Friday, March 13, 2009

The Rainbow Bridge

"I would destroy it, if I could," Madeline noted.

"Why?" Jacques asked, startled. "It's magnificent! It's beautiful! It took ten thousand men working for ten years to build it!"

"And now it is insurpassable," Madeline said. "Every architect looks up to it and thinks: "How could I ever make anything half so grand as this? How could I ever compare to its creator, the genius Armand? It is the apex, the completion of our profession, with all that entails. It casts no shadow, yet we are always engulfed it in all the same"

"So you would wreck it," Jacques said.

"I would burn it to the ground and pee on the ashes," Madeline told him. "So it is just as well that I shall never be given the power to do so."

Jacques took a moment to collect his thoughts.

"All right," he said. "So - just to remind us of what we're doing. We're off to Saint-Sylvie-of-the-Cross, there to survey a site for a new church. We'll do that, we'll finish our other business there, and we head back. Right?"

"You think that because I confessed that I hate the Rainbow Bridge, I'm going to give up on architecture forever," Madeline said.

Jacques made no response.

"It's not a new dream," Madeline said. "I've been thinking about it for months and months - from before it was even completed. But - I already knew I wasn't the best, wasn't going to be the best. Never going to build the next Fallingwater. It's just - galling, to be faced with it, so bluntly. That's all."

"You know, Fallingwater wasn't structurally stable," Jacques replied.

"Really?" Madeline said, intrigued. "Back at Uni, I took a class that seemed to be half about it, and I never heard that."

"Oh yes," Jacques affirmed. "It's a fairly recent result, from maybe two, three years ago. The guy doing the renovations re-did the numbers, based on the orignal plans, and found that the cantilevers were unstable - as Lloyd designed them, that is."

"Fascinating," Madeline murmured. She looked up at the Rainbow Bridge again; perhaps there was a thin smile on her face. Or perhaps there was not.

The travellers arrived at Saint-Sylvie-of-the-Cross; did the surveying, which found fairly favourable terrain for the erection to come; completed their other task. Then they returned, five days after they'd set out. Thick smoke wafted over the horizon as they drew near.

To the end of his days, Jacques would wonder: was Madeline somehow behind the fire that burned the Rainbow Bridge? Surely not. She was with him when the fire occurred, a full day's journey away from the city. The authorities ruled it an accident, a combination of a careless workman, a storeroom of flammable chemicals at the base of one of the main spans, and inadequate fireproofing on certain of the structural elements. And even if she could have planted some kind of timed firebomb, somehow, before they left; would she have? Would she have, for all her talk?

Surely not.

Jacques never asked.

And Madeline never answered.

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