Such an odd flower, or so I’ve always found them. These flowers seem to love hiding. I can understand the appeal of not wanting to be found. Yet, few people know of the beauty of the Button Funray, named so because the center seems to protrude, appearing as a button. At least that’s my best guess at how the name corresponds to the flower. If that’s not why it’s called Button Funray, then I don’t know how intriguing the origin story of the name could be. The center is always a bright color, as far as I can tell from pictures and other research I’ve conducted on them. In all honesty, it’s little research. I’ve tried for about an hour. Actually, I’ve really only found the same color combination: yellow petals with a crimson center. The flower seems to have a lot of petals. I quite adore the fact that the flower seems to be so innocent in name. I wouldn’t know if it isn’t innocent, but the name always makes me think of the buttons I am fond of finding at craft stores. I should create a button basket.
I have no use for buttons. I do not sew. I do not do arts and crafts. I am not a grandmother with many grandchildren who would love to play with buttons. I do not have a pressing need to become any sort of artist. There is no point in my having a button collection. It might help some business owner rid the store of buttons that do little more than collect dust. Buttons, as my disposition towards buttons would so nicely suggest, also look wonderful just being. Maybe if I were to ask for some buttons I would just be handed them without so much as a question of why I need so many buttons. But that’ll never happen.
Of course, I am one of those people who has a grand need for everything she cannot have. Be it money, talent, ambition, or passion, I lack anything required to go through with a task. I find that many other people also have this issue. We all like to do a lot of things and have many great ideas as to what we want to do with our free time but never seem to be motivated enough to do those things. However, if I ever ask anyone about this, all those people hastily disagree with me. If only they could be so decisive about doing things that mattered. That would be great.
Naturally, the fondness for buttons began with a very simple idea. It would seem strange if such a small object were to have fascinated me in some extreme manner to start. Rarely does anything worth mentioning in grand detail have a detailed story with which it all began to come to life. The story is not interesting or appealing. The simple fact is that it is a sentimental story. This all being understood by all others who have heard the story, I always anticipate proper reactions that fit with my warning. Whether it was because they believed I was joking or just wanted to poke fun at my expense, they all began with a notable amount of energy and dozed off (or zoned out. I’m still unsure of which) because the story was simply too boring for them to handle. That is why I warned them. I would have fallen asleep, too.
Roughly two years ago, back when I was finishing off my senior year of high school, I came across a wonderful person at a rummage sale. We seemed to hit things off and I never knew quite where we stood, just that things seemed to be working very well and I needed more of this person in my life. Later I would find out that the stranger, whom I met in a strange town that I never did find out the name of; that this person would end of being one of the best people I would ever meet.
It was a March day. It was one of those ones where the weather still hasn’t made up its mind about what it truly wants to be. I was in shorts the color of citrus, ballet flats the color of bubblegum, a crop top the color of rage and a mid-thigh length cardigan a very boring cream color. There was a sale going on in the town, which signs posted all over the town advertised in bold lettering, and I just so happened to feel like seeing the town that day. There was the glaring issue that the signs gave only arrows, and lacked any sort of address. I didn’t really have anything to do. So I followed the arrows.
Walking down the windy streets, many half paved and lacking sidewalks, I scoffed internally at the cookie cutter houses. They were built so close together that I assumed neighbors could easily peer into each other’s windows and could also smell one another’s barbeques. The town was more of a hamlet, and all those within it were extremely close to each other. They all looked at me as I walked down their private street, likely judging me alongside their friends who had other comments to give.
I was an attraction to them, I suppose. They had probably never seen someone bother to show up into their enclave. Well, I was daring that day and they were going to have to deal with it. I stared back at them, amused that they all wore the same exact things. The teenage girls were wearing leggings tucked inside fur boots that came from a location that would never need any winter garments. They all tried hard to emulate fashion catalogs that seemed to be mocking them more so than appreciating trends. The mothers, ever so eager to re-live their youthful days, sported clothes that were unlikely to have been in style even back in their youthful days. All of their clothes looked fresh off the rack from “bargain” stores. The boys looked to be relatively normal, all wearing jeans and polo shirts. Although, their clothes did all sport logos of pricey stores with snobby staff. The men, be it fathers or not, walked around their small town in suits and ties, and were dressed to the nines. It made me wonder if there was some event going on.
In my efforts to now find a ridiculous item to take home as a souvenir, I was forced to look at all the items people put up for sale. Many, many, many Me-Man wares, a popular and overpriced technology company that had not come down from its fad, were for sale. Clearly, I walked into the rich part of town. If I had been searching for a new computer, I would have been in great luck.
After wandering around for a little while longer, I came across Button Avenue. It must be fate, I thought to myself as I went down the street. The day before I came into contact with a button shaped like an elephant and was on a hunt to find it a mate. If this avenue did not have an elephant button to match the lone one I had so happily found, I was not going to be a happy camper.
There was this one house whose shutters were painted all different colors and I gravitated toward that house first. 10196 Button Avenue, the mailbox read in scripted font I doubted anyone more than several inches away would be able to read. A ridiculous house with ridiculous mailbox font. Perfect.
I approached the woman at her table of what she considered junk. She seemed much better than the other people I had seen. She had a scarf tied around her head and silver hoop earrings that may have been bigger than her face. Paint splatters covered her clothes and her bangles were various shapes and colors. Nothing on this woman matched. She must have something wonderful here.
“So, dearie, what would you like?” her voice caught me off guard. I had not been expecting anyone in the town to talk to me out of free will. “Don’t be startled. Not everyone in this town is a stuffy want-to-be something or other. All the people in the town are absolutely appalled that my window shutters don’t match. Can you believe people have time to worry about such trivial matters?” Although her rambling was jumbled and quick, it somehow managed to put me at ease.
I put my hand forward, “Hi. My name’s Elvira Duffy. Most people call me Elle. I don’t know why they do, but they do.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized how absurd I sounded. This poor woman doesn’t care about what people call me. My face was getting hot, and although I most likely was not, I felt as though I was blushing. “Anyway,” I said, pulling my hand back, realizing a hand shake was not going to happen with this woman, “I found this button the other day and I was wondering if you happened to have one like it.” I was nervous and my hand shook as I showed her the elephant.
“Well, Elle, my name’s Denise. Denise Clark, although that may not be a concern to you. Everyone calls me Denise and few have met another and have no need to use my surname.” She picked up the button and studied it from all angles. I was worried that she would tell me how this button was a lone star and I lacked any chance of finding one like it. It surprised me when she smiled at it. Her cherry red lips opened up and I was curious as to what she would say. “Ricky, come over here!”
A boy who could not have been older than nineteen ran over. His hair was a mess and his sneakers were scuffed and seemed to be almost falling apart. He was not wearing skin tight jeans as many of the other kids around his age were. I wondered if he was Denise’s kid. It would make sense, seeing as how both of them didn’t fit into the social norms of the town. “What’s up, buttercup?” his voice was wonderful. I couldn’t help but stare as he talked, as his jaw moved beautifully with each syllable.
Denise looked at me staring and then turned back to Ricky. “Darling, you really have to stop calling girls that or they’re all going to think you’re some kind of player. So, I have a problem here, son,” but the way she said son seemed more derogatory than nuclear relation, “there’s this girl here, and she brings me this absurd button she just happened to find. And so I flip it over, just to see what it might be and I find this signature on the back of it. Steven Bender signed this. Do you know what that means?”
Ricky looked her dead-on and I wondered if they were going to enter into a fight. I kind of wanted to see what that would look like. He looked at me and then at Denise. “Well, I don’t think your friend over here seems to understand what that means.” He looked at me and I eventually answered.
“How am I supposed to know who that is? I found this yesterday on the floor and was told that, ‘You should take it. No one else wants it anyway.’ What was I supposed to think? I figured it was just some old company and that was the name. So who is this Steven guy, anyway?”
“So,” Ricky told me and looked into my eyes. I noticed the way his gray eyes seemed to be devoid of all emotion, “this ‘Steven guy’ you want to know about is a legend here. He was some bum that strolled into our town one day and we took him in for some reason. No one knows why we did. But he ended up being this phenomenal artist and made only a few pieces, all of which were stunning. This button you found was the very last piece he ever made.” He and Denise shared a look I didn’t understand.
“How can you be sure it was the last piece? Surely he made some works that no one knows about. That’s how artists are, after all. They do want to keep some things a complete mystery.”
“We know, darling,” Denise had now taken to calling me “darling,” which I took as a good sign, “because he left everything in that upstairs room.” She pointed to the top floor of her house. “This guy left a lot of records about what he did. At least he did that much for us. Everything else he left us was not that detailed or wonderfully done. All I know for sure is that, when I bought the house from his aunt, she insisted forcefully that I keep all the art exactly where he put it. And so I’ve done at least that.”
“So the house was his?” I know it sounded stupid to ask, but I was genuinely curious.
Ricky laughed at me, but I was neither surprised nor offended by it. “You really don’t know get it, do you? Just because your hair is blond does not give you an excuse to be this ignorant. I don’t know what is wrong with you, thinking that you can just find something of value to people and treat it as though it’s only something worth finding at a rummage sale. What gives you the right to call it garbage?”
He seemed very defensive of this guy whom I had never heard of before. I figured that I would get absolutely nowhere by being nice and kind with this kid. “What gives you the right to assume I’m just some dumb blonde who lacks manners? For all I know, you just made up the relations this town has to this Steven Bender artist guy and you just want to be a ne’er-do-well and wreak havoc all around town.”
I knew my comments were going to aggravate him. I just didn’t know how he was going to respond to them. “You’re just someone who found a wonderful artifact this town wants. If you don’t want to believe that I care about this town or want to be truthful, that’s for you to decide. I know that button you found, which is not even a button, not that you looked that closely, means a lot to some people. Why don’t you get off your high horse and accept that people who don’t look rich may be smart, too?” He was passionate and walked off, rudely bumping his shoulder into me and not even looking back at me.
“What’s his deal?” I asked Denise, who shrugged her shoulders but didn’t look fazed at all.
“Darling, he just hasn’t seen anyone new around here in a long time. Few people in him bother to talk to him at all and offer up a real conversation. He was just having some fun.”
Her rationale made no sense. “Fun? You’re calling that fun? I don’t think that’s fun.”
“He’s lived in this town for a little more than a year. Comes in, motorcycle and leather jacket, hair slicked back, tight jeans in black leather boots; scares the whole town. They pegged him as the bad boy. He moved in right across the street. Said he was sharing the house with some buddies of his. They were all in the same major or something like that. Turned out he was with no one. Didn’t faze anyone.”
“So then what? Something bad happens and he gets blamed? No, let me guess, Ricky takes the fall for someone else so that other person can have a perfect record while Ricky doesn’t care about his.”
“Actually, yes. But you’ll have to ask him yourself about that incident.”
“You think he’ll tell me about it?” He doesn’t seem to like me, and so I doubted he would.
Denise avoided my question altogether. “So, about that button of yours. Do you want me to see if I can find it a match?” She looked sincere but I didn’t need one anymore. Not when Ricky was here.
“No. Thanks, though.” I waved good-bye and was on my way back home. Little did I know that would not be the last I would ever see of Ricky.