B. is seated next to You, his hands out in front of him as if playing the piano with Twiglet fingers, stained with tobacco.
You look at him more than once, and resolve to do so until B. catches You at the corner of his eye. He stops moving because You have fastened him to his seat, surrounded by thick, woven arms and animal pictures with stark, glassy eyes shining in a heavy summer light through caged windows. It takes him three seconds to look away. He settles back into his mind, facing forward and listening to whatever is going on (whatever this is does not matter).
The Twins are talking, You don't know which because they both sound similar. You describe one of them in your mind: an oval-shaped head, in which are pea-soup eyes with a these-are-facts-so-listen-to-me-talk expression; thin body with no attempt at constructing either shoulders or posture. This x 2.
B. begins to write something down, as if prompted by the other one sitting next to him, which both You and B. believe is called Olive. You show an expressionless smile, jaw pushed forward, eyes glancing around. The Twins are still talking, You hear their voices like a beating hum from a sub-woofer.
The Next one in the room sits between You and the Twins, and has a permanent smile of latex, curved through a weird blue/yellow bruise, which no one includes in the conversation for fear of offending the Next one, who is now bent over, almost prostrate from the chair, reaching at her ankle to scratch. She smells of over-cooked food for some reason. It's not terrible, You think it's like she's been left in the toaster too long and You look above her head for signs of black smoke. There is none, but still You shift over by a centimetre, stopped by the arm of the couch, unable to go anywhere else. Your eyes glance over at B., who sees You at the same time, his eyes like the eyes of your dog: big round things, uncontrollable and unaware.
Finally, Olive throws a button to the floor, which lands onto a pile of buttons already there. You love how B.'s eyes follow it to the ground and bounce in synchronised motions. B. leaps forward to grab the buttons as he yells something along the lines of I've won, but Olive leaps too, and wrestles him on the ground, hits his body with a mechanic force and smashes his head against the floor. She does it again and blood squirts out, thick like soup. You smell him, it's like meat.
The Twins had stopped talking, but now resume talking, You don't know which. The Next one jumps out of her seat next to You and takes the button. It is green and orange like the iris of a smoker's eye. The Next one leaves. You are still sitting down. You don't often gamble, You are looking at Olive who sits on top of B. You think this is too bad, You liked B. His round dog-eyes were a bit like the buttons she killed him for.
You sit still and watch Olive now wrestled to the ground by three new men in white pyjamas. She kicks at the floor and the buttons stick to her bare feet. The Twins are still talking, You can hear them in your head. You are as still as B., who lies there with streaked blood footprints around his head. You are now smiling a little bit, and this is good, because it's good to smile. B. liked it when You smiled. You're smiling because You love it when this happens. You hug yourself and rest your head back against the soft, padded wall.
© 2010 Michael Holloway
This story was written along with Kouponophobia around June 2010. It was written as part of an exercise following the theme of "button" whereby anything could happen, only it has to involve a button in some way.
Kuponophobia was, obviously, about a fear of buttons and was largely praised for it's detail in such a small format, and I found that I was actually good at short fiction or 'flash fiction.'
B. is for Button is an experimental story. It was written with the intention that every character spells out the word "button" and that was how button appears in the story. ie., B., You, Twins (tt), Olive (O), and The Next One (N). It was appraised for the imagery and style, but was quite confusing to read. It wasn't really understood why B. was attacked for the button, of which is used as a type of poker chip in some betting game. In the workshop, I was able to come up with the idea - thanks to my friends - that B. is actually a mental patient who has created the entire game in his head. Revealed when he rests his head against the padded wall.
It was put on the website The Button Jar, which a friend from class had made. The stories/poems from which are being put on there.