thrice great hermes
by stanley lieber
for some reason étienne’s town had a video store. a remnant of the somehow still extant berlin-in-the-’00s tourist theme. étienne had taken to renting videos to watch during his shift.
one evening when he stopped by he noticed they were giving away comic books with every rental. there were mint condition stacks of three titles: uncanny x-men #215, uncanny x-men #216, and avengers annual #10. since he was renting three videos, étienne was entitled to all three comics.
why did this place have old comic books? they weren’t second prints. they weren’t even german translations. weird.
he left the shop, and headed on to work. He went about his shift.
bill had messaged him, wanting to complain about politicians. étienne demurred. he was going to watch his videos.
from his backpack étienne produced a device whose function was to interface the ancient video player to his visor. the thing was on the fritz. some protocol glitch between the devices. lacking any other explanation, étienne blamed a recent firmware update.
blame was fine, but now he couldn’t watch his videos. the contemporary playback device he’d found squirreled away in a closet in his central office was likewise—but differently—inoperable. he sighed and gave up.
he flipped through the comics. okay, he’d never read these issues before. filling more holes in his collection. this michael golden art was something else.
étienne put down the comics and ate his lunch early. he’d be hungry later, but so what, he could do whatever he wanted. (thanks, violet, for packing the lunch.)
bill again. leave me alone.
the next evening étienne returned the videos to the shop, unwatched. he noticed the stacks of mint condition comics again, and, impulsively, offered the clerk a hundred dollars to buy the whole lot.
"nope, nuh uh," the clerk said. "one free comic per rental."