for Malcolm

Banner says, “How soon?”

The man staring at him without blinking from across the counter says, a question: “Two days?”

Banner shakes his head. “A week.”

The man remembers to blink, remembers someone telling him how often to blink, that people need to blink or their eyes dry out. “Four days?”

Banner says, “Five days.”

The man nods, keeps his eyes closed too long. He slides two hundred dollar bills across the counter and places two fingers on Banner’s wrist. “We have made an agreement,” he whispers. “We are tied together this way.”

Banner nods, rings the bell that swallows the hundreds, watches the man walk through the glass door into the rain. The rain veers away from him, leaves him dry. Banner turns the sign over on the door, slides the blinds down, turns off the lights, goes into the back room. In the back room he pours fire into iron, beats lightning out with small hammers, shapes the weapons that will kill the gods, forges the chains that will hold shut the door of his store for centuries. He hums a song to himself, a working-song, a crafting-song, a triumph-song.