** All text taken from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Pretty sequential. Differentness mostly achieved through deletion. Think “The Phantom Edit.” You hate Jar-jar? He’s gone. You hate Brad Pitt in old man makeup because the aging of Mr. Virility reminds you no one is spared? Forget him. Now read a nice simple story about a man and his disappointing baby. Sippin on coke n’ rum, I’m like so what I’m drunk. Original story available free here. **
Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button decided that their first baby should be born in a hospital.
This was their first baby—Mr. Button was nervous. He hoped it would be a boy so that he could be sent to Yale College.
On a September morning, he arose nervously at six o’clock, dressed himself, and hurried forth through the streets of Baltimore to the hospital.
When he was approximately a hundred yards from the Maryland Private Hospital for Ladies and Gentlemen, he saw Doctor Keene, the family physician, descending the front steps, rubbing his hands together.
Mr. Button began to run toward Doctor Keene with much less dignity than was expected. “Doctor Keene!” he called. “Oh, Doctor Keene!”
The doctor heard him, faced around, and stood waiting.
“What happened?” demanded Mr. Button as he came up in a gasping rush. “How is she?”
“Talk sense!” said Doctor Keene sharply. He appeared somewhat irritated.
“Is the child born?” begged Mr. Button.
Doctor Keene frowned. “Why, yes.”
“Is my wife all right?”
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
“Here now!” cried Doctor Keene.
Then he turned sharply, and without another word climbed into his phaeton, which was waiting at the curbstone, and drove severely away.
A nurse was sitting behind a desk in the opaque gloom of the hall. Mr. Button approached her.
“Good-morning,” she remarked, looking up at him.
“Good-morning. I—I am Mr. Button.”
At this a look spread itself over the girl’s face. She rose to her feet.
“I want to see my child,” said Mr. Button.
“Oh!” she cried. “Upstairs. Right upstairs!”
She pointed the direction, and Mr. Button, bathed in cool perspiration, turned falteringly, and began to mount to the second floor. In the upper hall he addressed another nurse who approached him, basin in hand. “I’m Mr. Button,” he managed to articulate.
“All right, Mr. Button,” she agreed in a hushed voice. The basin clattered to the floor. “Very well.”
“Hurry!” he cried hoarsely. “I can’t stand this!”
At the end of a long hall they reached a room from which proceeded a variety of howls.
“Well,” gasped Mr. Button, “which is mine?”
“There!” said the nurse.
Mr. Button’s eyes followed her pointing finger. Wrapped in a voluminous white blanket, in one of the cribs, there sat his son.
“Am I mad?” thundered Mr. Button.
“I don’t know.”
The cool perspiration redoubled on Mr. Button’s forehead. He closed his eyes, and then, opening them, looked again. There was no mistake.
“Where in God’s name did you come from?” burst out Mr. Button frantically. “Who are you?”
The baby turned wearily to the nurse.
“Mr. Button,” said the nurse severely. “This is your child and you’ll have to make the best of it. We’re going to ask you to take him home with you as soon as possible some time today.”
“Home?” repeated Mr. Button.
“Yes, we can’t have him here. We really can’t, you know?”
Mr. Button sank down upon a chair near his son and concealed his face in his hands.
“I can’t. I can’t,” he moaned.
“Come! Pull yourself together,” commanded the nurse.
He turned to the nurse. “What’ll I do?”
“Good-morning,” Mr. Button said nervously to the clerk in the Chesapeake Dry Goods Company. “I want to buy some clothes for my child.”
“How old is your child, sir?”
“About six hours,” answered Mr. Button.
“Babies’ supply department in the rear.”
“Why, I don’t think—I’m not sure that’s what I want.” The notion of dressing his son was repugnant to him.
“How old did you say that boy of yours was?” demanded the clerk.
Mr. Button turned miserably away. Then he stopped, brightened, and pointed his finger toward a window display. “There!” he exclaimed.
The clerk stared.
“Wrap it up,” insisted his customer nervously.
Back at the hospital Mr. Button entered the nursery and almost threw the package at his son. “Here’s your clothes,” he snapped. “Never you mind how funny you look.”
Scraggly hair, watery eyes. The effect was not good. The baby swallowed uneasily.
Mr. Button regarded him with depression.
Ben. It was by this name they called him.
It was impossible for Button to ignore the fact that his son was a poor excuse for a first family baby. Clothes did not conceal this. In fact, the baby-nurse who had been engaged in advance left the house after one look.
But Mr. Button persisted. One day he brought home a rattle and, giving it to Ben, insisted in no uncertain terms that he should “play with it.” He brought home lead soldiers, he brought toy trains, he brought large pleasant animals made of cotton.
Mr. Button smoked more cigars than ever before.
A few people who were unfailingly polite racked their brains for compliments to give to the parents. Mr. and Mrs. Button were not pleased.
Ben took life as he found it. Ben and his grandfather would sit for hours. Ben felt more at ease in his grandfather’s presence than in his parents’.
At his father’s urging he made an honest attempt to play with other boys, and frequently he joined in the milder games—football shook him up too much.
He was as puzzled as anyone else.
When he was five he was sent to kindergarten. He was inclined to drowse off to sleep in the middle of tasks, a habit which both irritated and frightened his young teacher. She complained to his parents and he was removed from the school.
By the time he was twelve years old, his parents had grown used to him.
“Can it be——?” he thought to himself.
He went to his father. “I am grown,” he announced. “I want to put on long trousers.”
His father hesitated. “Well,” he said finally, “I don’t know.”