Fenrir’s Day Off1

1 requires familiarity with Norse mythology.

Silverware clatters. People talk. Waiters bustle.

The wolf is bigger than the sun.

There are voices in the restaurant. One of them is resonant. “And then my hammer smashed right through the whetstone, ” it cries, “bearing straight on to kill the giant Hrugnir!”

“But what of the clay giant?” another man asks.

The wolf is bigger than the moon.

“Ha!” Deep laughter, and joyous, fills the restaurant. “They’d given him a mare’s heart. When he saw Hrugnir fall, he was so scared he wet himself!”

“That’s bad,” the second voice comments. “I mean, if you’re made of clay.”

The wolf is bigger than the vault of Heaven.

A waiter named Steve approaches the wolf. There is a thin gold cord wrapped around his ankle. He smiles. “Have you decided on your order, sir?”

“Of all the places,” the wolf whispers to itself. “Of all the places to eat, I had to choose the place where the Thunderer was eating.”

“Pardon?” Steve asks.

“It’s my day off,” the wolf explains. “They all think I’m just tangled up in the terrible cord the dwarves made for me. But I’m not.”

“Oh.”

“You can’t expect a wolf to spend his whole life bound with a vicious cord,” says Fenrir. “Not on a beautiful day like today. So I took a day off.”

“No, sir,” says Steve. His voice has sympathy in it. “I do the same thing myself, sometimes.”

“Do you?”

Steve nods.

“Then can you help me get out of here?” Fenrir asks.

Steve smiles.

“I wound up with a piece of whetstone stuck in my head,” grumps the Thunderer’s resonant voice, rising once again above the sounds in the restaurant. “Stuck in my head! Can you believe it? The sorceress Groa—”

There is a pause.

“I smell wolf.”

A great tall man rises from a corner table. His hair and beard are redder than the setting sun. He walks over to Fenrir’s table. Steve stands in front of it, as if to block his view.

“Is there, by any chance, a wolf here?” the Thunderer asks. He tries to look around Steve. Steve wriggles back and forth a little, in place, conspiring to obstruct the Thunderer’s view.

“Sir,” says Steve, “you can’t imagine that we’d serve . . . wolf.”

The Thunderer narrows his eyes suspiciously. Suddenly, he shoves Steve aside. But the wolf is not at the table. There are only four great gray pillars, scattered around the center of the room, holding the ceiling high.

“I still smell wolf,” says the Thunderer. But then he shrugs. It is a peculiar little shrug. It is the shrug of a man used to much strangeness in his life. He walks away.

“You can sit back down now,” says Steve. Fenrir sits back down.

“Thank you,” says Fenrir, gravely.

“Kindred spirits,” says Steve. “If you want to skip out on your check, I’ll pretend you’re in the bathroom.”

Fenrir’s tongue lolls. He slips away.

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