It started with a brick. It fell following a clear path from the facade of an old house on Bourbon St. and it struck the pavement below. Once the whole wall had fallen down the neighbors would say that Ms. Lacheux, the owner, should have married long ago. That without a family inside, a family estate could not hold up. It was 2014 and the word spinster was still in use in the French Quarter. The old society still held the city together. It flourished in the wrought iron balconies and illuminated pedestrians’ view of the nighttime streets with cannons re purposed as light poles. It was 2014 when one side of the century-old house fell down.
The first thing to rise from the rubble was the ticking of a metronome. It’s hollow clicks louder than ever after being released from a vice of accumulated dust. The neighbors were satisfied to see that the curtains were compromised by moth holes, just as they had imagined. Their rods stuck out in unnatural angles like broken arms struggling to pull the rest of a body from the pile of brick and molding. The metronome continued to sing it’s one rhythmic note as though it would never completely unwind. The neighbors in the French Quarter were satisfied with this as well since it proved that the Lacheux family had been haunted ever since the late Mrs. Lacheaux bought the grand piano that had survived a house fire; it was just as they had imagined. It was 2014 in the French Quarter and the proof of ghosts was everywhere.
And this is how things start: one brick, a couple of words.
When the first brick fell it struck no one. It simply succumbed to it’s age upon impact and left a pile of dust. The first brick fell affecting nothing, so nobody stopped to see where it had come from.
Ms. Lacheaux was not around as usual on the day that the front of her house fell down. Like the thick Louisiana air, gossip fills every absence along Decatur St. So, in the rarely seen Ms. Lacheaux’s case, gossip was the substance of her entire character; at least to her neighbors. They said she was a prostitute, a washed up daughter of fortune. They said she was some kind of lonely haint come back from the bayou to take her parent’s house after their death. But really, the only thing that ever set Ms. Lacheaux apart from everyone else was that she had never tried to be what everyone expected her to be.
The first brick was the only one that fell alone. The others came in groups. The groups grew increasingly larger until the falling bricks pulled everything else down with them. Plaster, dry wall, double pane windows, termites, tiles, patch jobs, everything. The house’s viscera blocked the whole street. What was once a small crack in the wall had grown into a pile of ruin.
A house that is missing one wall looks like a doll house. Everything in it’s right place. The lapsed couches lined up against the remaining walls, books on the book shelf, china in the cabinet. In a dollhouse everything is always kept neatly; in it’s right place for the benefit of the outsiders that will peer inside.
There will be no reconstruction because there is nothing left of the Lacheaux family fortune. Ms. Lacheaux had always known that the money was dwindling and the seemingly random collapse of one side of her childhood home had exceeded even her most wildest expectations. For a few months she lived a naked life in view of all of her neighbors. Then she moved back to her home in the rural void between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Now the slanted words against a woman who was once a spinster but is now a martyr of the city block’s fallen fortune can no longer echo and grow. They no longer bounce off of the bricks that once made up the Lacheaux mansion’s outside wall. Instead they sink into the forgivingly into the deep, worn-out couches.