Forward Living: Who says it’s simple to sew on a button?

“You know, Molly, I ain’t stupid, right?”

“Let’s say you’re no intellectual, no Jean-Paul Sartre …”

“Who’s this Jean-Paul? You never told me about this old boyfriend.”

“He’s French …”

“Don’t tell me more. How could you ever go out with some dumb frog?”

“Fred …”

“I’m so angry. I don’t even like people looking at you on the street.”

“Listen to me, Fred, he’s not only French, he’s dead.”

“Well, that’s good news, Molly, and he’d better stay dead or I’ll kill him.”

“And he’s not only dead, he’s famous and I never met him. He was a writer …”

“You mean books?”

“Yes, that kind of writer. Writers write, cooks cook, bakers bake. That’s life. We each have a job to do.”

“And me?”

“Husband, friend, dog walker, caregiver, driver, barbecue engineer, carpenter, plumber, everything …”

“Lover, too?”

“That also. No need to be jealous. I’m your woman. Your old woman, I’m afraid. Nothing I can do about that. Jean-Paul had more than one woman at a time. Don’t do that to me. I couldn’t handle it. You might as well forget the young waitresses.”

“I’m too busy for that. But I need your help. All these years and I still can’t sew a button. How do you explain that? What’s wrong with me? Needle and thread and I’m lost. As confused as a chicken who’s found a knife in the grass. What will I do in the middle of the Atlantic with torn sails? All by myself.”

“You’ll never be in the middle of the Atlantic alone. Have you got secret plans?”

“I’ve been thinking …”

“That’s when you get in trouble. You need action.”

“Yeah, I like throwing them charcoals in the fire, flipping the burgers.”

“Sewing buttons, it gives you too much time to think.”

“What about a one-button shirt? Bet nobody thought of that. One big button, no more needle.”

“Except that one big button needs to be sewn, too.”

“I’ve been thinking about it in my sleep. A young waitress could teach me …”

“NO. No young waitress in my house. I’ve tried to teach you. It’s like having our dog Muffin read the Bible. Hopeless.”

“I built our house and I can’t sew a button. Don’t make sense.”

“But you can change the oil. You’re good with cars. The old Mercury Grand Marquis looks dead in the backyard among the weeds, with stuff growing inside. You sit in it, Fred, for two minutes and the engine shakes and growls, ready to go. I hear it from my bed. I love the sound. It means travel, happy times, the winding roads, from Orient, on to Southold, Riverhead, New York, down South to Florida till you can’t go no further, Key West. You know how to make it happen. Who cares about sewing buttons as long as we can dream.”

“You may be right, Molly, but so many idiots are sewing buttons around the world and I can’t do it! Billions of people are sewing buttons at this moment except me. Billions except for one little guy on the North Fork. Am I smart or what, tell me.”

“Some people build houses, some write poems, some race at Indianapolis, some plant tulips or do embroidery. Everyone has a story and a tune.”

“And some idiot, he don’t know how to sew buttons.”

“I’ll teach you. Tomorrow. All your shirts are missing buttons. I feel terrible. It’s my fault. My hands, my eyes, nothing works.”

“You was good at it, Molly. The quilts you made, the one everybody wanted to buy, but I wouldn’t let it go, even the little winter coat for Muffin. People ask where they can get one for their dog, and I say, my wife she made it, she designed it, not for sale anywhere. Your hands, they’re incredible.”

“Tomorrow I’ll teach you how to sew a button. We won’t quit. Remember the president: “Yes, we can.” You can, too. It won’t affect the future of the world. But it will make your world better. It’s a very peaceful thing to sew buttons. You’ll see.”

“Well, thank you, Molly. It don’t mean much to most people. But my first button, that will feel good. Now I’m taking Muffin out for her walk. Then I’ll flip the burgers.”

Pierre Gazarian is a poet and a writer of one-act plays. Email: [email protected].