Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 1
Spring 2010


Paul Lisicky


After Morris Lapidus’ rendering of the International Trade Center

The speedboat I’m in barely makes a wake. The captain keeps his clothes on. I don’t mind standing beside him in this swimsuit, because your eye goes only to the finger that’s pointing ahead. It was never about the buildings, though they’re as shapely as dresses. It was never about the plants and flags: they’re only in the way. It’s what you can’t see that makes you want it, which is why you’re relieved the dream stays just a dream. Isn’t it better that the bay we’re passing through never burns our nostrils with oil, never uglies our drinking supply, never rises higher than the seawall, slopping the parks and lights and trees? Just a blue, tranquil mirror intended to lengthen and stretch. Everything poised on becoming, which is where we always wanted to be. And though the palm beside us looks like it might murder us—Look! Three times taller than the towers in the distance!—what it wants of us is wonder: to empty us out that we might start all over again.



When the woman at the fancy dinner dismissed the populist modernist houses that he so loved, she probably didn’t know that she was committing murder. But if she did know, she did it with maximum efficiency, as if by taking down the glass walls, the posts and beams, the leafy atriums, she was dismantling everything they stood up against: darkness, meanness, the small constricted ways of the past. And just when he thought he couldn’t stand it anymore, she let him know with a subtle smile that her sister had demolished one of those same houses to build a monster house—not that she called it that—to the consternation of her neighbors on the street.


A Little Murder

Years before my teenage brother had collected enough mid-century modern furniture to fill up a three-bedroom summerhouse and then some, he bought a small teak figure resembling a Nordic explorer. He was twelve then. It wasn’t long before he’d outgrown such simple taste and advanced to the next level, sophistication the order of the day: McCobb, Bertoia, Eames, Finn Juhl. As if to prove this to my mother and me, he held the little man in the air, daring us to stop him. His smile pulled in four directions at once: part triumph, part despair, part relief, part hatred. But in spite of our cries, he slammed the man against the wall. And when that didn’t do it, he slammed it once again. We watched in awe as the head broke off, the shiny wooden torso rolling to the corner of the room. The house went quiet. Outside, beside the dock, an egret gave a little laugh. How could we be connected to something so spoiled and sick? What was ahead for us? Weren’t we done for? We couldn’t yet see that he needed to get it first before it got him, which is the way we are with perfection.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury