A Green Button

Aerin Foutz

Featured In Print Edition

A woman in a green coat sat on an old iron bench, surrounded by old trees that had grown hard and tough, as anything must to survive in a big city. She was thinking of a nicer time. A time of childhood games, of friends, of the old plum tree in her backyard where she would go to be alone. She remembered camping trips to the lake and her father teaching her about the constellations; she could never really see any stars in the city, and she missed them. She still knew them all by heart, though it had been years since she and her father took their last trip to the mountains.

Her mind wandered slowly back to what she had just learned. What do you do when a man in a white coat tells you you’ve only got a few weeks left? She had no family left to go home to, no one to call and cry with. They had asked her to check into the hospital—they could give her another month. A month surrounded by cold, white walls, nurses and machines.

No, she knew what she was going to do. She would spend her last days under the open sky, taking in everything she had loved and given up for a fancy job in the city. She wanted to spend her last nights under the stars she loved and the dancing Northern lights she always promised herself she’d see.

As she stood up, a button on her sleeve caught on the bench and came off. A green button lost in the green grass.

* * *

Sophie is six when she decides to run away from home. She doesn’t want to do the dishes, so clearly, she must run away to avoid it.

She finds her way to a park with trees older than the city and begins to play in the soft grass. She makes a crown of dandelions and finds a twisted old stick to serve as a wand. She spends the afternoon fighting evil sorcerers and riding dragons through the treetops. She finds a magic green button next to an old iron bench and uses it to vanquish her enemies.

The last sorcerer lays dying at her feet when she realizes that it is starting to get dark and she doesn’t know her way home.

She climbs onto the bench in the hope that she will see something familiar in the distance.

An old man with scratchy whiskers and a face weathered by the sea comes rambling along the path as she is beginning to panic. He strides over to the bench and asks if she needs help.

Sophie knows she isn’t supposed to talk to strangers, but he seems very nice and she wants very badly to go home, so she tells him the whole story. He smiles at her, the laugh-lines around his eyes thick and deep. He asks her if she knows her address, and she recites it for him.

He offers her his hand and they begin to walk out of the park. She asks him what his name is—Jebediah—and how old he is—64—and what his favorite flavor of ice cream is—brownies on the moon. She comments on how she doesn’t know anyone that old. Except her grandma, maybe. “Everybody seems real old when you’re only six though.”

They walk in silence for a moment, her short legs working hard to keep up with his long strides.

“Sometimes do you wish you were something other than a person?” Her dark eyes look up into his weathered face.

“Sometimes, I s’pose,” He replies.

“I would be a daisy. I like daisies best cos they’re the friendliest flowers.”

The old man listens to Sophie chatter; she would be green because she’s never seen a green flower but feels that there should be green daisies because green is her favorite color and therefore she would be green.

They turn down her street and she stops at the gate in a little white fence. The house is made of old brick and is covered in ivy, and there are well-loved flower beds under the front windows.

She thanks him for bringing her home and starts up the little garden path. She stops and runs back to where Jebediah stands on the sidewalk. She pulls the green button out of her pocket and presents it to him.

“It’s good luck,” she says before she runs into the house.

He stands on the sidewalk a moment, holding the button—a green button to remind him of the little girl who wishes to be a green daisy. He turns away and heads home.

Home, for Jebediah Nicholas Williams, is a park bench. It is wood and had once been painted green; now only a few small chips of the paint remain, faded by the sun and worn out by the rain. He carries everything he owns on his back in a large, faded blue pack. He takes out a piece of twine and carefully threads it through the button, then uses it to replace the worn dog tags around his neck. The dog tags drop into his pocket and the button disappears underneath his shirt.

* * *

Jebediah will die on the bench that has become his home. They will find him, just another John Doe, another hobo with no family to claim the body. The coroner will find the dog tags along with a note, asking he be buried with The Odyssey—there is a worn and greatly loved copy in his bag—and a green button he wears around his neck.