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The Gold Button
by Michael A. Kechula

It's tougher than ever to find a decent cigarette butt in the gutter. I'd just spent an hour looking.  I spotted candy wrappers, banana peels, assorted junk. But no smokes. Dammit! Where does a guy go to complain?

Then I spotted a gold button. When I rubbed it against my jeans, it got real shiny. I checked the back hoping it'd say “14 carat.”  But all I saw was, “555-2279.”

If I had a quarter, I'd use a payphone and dial those seven numbers. I'd say, “This is Joe. I found your gold button. Is there a reward?”

“Hey kid,” I called. “Got a quarter for a cuppa coffee? Well, a dime is good. Know where I can get fifteen more cents?”

“Hey, Lady. Can you spare a quarter?  I'll give you a dime. Yeah, that's the get an instant rebate. Here's the dime. Glad I made you laugh.”

I dialed 555-2279.

A man answered by repeating the seven numbers.

“Hi.” I said. “I’m Joe. I found your button.”

“What button?”

“A gold one. Is there a reward?”

“Where are you, Joe?”

“7th and Main.”

“What’re you wearing?”

“Blue jeans. Red shirt.”

“Hang up and stay where you are. I’m sending somebody to get the button.”

Minutes later a Dodge drove up. Two guys in dark suits got out.

“You Joe?”


“Let's see the button.”

I gave it to them. They looked at it real close.

“How much you want for it?”

“A carton of cigarettes.”

“Get in the car. We'll take you to a smoke shop.”

“No,” I said. “I get car sick. I might vomit.”

They threw me in the car. One leaned against me so hard, I couldn't move. When I complained, he bopped me.

When I woke up, I was in a room with a bright light shinning in my eyes.

“So, you say you’re Joe Slavitsky,” said a mean-sounding voice. “Age 61. No address. Tell us again how you got the button.”

“Found it in the gutter, while looking for smokes. Who are you guys?”

“Doesn't matter. What matters is who you really are. Have you ever been inside the Russian Embassy?”

“Never. I don't even know where it is. Think they'd let me in dressed like this?”

 “I have a report that says you’ve been there twice this week. Looks like you're in big trouble.”

“What? Over a stupid button?  Forget the reward. Let me go. I got things to do, people to see.”

“You got people to see all right. FBI Counterintelligence.”

It took the FBI a couple hours to realize I was nobody, never been nobody, never will be nobody. They apologized. Even chipped in so I could buy a carton of cigarettes. Then they released me.

When my cigarettes ran out, I went back to searching for smokes in the gutter.

Since then, I've found other buttons. I wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole.

Even if one of them happens to be 14 carat gold.