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.

No.”

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.

Son?”

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.