Count Your Buttons

Tomas unscrewed the lid of his jar and turned it over. Buttons of various sizes, colours, and shapes spilled out onto the floor until the jar was empty. Tomas stared at them for a moment, trying to will his brain to take in the number immediately, but it did not work.

So he set to counting them.

He organized the buttons into piles of ten. Once he had ten piles, he combined them into one large pile, pushed it to the side, and started a new series of piles of ten.

He counted and counted. Midway through, he stopped to wonder if he should organize them. But no, he decided, as he continued counting. What system would I use? Colour, size, shape, number of thread holes, age? So, as with every time he counted his buttons, he abandoned the thought of organizing them, and kept counting.

When he finished, Tomas had nine piles of a hundred, four piles of ten, and three left over. Somewhere, somewhen, he had lost a button. He did not know if it was lost when he dumped the jar, when he replaced the buttons in the jar last time (unlikely; he was always very careful), or someone had nabbed a button while over visiting or in the middle of the night.

Tomas stood, pursed his lips, then left home. He walked to the store, bought a single button, and returned home. He took it out of the plastic packaging and placed it with his other buttons.

After a second counting, the number now as it should be, he carefully returned all the buttons to the jar. He then cut the spare button off his new shirt and placed it in the jar, his collection grown by one.

Tomas screwed the lid on tightly, and replaced the jar on his bookshelf before continuing with his day.


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