Wilson Koewing ~ Cocktail Onion

In the Summer of his 42nd year, D.B Welk was award­ed the Pritzker prize in archi­tec­ture for con­ceiv­ing a futur­is­tic apart­ment build­ing in Denver, Colorado with no park­ing spaces and no units larg­er than 300 square feet. He designed the struc­ture to fit on a tri­an­gu­lar lot believed to be unbuild­able; the lot’s shape and loca­tion the result of growth and some con­fu­sion over whether the city’s lay­out would be cir­cu­lar or grid. At a con­flu­ence of straight and cir­cu­lar lines, Welk’s great­est achieve­ment was constructed.

He accept­ed the award at a small Gala in Prague. While the Pritzker prize is the great­est hon­or that can be bestowed upon an archi­tect, the cer­e­mo­ny was fit­ting­ly tame. Welk attend­ed with his wife, Alice, and his only son Carl, a satir­i­cal car­toon­ist whose work he did not understand.

When Welk’s name was called, he did not imme­di­ate­ly stand. Instead, he sat trans­fixed by the cock­tail onion rest­ing at the bot­tom of his glass; a per­fect minia­ture nes­tled del­i­cate­ly beside a sin­gle ice cube. It was only when Alice kicked him under the table that he rose and approached the podium.

I’m grate­ful to receive this hon­or. Bringing micro liv­ing to an American city is no easy task. But it speaks to how minds and con­sid­er­a­tions are shift­ing. In many Asian metrop­o­lis­es this style has been bred of necessity…”

As Welk droned on, even he grew dis­in­ter­est­ed in the direc­tion his ram­bling speech was taking.

To cel­e­brate after the cer­e­mo­ny, Welk and his fam­i­ly went to a swanky jazz club on the bank of the Charles, upriv­er from Old Town. The build­ing was con­struct­ed to appear almost under the riv­er, once a func­tion­al­ist struc­ture dur­ing com­mu­nist rule, he found its trans­for­ma­tion into post-mod­ern chic applaud­able. The music pulsed dream-like and for two mar­ti­nis all felt right.

Three mar­ti­nis in, Welk lost his sensibilities.

I don’t under­stand your work!” he said to Carl over the music.

You don’t under­stand satire?”

The way you con­ceive it?” Welk said. “No, I sup­pose I don’t.”

Furious, Carl stood and left. Welk turned to Alice. She shook her head and would not look at him.

They left the club and walked to the Charles Bridge in silence.

I want a divorce,” Alice said when they reached the foot of the bridge.

Welk watched her cross the bridge and dis­ap­pear into the old town streets. He strolled to the mid­dle of the bridge and stared up at the goth­ic façade of St. Vitus Cathedral and the Prague Castle. The moon was near­ly full, and it bathed the scene in pleas­ing light.

Not far away, a gyp­sy played an accor­dion. On the oppo­site side of the bridge, a pup­peteer worked a mar­i­onette in har­mo­ny. Welk hoist­ed him­self onto a stone land­ing, held on to a gar­goyle and peered down at the riv­er. He con­sid­ered jump­ing but knew the fall would bare­ly injure him.

He hopped down and walked back to his hotel. He felt numb about Alice but had no inter­est in dis­suad­ing her. He decid­ed he wouldn’t fly back. Instead he would vis­it Vienna. He’d long yearned to wit­ness with his own eyes the scourge of neoclassicism.


The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Welk and Alice drank cof­fee and ate break­fast on the bal­cony of the lux­u­ri­ous suite The Pritzker Prize afford­ed them.

Do you have any­thing to say?” Alice asked.

Nothing,” Welk said.

You are an emo­tion-less creature.”

I am a Pritzker Prize winner.”

Chuckling, Alice went inside to pack. Welk rode with his wife and son to the airport.

Goodbye, father,” Carl said.

Goodbye, son.”

Any idea how long you’ll stay?” Alice asked.


Welk watched his son skulk away and his wife follow.


Waiting on the train to Vienna, Welk returned a call from his father, Hank Welk.

Hank Welk’s office,” his father’s sec­re­tary answered.

Hello, it’s his son,” Welk said.

Hank Welk was the most suc­cess­ful com­mer­cial archi­tect in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His empire vast. D.B. con­sid­ered him a gen­tri­fi­ca­tion prof­i­teer, a whore and for what it was worth, a dis­grace. Hank came on the line.


Yes, father?”

You didn’t return my call.”

I’m return­ing it now.”

Where are you?”

I’m in Prague,” Welk said. “I accept­ed the Pritzker prize.”

You tell them if they don’t want my con­cept on their fuck­ing land they can go with anoth­er firm!” Hank screamed to some­one in the office. “The what?” he said into the phone.

The Pritz—, it doesn’t mat­ter,” Welk said. “I’m on vacation.”

Excellent,” Hank said. “What can I do for you?”

I’m return­ing your call.”


In Vienna, Welk observed all the Hapsburg’s had to offer. Despite think­ing he would hate what he saw, he actu­al­ly enjoyed the gaudi­ness. Original it was not, but he respect­ed the ded­i­ca­tion to destroy­ing so many once great archi­tec­tur­al styles in the name of extrav­a­gant wealth.

In a jew­el­ry store he pur­chased an expen­sive bracelet. In a design­er cloth­ing shop, a sweater.

He vis­it­ed the Hundertwasser house and found a spir­it kin­dred. He mar­veled over the detailed dio­ra­ma of a com­mu­ni­ty built into the Earth; Hundertwasser’s vision for the future. He obsessed over Hundertwasser’s paint­ings, stay­ing so long exam­in­ing them a secu­ri­ty guard had to tell him the muse­um was closing.

He wan­dered Löwengasse street after until he found a pub. He ordered a lager and sat with it out­side. A drifter wan­dered by smok­ing and Welk asked for one. The drifter oblig­ed and lit it for him. He inhaled and exhaled smoke. He took a long, frothy drink from his mug.

Across the street, foun­tains went off in a park and with their erup­tion, light bloomed and illu­mi­nat­ed a float­ing sil­ver globe in a pool below. Welk crossed the street and approached the globe, wad­ing through the pool. At such a close dis­tance he real­ized it wasn’t a globe, but an armil­lary sphere. He braced him­self and attempt­ed to spin it, but it was not made to spin.


Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His work has recent­ly appeared in Pembroke Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Ghost Parachute, New World Writing, (Mac)ro(Mic) and The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.