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.
“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.
“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.