanding sort of man.

“Wish me luck. I love you both.”

And with that, she dashed out of the apartment, eager to show David how delighted she was with his lovely button.


Post a Comment

<< Home