They called for more structure . . .

D. Barthelme

 

They called for more structure, then, so we brought in some big hairy four-by-fours from the back shed and nailed them into place with railroad spikes.  This new city, they said, was going to be just jim-dandy, would make architects stutter, would make Chambers of Commerce burst into flame.  We would have our own witch doctors, and strange gods aplenty, and site-specific sins, and humuhumunukunukuapuaa in the public fishbowls.  We workers listened with our mouths agape.  We had never heard anything like it.  But we trusted our instincts and our paychecks, so we pressed on, bringing in color-coated steel from the back shed and anodized aluminum from the shed behind that.  Oh radiant city! we said to ourselves, how we want you to be built!  Workplace democracy was practiced on the job, and the clerk-of-the-works (who had known Wiwi Lönn in Finland) wore a little cap with a little feather, very jaunty.  There was never any question of hanging back (although we noticed that our ID cards were of a color different from their ID cards); the exercise of our skills, and the promise of the city, were enough.  By the light of the moon we counted our chisels and told stories of other building feats we have been involved in: Babel, Chandigarh, Brasilia, Taliesin.

 

At dawn each day, an eight-mile run, to condition ourselves for the implausible exploits ahead.

 

The enormous pumping station, clad in red Lego, at the point where the new river will be activated . . .

 

Areas of the city, they told us, had been designed to rot, fall into desuetude, return, in time, to open space.  Perhaps, they said, fawns would one day romp there, on the crumbling brick.  We were slightly skeptical about this part of the plan, but it was, after all, a plan, the ferocious integrity of the detailing impressed us all, and standing by the pens containing the fawns who would father the fawns who might someday romp on the crumbling brick, one could not help but notice one's chest bursting with anticipatory pride.

 

High in the air, working on a setback faced with alternating bands of gray and rose stone capped with grids of gray glass, we moistened our brows with the tails of our shirts, which had been dipped into a pleasing brine, lit new cigars, and saw the new city spread out beneath us, in the shape of the word FASTIGIUM.  Not the name of the city, they told us, simply a set of letters selected for the elegance of the script.  The little girl dead behind the rosebushes came back to life, and the passionate construction continued.