I’m trying to get ready for an important meeting but my phobias are flaring-up. I suffer from Koumpounophobia, which is a fear of buttons.
It started when I was 7 years old. I was asleep on the couch and when I woke-up, my little sister had covered me from head to toe in buttons. I don’t visit her much. In fact, I’ve only ever visited her new home once. I have my reasons…
My sister lives in a terraced house that sits on the footprint of an old button factory. There is a delapidated shed in the back garden which was originally used to store buttons. It rests on a patch of barron earth. When the rain falls, it sends little tremors through the ground and all the lost buttons rise up from the soil. It’s a horror show, and as I sit here, writing about the zombie buttons, I finally realise that there was no button factory, and my sister planted the buttons before I arrived.
I have two other phobias. I feel sick, scared, angry and want to hit someone whenever is see a trifle. This comes from my Dad. I don’t visit him much. I have my reasons…
I was 21 and living at home with my dad and my button-stalker sister. My dad worked for several charities. He was a chaperone for Barnardos and also helped out at a local pensioner’s group; cooking them a free meal every Thursday. He’s always been a bad cook, but saw feeding pensioners as a chance to experiment. I remember one of his creations was just called, ‘Meat Bits’.
Thursday rolled around and I was forced to try my dad’s latest concoction. He’d made a trifle but it was a poor first attempt; all sloppy and lumpy. He called it ‘Scronge Monge’.
“What do you think? he asked.
“Bit sloppy,” I said. “Are you thinking about putting Scronge Monge on the menu with Meat Bits?”
“It’s already on. You’re eating leftovers from today. Dont worry, it’s fresh. I scraped it out of their bowls and put it straight back in the fridge.”
“Eurgh. Are you telling me that I’m eating trifle that pensioners have spat out?”
“Yes. What do you think Meat Bits are?”
This leads on to my last phobia. Unsurprisingly, I have a sensitive gag reflex. It gets really bad if I wear a tie, which is why I hate pitching work to clients. During presentations I do a lot of dry-heaving, then I panic and attempt to discreetly end the meeting. In my experience, it’s rare for a client to employ the guy who kept puking, and then tried to jump out of the window.
There are several things you can take to deal with phobias: pills, herbal teas, meat bits. But I put my faith in lucky charms and superstition. I always carry a lucky armadillo with me. It’s very special; my daughter bought it for me with her own birthday money. I also think I’ll be cursed if I change the CD in my car. I’ve been playing Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love for the last 5 years. This irritates my wife. She thinks that the constant repetition dilutes the meaning of the words, and she ends up hating the songs. I know this because she tells me over and over and over…
Unfortunately, it seems that I’ve passed my quirks on to my daughter.
“Dad,” she says, as I thunder down the stairs, clawing at the knot in my tie.
“Where’s the Lucky Armadillo?”
“It’s in my bag” I say, “next to the lucky pebble and the lucky bird’s feather.”
I delve into my bag to prove it, but it’s not there.
“Have you lost him?” she asks. Her cheeks redden. A dramatic mock-cry is on its way.
“No, he must be upstairs. I’ll go get him.” I thunder back upstairs.
“What the fuck are you doing?” asks my wife, as she picks up her white dressing gown from the bedroom floor, and loosely wraps it around her. She is bleary-eyed, and her hair is all frizzed-up at the back. She looks like a drunk Tina Turner searching for a sauna.
“Where’s the Lucky Armadillo?” I ask.
“Fuck knows. I’m the only good luck charm you need,” she says, and bangs into the door on her way out.
Eventually I remember where it is. It’s in the bowl of crap. I peer into the bowl and see that Armadillo is sandwiched between a stapler, a map of France and two…buttons.
I can hear the first few spluttering bars of my daughter’s false cry wafting down the hallway. I pull my sleeve up over my hand to make a rudimentary glove, close my eyes and fish out the Armadillo. I hand it over to my daughter.
“Naughty Armadillo,” she says. “Where have you been?”
“Toss him over,” I say. “I need to take the plastic Armadillo to an important meeting.” My daughter takes Armadillo to one side and whispers to him.
“What are you two whispering about?” I ask.
“I’m just telling him to look after you.”
My wife staggers into the room. Our daughter looks concerned. “What’s happened to Mum?” she whispers.
“The night. That’s what’s happened to her,” I say, and covertly pass her the armadillo. “I think you’re going to need this more than me.”