>SUMBILICUS

>Down past the silver dolphin paintings and the coked-up sculptors desperately carving Yoram had wedged himself into a crack between walls to roll up his shirt and bend his head over gently. He picked some lint from his bellybutton, a pointy purple piece of fluff that was a perfect cast of the space between his strange folds of skin.

The security guards all but left him alone now. He was authorised now, or near enough to authorised. His mentor, Deryl, had explained to him often enough how much of an important artist he was, and he had begun to believe it. He peered again at the lint on his finger. Not lint, perhaps. A wizard’s hat. A pile of rare Morroccan ochre. Something to be put into a frame.

A couple speaking German came up to Yoram, flicking their eyes constantly from his face to their information pamphlet. The man gestured his hands, tracing the air from Yoram’s head to the ground. Yoram held out his lint. Even when someone tells you they are perfect, without a blemish, he told them, you say to them no, they in fact have a scar. Everyone has a scar, he said, right here. Yoram pointed at his bellybutton. The Germans conversed excitedly, pointing from Yoram’s uncovered belly to their own, which were safely ensconsed in fleecy travel vests.

The birthmark of us all, went on Yoram. Our link to the great continuum of life. He held out his lint. It is our talisman of creation, he said, and still it creates!

The Germans’ faces went serious, and they chatted for some moments in solemn tones. Eventually, in broken French, the man said, We would like to purchase it. Your piece. Is it for sale?

Yoram let out a laugh. I am but a vessel, he said, I am but an agent through which nature speaks. He nestled the lint back into his bellybutton, being careful to put it back the right way. He pulled down his shirt and nodded to the German couple. I will see you tomorrow. I hope this very much.

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