The Reset Button
By Kenny Laurie
Jenny saw the red button next to her and pressed it. Jenny saw the red button next to her and pressed it. Jenny saw the red button next to her and pressed it. Jenny saw the red button next to her and pressed it. Jenny furrowed her browed in confusion. Was it working or not? Jenny saw the red button next to her and pressed it. Jenny saw the red button next to her and pressed it. She pressed it for 15 whole minutes before she realised what was happening. The clock hadn't moved an inch since she started pressing the little red button. A couple of quick tests proved what seemed impossible; the button was sending her back in time by five seconds.
How the hell does it work? Why is it lying around? Who does it belong to? How did it make its way to me? Not one of these questions entered Jenny's head. The novelty of running back time was so addictive; there was no time for anything else.
Like so many her age do, Jenny showered and had breakfast before leaving for work, in her case, a posh architecture firm. When she arrived at the office, it was eerily quiet and dark. It was strange to see a place so usually full of life and energy - a veritable hive of activity – so lifeless and silent. She roamed the office as if it were some post-apocalyptic landscape, or that creepy fun fair in Chernobyl. Everything seemed where it should be, all the computers were in place, and her lucky cool shoes were still on her desk. Everything was at it should be, just empty and silent and dark. What was happening today, she thought, first the button now this. Then she noticed the clock... she'd come to work early because obviously time hadn't been moving forward while she callously pushing the button. She face palmed. Looking at the office in the light of this realisation, everything was completely normal; it was just early. Not like Chernobyl in the slightest.
The button was a revelation to Jenny's life. She could relive great moments, undo basic errors and use it to tell people how she really thought without having to suffer the repercussions. At one point, Jenny worried that she might be overusing the button after going back over a great moment at the office water cooler 317 times. While sipping a glass of water, she had cracked a joke about how homeless people always mistake jangling keys in someone's pockets for money because they have no frame of reference for house keys. The joke had provoked rapturous applause from her colleagues, one of whom even shot water out of her nose in her hysteria. The validation of having a great joke receive such acclaim had brought out Jenny's narcissistic side, forcing her to constantly replay the moment – she didn't even switch up the delivery, she simply repeated the same joke 371 times. And she only stopped because she needed the toilet really badly after consuming 371 cups of water.
The button really was a miracle. Jenny could fart to her heart's content and simply press the reset button the moment her colleagues began to scrunch their faces up in silent discomfort. She asked a guy she liked out for dinner. Turns out he wasn't into her, but no drama, the button meant she could learn how he felt without there being any lingering awkwardness. She dropped a cup of coffee on the floor – pressed the button. She dropped an ice cream on the floor – she pressed the button. She dropped a heavy colleague during an ambitious piggy-back ride – hey, no bother just press the button. She accidentally joined a UKIP group on Facebook – oh yeah, press the mother-fucking button, and all of this in one morning, albeit a very clumsy morning. The opportunities were endless. Maybe she could be president of the world one day, just operating on trial and error without ever having to suffer the consequences of her missteps.
The afternoon loomed. Jenny was dreading the afternoon client meeting. She'd enjoyed a great free lunch at the Pizza Vegas down the road – turns out when you're armed with the confidence of a five-second reset button, doing a “dine and dash” is very simple, and the proprietors don't actually care enough to chase you – but as the meeting loomed, the fun of the button began to wear off.
Jenny was an architect, so basically sat around all day drawing buildings, much like how you would imagine a child drawing all day on a boring Sunday at grandma's house. She took the job because it combined three of her loves; engineering, art and colouring in.
There was a client, just like all the others, who wanted a new high-rise building in the middle of Istanbul. The client, Peter Klempner from Reacharound Real Estate, was a pain in the arse. She hated him. Firstly, he looked like a vagrant and he stank of booze and, weirdly, blood. Secondly, he made off-colour jokes and used language unbefitting of the architecture firm Jenny was a slave to, Pisflap Architects & Co. Thirdly, he always changed his mind. One week he'd want Jenny to draw a building the shape of a pickle, then the next week a carrot, then the next week an aubergine, and the next week a banana, all while wanting the project to be delivered on the same timeline. Jenny lost count of the amount of fruits and vegetables she had had to buy from the local Bakkal to use as a template for his ludicrous buildings. Also fourthly, he was just an arse to be around.
Jenny recoiled when her boss, Elif, shouted to her that the meeting was about to start. She pressed the button a couple of times just to have a few precious seconds not at the meeting.
Jenny walked in and died a little inside when Peter stood up and offered his hand and an inappropriate comment “Y'alright sweet cheeks, give us a smile,”
“Fuck you, you massive twat, I hope your first born child gets Hepatitis,” she barked, before quickly slamming on the button – which was surreptitiously stowed away in her back pocket.
“Lovely to see you again, Peter, how is your first born?,” she enquired, feeling slightly less awful about having to be nice to him after venting off moments before.
“Oh he's a bit under the weather at the moment,” said Peter. Jenny chanced herself a small smile.
Jenny placed on the table the model she had made for Peter, exactly to spec from the previous meeting.
“That's a lovely model,” said Peter, “But I've gone off avocados now, after I cut my finger trying to peel one the other day, so I'm afraid you'll have to start from scratch. I have changed my mind. I want it to look like a green pepper.”
Jenny clenched her teeth in anger. She picked up the model, which was roughly the size of a seven-year-old farmer's boy, and smashed it over Peter's stupid head.
“Eat shit and die you motherfucker, I hope the next time you make jam on toast, you drop the toast on the floor and the toast lands jam side down all over your nice new carpet. Why don't you take this model and shove it up your arse,” Jenny shouted before bellowing “GODDDD you're a massive cunt!” She pressed reset button. “Shit”, she thought. In her anger she had delivered a verbal volley that lasted more than five seconds, with the reset beginning at “Eat shit and die you motherfucker, I hope...” She pressed the button a few more times while she thought of a game plan. The more she pressed the button the more she realised that she would have to face the music and take responsibility for what she'd said to that awful bastard.
“...I'm sorry Peter, I didn't mean to say that, it's just been difficult keeping up with your constant demands,” she said ruefully.
“I've never been so insulted in all my life. I'm leaving and taking my custom elsewhere,” Peter said as he stormed out.
Jenny felt terrible.
“By the way, one more thing,” Peter said, craning his head around the door of the meeting room, “cool shoes.”
The compliment did nothing to help Jenny's mood. She'd abused the button and her pent up anger after weeks of drawing buildings in the shape of fruits and vegetables had gotten the better of her. The whole thing would likely cost her her job and reputation.
The thought of the button almost hurt now. The walk home to Besiktas was going to be a long one.
Jenny cursed that the button didn't have a 10-second reset. Every time the button poked her from her back pocket she remembered Elif and Peter's faces as she launched into her scathing tirade. She bought a cheap bottle of wine, ran a bath and thought about the day – all to the strains of Kenny Rogers, Kenny G and Kenny Rogers' and Kenny G's collaboration song.
Sat on the sofa, Jenny got up to check that the water was the right temperature. As she put her hand in the bathtub, her phone rang. It was Peter.
“Hey, Peter, listen, I'm so sorry about what happ...”
“Quiet Jenny, please,” Peter said, in a low burr that suggested he too was hunkered up with a glass of wine and a bath while listening to Kenny Rogers, Kenny G and Kenny Rogers' and Kenny G's collaboration single.
“What you did today...”
“Please let me apologise...”
“No. I want to apologise. Your foul-mouthed vocalisation of your displeasure forced me to think.”
Jenny stood up right in stunned silence.
“I realised I had been unreasonable and had wasted your precious time by constantly changing my mind, and that perhaps my fruit and veg obsession had got the best of me. And also I’m a massive wanker who makes inappropriate statements,” Peter said, “Can you find it in your heart to forgive me.”
“I'm so happy to hear that, I thought I'd ruined everything; the contract, my job, my life, everything,” she said.
“No need to say anything. I'd like to give you my services again, and pay you triple the money of the contract to you personally to make up for all the wasted work hours.”
Fighting back the tears, Jenny said thank you and sat back down on the sofa. As the smooth sound of Kenny G's sax drifted over her, she realised that she didn't need the button, that being herself and being honest was the best policy. A deeply satisfying feeling came over her; a little like the bizarre euphoria that comes after an hour's vomiting.
She got up, went to the bathroom and flushed the button down the toilet, feeling very fulfilled and satisfied as she did so. Honesty. The answer was so simple. But sometimes you have to learn life's lessons the hard way.
The button fell into the pan and down the pipe silently. Unfortunately, six seconds into the flush, the button knocked up against side of the u-bend in the toilet, resetting time five seconds, one second after she dropped it in the toilet. It was too deep for her to reach it.
As Jenny faced the prospect of an eternity spent constantly reliving the same five seconds over and over again, she thought “Great time to learn a valuable life lesson.”