By: Susanna Daniel
January 5, 2019

One in a 2018–2019 series of posts reprinting stories originally written — by 12 HILOBROW contributors and friends — for Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s 2009–2010 anthropological-literary experiment SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS. See below for more info about this ongoing project.



In the game of water polo, the goalie must be strong enough to rise from the water and stay vertical without sinking, to track the ball and lunge for it. This was the position I played for one season, when I was a sophomore in high school. I tried out because Stacia Kaminski mentioned me to Coach Mackey, and he called me in.

My father had told me once — he was watching a nature show at the time, and I’d made the mistake of walking into the room — that it’s better to be a shark than a seal. When Stacia Kaminski approached me, after a soccer scrimmage in which I’d scored four goals, this is what I told her. She said, “You’re strong, and I bet you can swim like a fish,” and I said, “Better to be a shark than a seal.”

It was the most I’d spoken all day, maybe all week. In my house no one talked, though every so often my father hollered at the TV, or at my mother. After my first match — we won — Stacia handed me a pink gift bag with a white bow on it, and inside were these two pens. She said now I didn’t have to choose.

I didn’t realize how much other families talked until Stacia took me to her house. Her father was in the garage when we arrived, and Stacia told me he was building an airplane that he would fly himself. When her mother called him for dinner, he came to the table wearing a headlamp. Mrs. Kaminski reached over and turned it off. “Who are you?” he said to me. Stacia told him. “Let me tell you something,” he said. “That plane’s got one hundred and ten thousand, five hundred and ninety-three parts, total.” He laced his fingers together. “Guess how many pieces were missing when those boxes arrived.”

“How many?” I said quietly.

“Eight hundred and forty-two. I went through every box, counting. I made a list. I called the company and they sent the pieces. They overnighted them, which gave me a chuckle. But you can’t make something if you don’t have all the ingredients. Like this lasagna. Right, honey?”

“That’s right!” said Mrs. Kaminski, and Stacia’s father went on: the cheese, both ricotta and mozzarella; the tomatoes; croutons for the salad. I thought at the time — and still I think it, though I’ve learned to stand on my feet in the world, to speak my thoughts, even to chit-chat—that he was the most interesting person I’d met.

Stacia invited me again the next week, then the next. Every time, Mr. Kaminski wore his headlamp and Mrs. Kaminski said grace. After Stacia’s accident — they said what happened to her was something called shallow water blackout, and they blamed Coach Mackey, who’d taught us to hyperventilate before going under — Mr. Kaminski called my house and invited me for dinner. If I could find my way, he said, I was welcome. So that week and every week until I graduated, I took the bus to their house, and I helped set the table, and I spoke when spoken to, and I listened. Sometimes while he was talking, Mr. Kaminski wept a little. I watched the tears sink from his eyes to his lips, which kept moving.


ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE: Ben Greenman on SMILING MUG | Dean Haspiel on KENTUCKY DISH | Doug Dorst on RUSSIAN FIGURE | Kurt Andersen on SANTA NUTCRACKER | Matt Brown on CRUMPTER | Chris Adrian on KANGAMOUSE | Nicholson Baker on MEAT THERMOMETER | Rachel Axler on FORTUNE-TELLING DEVICE | Sean Howe on PABST BOTTLE OPENER | Susannah Breslin on NECKING TEAM BUTTON | Tim Carvell on ROUND BOX | Susanna Daniel on SHARK AND SEAL PENS

SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018). 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE . ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.

CURATED SERIES at HILOBROW: UNBORED CANON by Josh Glenn | CARPE PHALLUM by Patrick Cates | MS. K by Heather Kasunick | HERE BE MONSTERS by Mister Reusch | DOWNTOWNE by Bradley Peterson | #FX by Michael Lewy | PINNED PANELS by Zack Smith | TANK UP by Tony Leone | OUTBOUND TO MONTEVIDEO by Mimi Lipson | TAKING LIBERTIES by Douglas Wolk | STERANKOISMS by Douglas Wolk | MARVEL vs. MUSEUM by Douglas Wolk | NEVER BEGIN TO SING by Damon Krukowski | WTC WTF by Douglas Wolk | COOLING OFF THE COMMOTION by Chenjerai Kumanyika | THAT’S GREAT MARVEL by Douglas Wolk | LAWS OF THE UNIVERSE by Chris Spurgeon | IMAGINARY FRIENDS by Alexandra Molotkow | UNFLOWN by Jacob Covey | ADEQUATED by Franklin Bruno | QUALITY JOE by Joe Alterio | CHICKEN LIT by Lisa Jane Persky | PINAKOTHEK by Luc Sante | ALL MY STARS by Joanne McNeil | BIGFOOT ISLAND by Michael Lewy | NOT OF THIS EARTH by Michael Lewy | ANIMAL MAGNETISM by Colin Dickey | KEEPERS by Steph Burt | AMERICA OBSCURA by Andrew Hultkrans | HEATHCLIFF, FOR WHY? by Brandi Brown | DAILY DRUMPF by Rick Pinchera | BEDROOM AIRPORT by “Parson Edwards” | INTO THE VOID by Charlie Jane Anders | WE REABSORB & ENLIVEN by Matthew Battles | BRAINIAC by Joshua Glenn | COMICALLY VINTAGE by Comically Vintage | BLDGBLOG by Geoff Manaugh | WINDS OF MAGIC by James Parker | MUSEUM OF FEMORIBILIA by Lynn Peril | ROBOTS + MONSTERS by Joe Alterio | MONSTOBER by Rick Pinchera | POP WITH A SHOTGUN by Devin McKinney | FEEDBACK by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FTW by John Hilgart | ANNOTATED GIF by Kerry Callen | FANCHILD by Adam McGovern | BOOKFUTURISM by James Bridle | NOMADBROW by Erik Davis | SCREEN TIME by Jacob Mikanowski | FALSE MACHINE by Patrick Stuart | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 MORE DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE (AGAIN) | ANOTHER 12 DAYS OF SIGNIFICANCE | UNBORED MANIFESTO by Joshua Glenn and Elizabeth Foy Larsen | H IS FOR HOBO by Joshua Glenn | 4CP FRIDAY by guest curators