In my dream Leonardo DeCaprio turned into a rat after falling into a storm drain

near where I slept. Leo the rat crawled out and said I think my body’s gone. I told

him no, you’re just a rat now. I looked around for a blanket but my arm was frozen,


immobile. Outside it was minus 17 degrees, and Dad’s house is more than 150

years old, so the weather crept into every crevice, and my right arm had fallen

out of the covers. The old furnace struggled to warm the house wherever pesky


drafts pushed their way past paltry insulation. It’s warmer upstairs where I sleep,

and guilt seeps in with the cold since my dad and his wheelchair are stuck downstairs,

his donated bed from the legion set up in the living room, where he watches his PBS,


today a show about how Miami is sinking into the ocean. He sleeps in his clothes–

a tee shirt, flannel shirt, wool jacket, knit cap with the flag and colors of Finland,

where his father’s family is from. I brought him another blanket when he went to bed–


a heavy one, I pushed it to the side and folded it long ways so he could easily pull it

to cover himself. He only had a knit throw my aunt Carmen made him– crocheted

squares the green, purple and orange colors of Girl Scout cookie boxes. As I settled


upstairs into sleep I heard him mutter over the baby monitor, left set up from when

he first came home after breaking his hip and he couldn’t get up by himself. It feels

wrong to still listen in on him like this. He was repeating I don’t get it, I don’t get it,


and I went downstairs to find he’d struggled with the blanket, it’s heavy, he said, but

he’d settled it just fine by himself. I slept well, he says in the morning, but I didn’t,

tossing in the bed my parents once shared, missing my husband’s warmth, missing


waking to my mother’s laugh. I listen to the grumbles and creaks and bangs from

ancient radiators, the shifting of the aging bones of the rafters, the skittering shuffle

of mice hiding in the old walls to avoid the killing cold.

Svea Barrett, 60, lives in Rochelle Park, NJ. She is a retired NJ public high school teacher. She is on Facebook and Instagram, but her poetry is not. She has a chapbook "Why I Collect Moose," a book "I Tell Random People About You," and is published in various online and print magazines.