Matter of Time by Claire Polders

I dig up a lint ball from his belly button. Roll it between my fingertips. Hide it inside the wooden box in which my orphan buttons live. He sleeps so it’s my secret. He does not notice something missing when he awakes. Over breakfast, two eggs with their yolks unbroken, he smiles as usual, still unaware of what is lost. I dig for more the next night and the next, my hands soft and swift, as though in a sly dream. Our bedroom, like his mind, is steeped in darkness. Over time, the belly button lint grows and multiplies, taking shape. The fluff consists of wool, mixed with strands of cotton and flakes of dead skin. Cherished natural materials. How long before I can knit a tiny sweater? Prick a finger and blend in my blood? Breathe life back into the grayish blue?

Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels. Her short work has appeared in TriQuarterly, Denver Quarterly, SmokeLong Quarterly, and other reviews that may not be quarterlies. A Whale in Paris (May 2018, Atheneum/S&S) is her debut in English, a novel for younger readers about a girl who befriends a lost whale during World War II and helps liberate France. You can find her at and @clairepolders.

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