Short Story of the day – Button, Button by Richard Matheson

While she was stacking dishes, she turned abruptly, dried her hands, and took the package from the bottom cabinet. Opening it, she set the button unit on the table. She stared at it for a long time before taking the key from its envelope and removing the glass dome. She stared at the button. How ridiculous, she thought. All this furor over a meaningless button.

Reaching out, she pressed it down. For us, she thought angrily.

—-Richard Matheson, Button, Button

The button on the Maestro’s shirt – detail from “The Storm” a mural on Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street, Dallas, Texas

Sunday, I came out into the living room to eat some eggs that I had scrambled with a few beans and some sausage. The television was on and a series of old Twilight Zone episodes were playing from the Syfy channel. Right when I sat down I Sing the Body Electric – which was written by Ray Bradbury and adapted into a short story of the same name (I was familiar with it) was on.

(2 minute preview)

I love the old anthology television shows – Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits… especially Alfred Hitchcock Presents. First, it’s fun to spot famous actors – Twilight Zone was the Law and Order of its time. I Sing the Body Electric had Veronica Cartwright in it.

But what I really like are the stories. So many of these were written by famous and extremely skilled short story writers. I am amazed at the work.

Sure enough, the next episode was Mute, by Richard Matheson. He was an amazingly prolific pulpy writer and you have seen his work everywhere (probably best known for I Am Legend – made into several movies) – he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone alone.

I looked for a copy of the short story Mute online, but couldn’t find one. I did find another Richard Matheson story however:

Button, Button by Richard Matheson

This is a famous story – the basis for a shitty Cameron Diaz move called The Box.

It was also made into an episode of The Twilight Zone – this time the 80’s incarnation.


The ending of the television is very different than the short story – not sure which I like better… at any rate, Richard Matheson wasn’t happy the Twilight Zone Version and used a pseudonym as the author. So read the story and watch the show. Which one do you prefer?

Actually, in looking around, I found something that I really liked… probably the most realistic take on the story.

This is Funny or Die’s version, which is genius:




Daily Writing Tip 20 of 100, Run Fast, Stand Still

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Run Fast, Stand Still

Source – Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Run fast, stand still. This, the lesson from lizards. For all writers. Observe almost any survival creature, you see the same. Jump, run, freeze. In the ability to flick like an eyelash, crack like a whip, vanish like steam, here this instant, gone the next-life teems the earth. And when that life is not rushing to escape, it is playing statues to do the same. See the hummingbird, there, not there. As thought arises and blinks of, so this thing of summer vapor; the clearing of a cosmic throat, the fall of a leaf. And where it was-a whisper.

What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.

I love the feeling when the words are coming fast – when I can barely type fast enough to keep up with the torrent. It feels like drinking from a fire hose. Then there is the stop, when the ideas fall away, when the fears rear their ugly heads.

That… I don’t like so much.