FoundlingReview

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Tonight, the architect erases.  Undoes.  This happens whenever an imperfection appears, and to the 
architect, imperfections are unwelcome.  Imperfections, to him, feel like lacerations, and erasing like 
suturing.

He draws in ink with a fine stylus upon linen sheets, in the manner of the old masters whose 
drawings were as much sermon as direction.  Back then, they drew each and every brick, because 
bricklayers were like children, and children needed to be taught that each decision they made held 
consequence.  Bricklayers could not be permitted to let the mortar dry on their mistakes.  Sons 
needed to be warned that their bodies, unchecked, had the power to violate entire futures, and 
daughters needed to be warned about sons.

The architect is mostly a claims adjuster.  He remains an architect in leisure only, because the 
business of architecture requires that blueprints become reality, and that is precisely where the crime, 
the sin, enters in.  Reality brings its imperfections, he says, and imperfections are the first symptoms
in a contagion of compromise.  Any work of art, once embodied, is already set upon a slow 
trajectory toward ruin.  Only unbuilt works hold unspoiled hopes.

The architect is designing a temple in the tradition of the ancient Greeks, and has created a 
colonnade of massive Ionic columns in twin rows, heroic in scale, which frame a central axis.  At the 
termination of the axis, a niche cut beneath an arched canopy of marble.  At the focus of the niche, 
a statue.  It is here that the architect erases.

It was here, almost two years earlier, that he had first drawn his daughter, in the style of the Athena 
of Parthenos, but by the time he had heard the news about the bar-band drummer and the 
unplanned flight to Vegas, her belly was already beginning to swell.  He had spent many long nights 
afterward trying to alter the proportions of the statue, making the womb more pronounced, then 
less again, and it was on one of those nights that she called, and he could see her number appear on 
the screen of his cell phone, but he didn’t answer, because he didn’t have the problem resolved yet.  
The proportions were always wrong.  It looked, from any angle, like a mistake.  She did not call 
again.

He hopes she decides to call now, so he can tell her it’s fine, he’s worked it out.  He has replaced the 
statue with a bust of her - Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, Taker of Proper Precautions - and he draws 
the profile of her face from an old grade school photo he has pinned to the wall, the look before 
puberty, before worry.

The architect finishes this latest design and, as soon as the ink is dry, places it in the vault with the 
rest.  He creates them for a future time, a less sordid time, when men will know better than to cut
their initials into historic hand-carved woodwork, or pry tiles loose from priceless mosaics, or rub 
their filth into pristine girls, until those treasures wind up degraded and impregnated and unable to 
stop the ruin spreading from within.  Those girls lose their sense of sanctity.  Those girls disappear 
into the rusted wreckage of cities and never surface again, never call their fathers to let them know 
how they are, not even at Christmastime.

The architect’s eyes burn.  He rinses his stylus and switches off the lamp above his drafting table, 
then feels his way to the cot he keeps nearby.  He must rest for awhile, he concedes, but not for 
long, because there is much work left to do.  He waits for sleep to arrive, and dreams.  

The dream that comes is his favorite, the one about the future, when his plans are unearthed, and 
the finders set out to build his many perfections just as he had envisioned them, beyond the reach of 
any mote of dust or smudge of finger, and when those better future men finish their construction, 
their joy echoes endlessly down marbled halls, and their daughters stand with them, at their sides, 
draped in white linen, the smooth bottoms of their feet barely touching polished floors.


Joe Kapitan is an architect from northern Ohio, and father of a young daughter, but has never been a claims adjuster. His short fiction has appeared online in Smokelong Quarterly, PANK, Emprise Review and others, and is pending print publication in Fractured West.
 



This piece came to me very quickly, without me understanding exactly why it was coming to me.  I knew it was somewhat autobiographical in nature (I'm an architect with a young daughter), but it wasn't until later that I saw it as a time capsule addressed to myself; a cautionary tale to be re-read ten years from now, so that I don't make the same mistakes my character did.





 





  


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