I’m pretty sure I don’t owe any of them money, but evidently, I’ve got dead relatives hanging out all around my house.
Cardinals, you see – not those that vote on a new pope, but rather, the ones, also is crimson dress, however, with a way cooler pompadour hairdo.
I have long heard that should you see a male, red cardinal, it is a sign that a dead relative is visiting. And the first time this happened was my very first night alone at the farm.
Paul was still in California, winding up his business before making his third cross-country drive to join me (his second, I kid you not, was driving a U-haul full of his wine collection because he did not trust a regular shipping company not to park in the sun and turn it all into lighter fluid), and so I spent the first night, alone, in utter terror as I was used to falling asleep to the blaring, “white noise” of what passes as a Los Angeles night: sirens, car alarms, hovering helicopters shining blazing lights through the windows in search of a suspect, OJ tearing through the neighborhoods ... and certainly not the deepest quiet I had ever experienced. If I heard a twig snap outside my South Carolina window, I sat bolt upright, like Jason in “Friday the 13th,” coming back alive regardless of the meat cleaver in his head, absolutely sure that a murderer lurked outside the window and not a deer, stepping delicately into the woods.
And so it was just before 6 a.m. that I was snapped back awake to the first, rosy, fingers of a morning sky, after a night of fitful sleep.
I had heard a crash against the guest room window.
Startled, I pulled the covers to my chest and promptly dislodged four cats to the floor.
A second crash was heard, this time, in the back of the house and a third, a nano-second later, upon the front, storm door.
“What the heck is that?” I whispered to no one. I didn’t own a cellphone in 1999 and hadn’t yet put in an extension in the master bedroom. My mind whirled with a dozen possibilities, settling on the potential of this being the ghost of a former resident, a drug dealer, who had died in the hot tub (we nicknamed him, “Stew”), but a ghost I could handle. An escaped convict, trying to break into my house, was another thing altogether.
Looking for a weapon, I chose a decorative golf putter I had been given, by way of appreciation, for taking part in a celebrity charity golf tournament in Phoenix (if you call taking part lolling in a golf cart drinking cape cods and watching the action), some years before.
Descending the front stairs in the dark, dressed for action in a sweat shirt, Hello Kitty gym shorts and thick tube socks, I hunched over my brandished putter, ready to launch someone’s head into orbit.
Which, really, would require a driver.
Luckily, for the escaped convict, my eyes were instantly diverted to the real culprit: a male cardinal flinging himself against the front window, while in the back of the house, another one was doing the same thing. And on the side of the house, a third was battering the french doors.
Dead relatives abound! Or, according to “The Book of Totems,” a sign of nobility and strength.
I would surmise perhaps also a sign of a concussion after slamming into your exact reflection countless times in a futile attempt to exorcise your evil twin away from your new girlfriend.
I hadn’t felt that sort of relief since knowing I wouldn’t have to actually have to take part in a “Good Morning America” cooking segment and, one hand against my heart, the other, behind me, guiding my shaking knees to the couch, I began to chuckle at my situation.
As I type, there is a cardinal balanced precariously upon slender branch that scrapes against our front window, using his head as a battering ram against his foe. Call him a sign or a symbol, or whatever you like.
My cats, watching feverishly from the coffee table, call him dinner.
Reach PAM STONE at firstname.lastname@example.org.