Wilson Koewing ~ Marrow

In the Summer of his 72nd year, ill­ness came for the famed archi­tect D.B. Welk in the form of bone can­cer. It was said to have reached the mar­row. For six­teen years, Welk had lived on the west end of Oak Island, North Carolina in rel­a­tive seclu­sion. Despite hun­dreds of inquiries, he nev­er returned to archi­tec­ture after the fias­co in Myrtle Beach.

Welk received the news while enjoy­ing hap­py hour at his favorite restau­rant, The Fish House, which was two blocks from his home and where he spent almost every afternoon.

He went out­side and wan­dered amongst the boats on the dock adja­cent to the restau­rant and placed a call to his only son, Carl, a syn­di­cat­ed satir­i­cal car­toon­ist, whose work he had nev­er understood.

This is a dif­fi­cult pill to swal­low,” Carl, said over the phone. “I’m so sor­ry, Dad, can I call you back? You’ve caught us right in the mid­dle of fam­i­ly dinner.”

After hang­ing up with Carl, Welk called his ex-wife, Alice.

Well, you had a fine run, D.B.,” Alice said, out of breath.

What are you doing?” Welk asked.

I’ve pur­chased a Peloton,” Alice said. “I’m in the best shape of my life.”

Go to hell, Alice,” Welk said, and hung up.

Welk paid his tab and drove home.

He tossed his mail on the counter and poured a scotch. He stepped onto his ocean­front porch and called his father, Hank Welk, who had recent­ly, at 104, been forced out of his archi­tec­tur­al firm, the largest in Chattanooga, Tennessee, due to myr­i­ad health con­cerns. Despite this, Hank refused to move into a nurs­ing home and instead hired his own full-time nurs­ing staff and remained dead set on fight­ing to regain con­trol of the firm from his pala­tial estate over­look­ing the Tennessee riv­er and down­town Chattanooga.

Welk Residence,” a nurse answered.

It’s his son.”

Hello, son,” Hank said. “What have you done now?

Hello, father,” Welk replied. “I’ve got­ten the bone can­cer. I may not have much longer.”

 “I’m a hun­dred and four years old,” Hank said. “I sure as shit don’t have much longer. I’ll be lucky to make it to tomorrow’s breakfast.”

Welk paused for some time on the line.

Will you miss me if I die before you, father?”

I’ve missed you for quite some time already,” Hank said.

Thank you for say­ing that, father,” Welk said. “I love you.”

Is there any­thing else I can help you with,” Hank said. “I’m quite busy over here, as I’m sure you know.”

No, dad,” Welk said. “That’s all.”

Welk went down to the shore and walked until he reached the far west­ern end of Oak Island and an area known as The Point; a pic­turesque sec­tion of beach where the intra­coastal water­way, the east­ern chan­nel and the Lockwood Folly riv­er meet the Atlantic. At low tide it drowns serene, with tidal pools and sand­bars appear­ing where they could not be seen before, though that evening the tide was high, and the water cov­ered every­thing beneath it.

As Welk walked home, the sun set behind him. Oak Island was unique in that its beach­es faced south which caused the sun to appear to dip into the water at cer­tain times of year. Welk had watched hun­dreds of sun­sets on the island, but for this one he did not turn in awe.

Back home, as the sky dark­ened, and the many ocean­front win­dows start­ed to reflect the light inside, a hol­low­ness fell upon Welk which he hadn’t felt in years. He poured anoth­er Scotch and spent sev­er­al hours reach­ing out to his vast net­work of col­leagues, seek­ing a con­sen­sus about what he should do next regard­ing treat­ment. What he dis­cov­ered was that his best chance for recov­ery was essen­tial­ly the same afford­ed to any­one who amass­es con­sid­er­able wealth. He could make a siz­able dona­tion to a world class med­ical facil­i­ty like Johns Hopkins, which would guar­an­tee him the very best care, and then he could hope for the best.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, Welk woke ear­ly, like he always did, grabbed the news­pa­per from the dri­ve­way and poured a bowl of Cheerios. While eat­ing, he received a call from Carl, but didn’t answer. He flipped the paper until he found Carl’s syn­di­cat­ed car­toon. One was pub­lished near­ly every day. The car­toon had some­thing to do with ris­ing inter­est rates and the draw­ing was of a mon­ey man with a visor on, an anti­quat­ed sort of accoun­tant stereo­type with red itchy eyes, crunch­ing num­bers, and smok­ing a joint. Welk stared at the car­toon for a sig­nif­i­cant length of time, his Cheerios grow­ing sog­gy in the milk, but could not, for the life of him, under­stand what was so funny.


Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. His mem­oir Bridges is forth­com­ing from Bull City Press.