On Tuesday, the house began to fall apart. It started with the roof. A steady noise. The rhythmic scraping of terracotta, followed by silence and a dull thud. We were in the living room at the time. It must have been a little after six, because we were watching the main stories on the news. Tony was in his chair. I was sprawled on the couch. We didn’t say anything to each other. We just looked up, furrowed our brows and padded outside in our bare feet. The roof tiles were shifting out of place and sliding to the ground, quietly landing on the damp grass. We circled the house with the wheelbarrow. At first, we rushed beneath the tiles to try to catch them. They would land heavily and shatter. The terracotta clashed unbearably against the metal of the wheelbarrow, broken shards flying too close to our faces.
We slowed our pace and let the tiles fall to the ground, gathering the pieces like eggs nestled in a bed of hay. We placed them in the garden, in a pile. When the pile became too big, we started a new one. And another. Soon, small red heaps were dotted around the yard. That night, I lay in bed and listened to the tiles still dropping. I watched as the roof opened up above us, revealing more and more pieces of sky.
When I woke, wooden beams were all that remained of the roof. Tony suggested that we call someone about it, but instead we just sat at the kitchen table, barely noticing when the first trickles of sawdust came drifting down. We sat in silence. Tony went and got a teaspoon so we could fish the sawdust out of our cups of tea.
“We’re going to need some cups with lids,” I said.
“I’ll add them to the list. You should ask your sister to come over.”
“Yeah. She fixes stuff, right?”
I called my sister. She came over in the afternoon, while Tony was at work. I showed her around the house and she looked at the damage. I told her I was getting worried. If things continued like this for much longer and there would be nothing left.
“There’s no need to worry,” she said. “This is completely normal. You can’t expect things to be fine straight away. It’ll take a while.”
“I have no roof.”
“So, get a tarp.”
“Can’t you do anything to fix it?”
“Well… I guess there’s some things I can do to try and slow down the damage. No promises though. I’ll have to go back to the workshop and grab a few…”
I stopped listening and focused on sweeping the sawdust from the furniture to the edges of the living room. As my sister left, she reassured me that everyone’s thoughts were with us. She had told everyone that my home was disintegrating. My sister said that they would come and visit eventually, once things were a little more stable. That was how she put it.
That evening, Tony came home with bags of supplies to guard us against the weather. We tried to staple plastic sheeting to the walls, stretching it out across the room as a makeshift ceiling, but the staples wouldn’t hold. Tony tried plastering it to the bricks with electrical tape, but it peeled away. I nailed the sheets to the wall, but the plastic tore and fell to the ground. Superglue hardened without adhering. Twine unraveled of its own accord. Our temporary roof refused to stay put. Eventually we stopped trying and just draped the sheeting over some chairs. We sat underneath, our dinners on our laps, waiting for the forecast rain.
By Thursday, the walls began to crumble. The bricks would turn to rubble, one by one, leaving small windows scattered in the walls. The wind would blow through the house, and each vacancy would hum at a slightly different pitch. Sometimes, they would combine into a melody that was vaguely familiar, but we couldn’t pin down where we remembered it from. Tony thought it sounded like the old theme from the ABC news. I said that it was more like the noise my dad made when he yawned, but Tony said that that was the same tune, anyway.
As more bricks disappeared, there were fewer notes. The sound began to converge into an ever-louder drone. Tony and I were standing by the entrance when the last of the bricks decomposed. It was early morning. There was a moment of uneasy quiet. Then, in unison, the doors and windows toppled out of their frames and on to the ground, sending up a cloud of dust. It settled, and I saw Tony turn towards me.
“We can’t stay here anymore. There’s nothing left.”
I didn’t respond. I sat down, closed my eyes, and listened as the last grains of the frame drifted away like sand.