After the rain, the air in the house smells like death. Ok, maybe decay. The carcasses of mice and birds rot inside the walls, poisoned by long ago tenants, or asbestos covered wires or glass filled insulation. The walls themselves, two hundred year old bricks – clay and mud, moldering away, crumbling, becoming what they were before they were baked.  Even the brick-makers grandchildren are long dead now.

The mice have eaten all the insulation but their fur doesn’t make up for the warmth they’ve stolen. The birds nest in the rafters, in that space, holes in the house, between roof and ceiling. Their restless fluttering over my head at night, feeding my nightmares with sounds of flapping wings too close to my ears.  I have to wear a hat to bed. Protection from the cold and Tippi Hedren’s screams.

If the bricks continue to crumble, if the mice and the birds continue to carve out their own homes, what will remain? Will it all come crashing down, all of us, bricks and birds and mice and me, buried in the muck and mildew of the rain soaked basement, decaying with the mingled bodies of our ancestors?

Will this smell be my last?