was Irish enough to know that a bird that tried to enter your house
meant death. And here the cardinal was flinging itself at the livingroom
window again, thud, thud, thud at the glass: a stout red bill, a rush
of scarlet feathers.
you crazy bird!" She waved her arms at the intruder. How could
she concentrate on her weaving, with a foolish bird assaulting her window?
It was the third day in a row it had come, and she was mystified. More
than that, she was downright worried.
Now, she didn't
really believe that a bird could bring death, but twice already the
superstition had come true. A blackbird had flown into her grandfather's
workshop in Ballyvaughan, Ireland, and the next day the old man was
dead of a massive heart attack. And at Aunt Bridget's funeral, a sparrow
darted through an open window, circled the casket three times, and flew
out. Of course Bridget was already dead, so it wasn't quite such a concern.
But it proved the superstition; her mother had reminded her of that.
Here it was again:
wham! bam! Dashing its crimson side against the glass, then its fiery
red beak. She half expected to see a spot of blood on the glass. At
the very least the bird must be brainless by now, she thought, all that
bashing and smashing!
What she really
worried about, though, was her husband Stan. Not that he was superstitious,
oh not at all. He was a pragmatic man. But he was so sensitive, so vulnerable
these days. Always, it seemed, in a bad patch. There he was out in the
orchard now, arguing—or so it seemed—with the orchard manager, Rufus
Barrow. Stan was practically a foot taller than short, stocky, soft-spoken
Rufus. And yet Rufus seemed the more powerful one, feet planted on the
grassy triangle between cider barn and house, arms folded, head tilted
slightly back to make eye contact with Stan.
And not stepping
back, she saw, when Stan shook his fist. What was the matter now? The
cider press not working right? The local pickers dropping too many apples?
They were slower than the others: after all, the Jamaicans were professionals.
And the locals were young: the Butterfield twins, Rolly and Hally; a
tall athletic young woman named Millie from East Branbury, who had an
ailing mother and three other parttime jobs; Adam Golding, tall as a
Knicks player, his ponytail gleaming in the sun like a mass of spilled
coins. Then Emily Willmarth, from the farm on Cow Hill Road. It was
Moira who'd argued with Stan to hire the girl, but she might have made
a mistake. Just this morning she'd seen Emily and Adam whispering together.
Yes, she'd better keep an eye on that one. The boy was in his twenties;
the girl, still in high school.
Now Rufus was wheeling
about, moving doggedly off. He was upset, it was obvious. He wanted
things to go right; there was something almost maniacal the way he ran
the orchard: not a minute to be wasted. He knew exactly what he was
about, he resented Stan butting in. She watched Stan stride down into
the orchard, stop short at the first tree, where Bartholomew, the Jamaican
number one man, was standing on the third rung of a ladder, picking;
Stan shouted up at him, his cheeks red as the apples.
Now she couldn't
have that. She couldn't have Stan taking out his anger on Bartholomew.
The cardinal flung himself at the window again and fueled her with purpose.
She dropped the loom stick, dashed out of the house to intercede.
she cried, "can we talk? We have a problem. I'm going mad with
© 2000 Nancy