CAMPAIGN BUTTON • by Joyce Barton

In class today, two guest speakers, a Republican and a Democrat, contradict each other for the whole period and leave us with a pile of campaign buttons. I take the President Nixon. Now more than ever. button because it looks like the Captain America shield from those Saturday morning cartoons I used to watch while waiting for Mom to get up or Dad to come home. Plus, Dad’s a Republican. Yesterday, when he was packing for another business trip, he told Mom that since he’ll miss Election Day, she’ll have to vote for Nixon, “for the both of us.”

I pin the small red white and blue shield to my coat collar.

At home later I pour a big glass of skim milk, add some Tab until it foams and drink it without breathing; it tastes just like an ice cream float. A diet tip and it’s working, because I’ve dropped five pounds in three days and the right people are noticing. A quick “hi” to Mom and then I go to my room, close the door, and pull out my diary for a quick entry:

Today at the bus stop, a cute college guy (surfer-blond hair, army surplus-store look) started a conversation with me! Asked me if I’d ever read The Drummer, then gave me his. What Dad would call a “commie hippie rag”—lots of protest stuff, plus x-rated personal ads (Mom would toss this if she found it!). “Drummer Boy” is anti-war, went on and on about the Movement and the election. I just nodded like I agreed, like I was old enough to vote. Mature. Ha! Next time, get his name.

By the weekend, it’s still just me and Mom. Mom’s got one of her headaches, the kind she wears like a badge. She’s in bed sitting bolt-upright, quietly watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I sit in the armchair beside her and watch also, trying not to laugh too loud.

The show goes like this: Ted won’t renew his contract without a raise, says he’s tired of being pushed around, taken advantage of (at this, Mom nods); Murray’s mad because Ted makes more money than he does; and Mr. Grant won’t budge. Of course, Mary’s in the middle.

“When’s Dad coming home?” I say, during the commercial break.

“I’m not sure,” Mom says. Her blue eyes look watery and her lower lids are red; maybe her allergies are acting up?

“So… I guess Dad’s happy?”

“What? Why would you say he’s happy?”

“’Cause Nixon won. Jeez, Mom. The election…”

She makes a don’t be fresh face at me, disapproving “duck lips” that always make me crack up; then shows me she’s not really mad by giving me a smile. “Don’t tell your father, but I voted for McGovern.”

“But… he told you—”

“I know what he told me, but I thought McGovern could get us out of this mess. Plus, it’s my vote.” She points the remote at the TV, shoots the sound off. “The light,” she motions, “it’s bothering my eyes…” I reach over and click the switch.

It’s a little boring, watching TV with no sound, in the dark. I daydream about Drummer Boy, how out of all of the girls at the bus stop, he talked to me; the way he looked at me at first, kind of shy, not into my eyes, but off to the side. And then I realize he was looking straight at my Nixon button! He didn’t give me that hippie paper because he thought I was cute, he was trying to convert me, to change my vote! Huh…

“Campaigns,” Mom says. “Promises, promises,” she sings softly. “Sit beside me. There’s something I need to tell you.”


Joyce Barton lives in Langhorne, PA and writes flash, essay, and blog posts that celebrate squirrels, self-actualization, and bad haiku.


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Rate this story:
 average 3.7 stars • 3 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    Great message, great voice, great historical detail. I really felt like I was there and then. Must admit, I did think the MC was male until the third para where she talked about losing weight. Not that, er, men don’t obsess about their weight….

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Paul, and a good comment re gender; something for me to keep in mind, next time.
  • Paul A. Freeman

    Great message, great voice, great historical detail. I really felt like I was there and then. Must admit, I did think the MC was male until the third para where she talked about losing weight. Not that, er, men don’t obsess about their weight….

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Paul, and a good comment re gender; something for me to keep in mind, next time.
  • The story is good,
    The story within subtle,
    Worth five stars at least

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Derek!
  • The story is good,
    The story within subtle,
    Worth five stars at least

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Derek!
  • Samantha Memi

    Lovely story, Joyce. I liked that ‘get his name’ was underlined. Always underline the important stuff. Wasn’t sure about the last sentence though.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Samantha. Re last sentence: did it confuse you, or were you not sure that it should be used at all?
  • Samantha Memi

    Lovely story, Joyce. I liked that ‘get his name’ was underlined. Always underline the important stuff. Wasn’t sure about the last sentence though.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Samantha. Re last sentence: did it confuse you, or were you not sure that it should be used at all?
  • weequahic

    About that last line: At first I thought, Now why’d she have to go ruin it? But she didn’t ruin anything. The left-wing mag (with the “One Nation under God” cartoon?) and the revelation about McGovern opened up a whole new area of mother-daughter discussion that would likely change the daughter’s life. Starting with, I guess, the divorce.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks for your comments. Yep, this young girl's life is about to change; don't you love coming-of-age stories? :)
  • weequahic

    About that last line: At first I thought, Now why’d the writer have to go ruin it? But she didn’t ruin anything. The realization about the magazine (with the “One Nation under God” cartoon?) and the revelation about McGovern projected a whole new area of mother-daughter discussion that would likely change the daughter’s life. Starting with, I guess, the divorce.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks for your comments. Yep, this young girl's life is about to change; don't you love coming-of-age stories? :)
  • I really enjoyed this well-written story. I’m usually a sucker for the political paralleling the personal, and Campaign Button does this well. I don’t know if this is meant to be complete as is, but the final line is certainly a lead-in and I, for one, would read more.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Denbe. Complete as is, that's the beauty of flash. But glad to know you'd read on (what writer doesn't want to hear that?). So, onward... :)
  • I really enjoyed this well-written story. I’m usually a sucker for the political paralleling the personal, and Campaign Button does this well. I don’t know if this is meant to be complete as is, but the final line is certainly a lead-in and I, for one, would read more.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Denbe. Complete as is, that's the beauty of flash. But glad to know you'd read on (what writer doesn't want to hear that?). So, onward... :)
  • judy

    5 Stars. Not knowing that the protagonist is a girl till third paragraph was a plus. This piece is timely. PS I campaigned and voted for McGovern and still have the buttons. Nostalgic…Congratulations Joyce.

    • Joyce Barton
      Ah, Judy, I remember that pin! Good for you, and thank you for your comments.
  • judy

    5 Stars. Not knowing that the protagonist is a girl till third paragraph was a plus. This piece is timely. PS I campaigned and voted for McGovern and still have the buttons. Nostalgic…Congratulations Joyce.

    • Joyce Barton
      Ah, Judy, I remember that pin! Good for you, and thank you for your comments.
  • Netty net

    this was a great story,

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Netty!
  • Netty net

    this was a great story,

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Netty!
  • MaryAlice Meli

    I loved the layering in this story. It was fun and substantial.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Mary Alice; glad you enjoyed it.
  • MaryAlice Meli

    I loved the layering in this story. It was fun and substantial.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks, Mary Alice; glad you enjoyed it.
  • Brad

    I loved the placement of “So … I guess Dad’s happy?” That started a huge chain of possibilities in my mind, before I read on.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks for your comments, Brad.
  • Brad

    I loved the placement of “So … I guess Dad’s happy?” That started a huge chain of possibilities in my mind, before I read on.

    • Joyce Barton
      Thanks for your comments, Brad.
  • Jody DesChenes

    good one! you know me, not really well-versed in the technicalities of ‘writing’ genres, but I have to say I love the technique, and Your ability, to fit such a big story into such a little piece of writing. and this one is good on so many levels…painting a picture of the setting, a little nostalgia/history, political & personal stories intertwining/complementing/highlighting each other, pulling out some emotion/empathy for certain characters…it was easy to feel like I was right there – that that WAS me. very nice job!

    • Joyce Barton
      OK full disclosure, I know this woman. :) Thank you, Jody! So glad you enjoyed this piece. Thanks for helping me stay accountable to all my self-imposed writer deadlines, it's working!
      • Jody DesChenes
        p.s. I LOVE the last sentence...what's better than a little mystery added in to make you wonder/ponder/think?!
  • Jody DesChenes

    good one! you know me, not really well-versed in the technicalities of ‘writing’ genres, but I have to say I love the technique, and Your ability, to fit such a big story into such a little piece of writing. and this one is good on so many levels…painting a picture of the setting, a little nostalgia/history, political & personal stories intertwining/complementing/highlighting each other, pulling out some emotion/empathy for certain characters…it was easy to feel like I was right there – that that WAS me. very nice job!

    • Joyce Barton
      OK full disclosure, I know this woman. :) Thank you, Jody! So glad you enjoyed this piece. Thanks for helping me stay accountable to all my self-imposed writer deadlines, it's working!
      • Jody DesChenes
        p.s. I LOVE the last sentence...what's better than a little mystery added in to make you wonder/ponder/think?!
  • This is superior writing. Now back to my cave.

    • Joyce Barton
      Jeff, I'm honored that you came out of your cave for a few minutes (reading is time well spent). Any relation to Bruce Wayne? ;)
      • S Conroy
        Jeff is probably writing in that cave! If you have time it's worth checking out (e.g.) his Halloween Coming Out story in EDF Top stories.
        • Joyce Barton
          Well I'm procrastinating right now so of course I have time; thanks for the lead and your comments, S.!
  • This is superior writing. Now back to my cave.

    • Joyce Barton
      Jeff, I'm honored that you came out of your cave for a few minutes (reading is time well spent). Any relation to Bruce Wayne? ;)
      • S Conroy
        Jeff is probably writing in that cave! If you have time it's worth checking out (e.g.) his Halloween Coming Out story in EDF Top stories.
        • Joyce Barton
          Well I'm procrastinating right now so of course I have time; thanks for the lead and your comments, S.!
  • S Conroy

    Thanks for this one. Love the detail. Really puts the reader in the time. Did wonder about that last line, but think weequahic’s comment might have sent me in the right direction.

    • Jule
      Sorry, everyone, we didn't have remotes back then...
      • Joyce Barton
        Yes we did, and it looked like this:
        • Tamera Norwood
          What a good story. So well written, and I loved the authenticity of the details. Like a ride in the Wayback machine.
          • Joyce Barton
            Thanks, Tamera! Today I'll feeling more 'Sherman' than 'Mr. Peabody', I'm afraid... ;)
          • Tamera Norwood
            Sounds like you were visiting Wassamata U. Tamera 480-294-2569
  • S Conroy

    Thanks for this one. Love the detail. Really puts the reader in the time. Did wonder about that last line, but think weequahic’s comment might have sent me in the right direction.

    • Jule
      Sorry, everyone, we didn't have remotes back then...
      • Joyce Barton
        Yes we did, and it looked like this:
        • Tamera Norwood
          What a good story. So well written, and I loved the authenticity of the details. Like a ride in the Wayback machine.
          • Joyce Barton
            Thanks, Tamera! Today I'll feeling more 'Sherman' than 'Mr. Peabody', I'm afraid... ;)
          • Tamera Norwood
            Sounds like you were visiting Wassamata U.
  • MPmcgurty

    Very nice. Voice was excellent. I didn’t assign a gender until the mention of a diet, but that’s okay. We don’t have to know the gender. The last line was fine.

  • MPmcgurty

    Very nice. Voice was excellent. I didn’t assign a gender until the mention of a diet, but that’s okay. We don’t have to know the gender. The last line was fine.