While changing my shoes just inside the front door in preparation for walking the dog, I heard the chirping of a cricket. A soft, gentle, undemanding sound -- a pleasing end-of-summer sound. I pushed aside the newspaper I had been sneaking glances at and turned my eyes to the underside of the little stand beside the doorway where the song seemed to be coming from. But I could catch no sight of the singer.
Fingers manipulated shoes and laces now without the help of mind, for my attention was elsewhere; it was on cricket song. Cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep -- a steady, peaceful tune, nearly as smooth, as polished as piano notes. I loved it. A cricket residing inside the house is supposed to bring good luck, and who in his right mind would turn his back on that? But even better than luck tomorrow, a cricket singing inside the house is pure delight today, right now.
PTC In China, I understand, people keep crickets as mascots or pets. Somewhere among the flotsam even in this house is a brass cricket cage someone once gave me as a present. Or did I buy it at a flea market? But I wouldn't think of caging a cricket. I'd prefer letting him be. He's singing to his lady love -- or in quest of a lady love -- using the air waves to send out his ISO ad: Single male cricket ISO female of similar breeding to share house with man and dog. Time is of the essence. Cold weather is on its way.
My change of shoes completed, I called the dog, slipped the chain around his neck and opened the door. As light came flooding in along with fresh air, there, at my feet, I saw the cricket. Shiny armor in gray and black, with two unmistakable catapult cricket-launchers along his flanks. He remained in place for only a split-second. He had been hiding in a crack alongside the metal thresh old, and now, with the door open to the world -- and, presumably, to some responsive female cricket -- he used those catapults to launch himself into the outdoors.
I tried to catch him. Singers in my house -- real ones, not electronic ones -- are not plentiful. I would throw him back inside the house. He had alighted on the concrete porch where he was standing without motion. All I had to do -- easy now -- was reach down slowly with cupped hand -- easy now -- and encircle him.
Too slow! He must have seen the cupped hand coming. A burst of movement, a quick arc in the air -- and he landed on the porch next door. I followed where he landed and made another pass, but again he launched clear, this time clean off the porch and into the grass, where I lost him.
Too bad. A fled singer, a lost good-luck charm. Well, maybe there will be another. This is the season for crickets -- from now until it turns very cold and they can't survive out of doors.
I caught the end of the leash and started off with the dog on our rounds. As we walked, I thought of crickets -- of insects in general: how we humans abhor insects in our houses -- most of us, even crickets. It is unpleasant, seeing insects crawling about. And I'm told crickets do do some damage, taking tiny nibbles out of the rug. But in my house, with my factory-made rugs, there's not much cause for concern.
Rags and I made our usual circuit and in less than an hour were back. By then I had forgotten about the lost cricket and the delight and good luck he would not be bringing me. I had other things on my mind.
Back on the porch, I slipped the key into the lock and pushed open the door. Inside, everything -- those other shoes I didn't wear, the tousled newspaper I had sneaked glances at -- were just where I had left them. But looking down I saw some strange kind of activity.
Below where the door had stood, at the threshold, as if they had been waiting for me to return and open the door, were not one but two shiny black and gray crickets. They were standing peacefully side by side, like partners. And once the door had swung back, as if they felt perfectly at home in my house -- as if they were part owners of the place -- they leaped over the threshold together and into the room.
Was this the same cricket, accompanied by another that had replied to his ISO ad? No way for me to know.
I held the door open an extra moment and watched as they disappeared inside. Then I entered with the dog and shut the door.
I don't know where in the house they are hanging out. I hear occasional singing, first from one corner and then another. Does a cricket continue singing after he has had a reply to his song? Has the original cricket -- if it is indeed he -- invited more of his
cricket friends to move in?
I don't know. I choose to believe that during these weeks of late summer and early fall, I will be getting a double portion of both music and good luck.
?3 Isaac Rehert is a retired Baltimore Sun writer.