Friday, June 8, 2012
A FB friend posted the other day about an adventure with a bat in the house--which got me thinking.
Our fear of bats. Surely there's something primal about it--a winged thing whirling around your head. A winged thing with teeth and a bad rap for rabies. (Do bats have rabies more than we do?) And the term "vampire bat" does not evoke images of Edward Cullen, sans shirt, staring into Bella's adoring eyes but of some little furry thing affixed to your neck at night--or feeding on your sleeping infant in the next room ...
We've always lived in old houses. So we've always had to deal with bats. The scene is the same: We turn off the lights, we sigh with contentment as we ready our innocent minds for sleep, and then ... a whirring of wings in the dark. Nothing quite like it to send Sleep scurrying for the exits.
I am a base coward. No question about it. (So was Hamlet, though, so I'm in good company: "Am I a coward?" the Melancholy Dane asks himself--and, many lines later, acknowledges that he is.)
I am a miserable coward. But I do not scream. I have standards. But when that familiar flap commences in the night, I am battling Joyce to see who will be the first out of the room, the first to slam the door.
I know it's not PC, but I've used weapons against bats. My tennis racket worked well. Very well--better, actually, that it did on the court.
In later years, though--more educated now, more ecologically alert, more in tune with my Thoreauvian inner self--I have tried not to hurt the little fuzzy fanged creatures, but to encourage them to, you know, go outside and play.
This I (not "we"--Joyce waits respectfully in the other room while I disinvite the bat(s)) accomplish by heading back into the room, racket in hand (for self-defense only), open a window, retreat once again. And wait. It generally works.
Recently, though, when they tore down an old elementary school near us, the bats that had called it home for generations had to find new digs. The school was two blocks from our house. Convenient. We heard them at night, early in the morning, up in the attic, doing whatever bats do when they're making that scratching sound. This time, clearly, we had more than one.
A call to a bat guy solved the problem and siphoned away from our puny savings account some money we'd not really planned to used for bat-eviction.
But I temporize.
Here's the main story: We were living in Aurora in the early and mid-1990s, one of the oldest houses in town (built 1826). In a way, I guess, the bats belonged there more than we did. Every fall--every single fall--I was using my tennis racket to usher them back out into the night.
But one night ... we had a particularly insistent fellow who pugnaciously declined my racket-invitation to depart. He was a quick and agile little fellow, and soon I wearied of the war. He flew out of our room; I yelled for Joyce (cowering somewhere); she sprinted for our room; we slammed the door; got some restless sleep disturbed by dark dreams of what Mr. Bat was up to.
But we humans are nothing if not masters of self-deception: He'll just go out the way he came in, I said to myself and to Joyce, who had the decency to agree with this patent nonsense.
Next morning, very carefully, I went looking for Mr. Bat--always looking high (lamp fixtures? windows? bookcases?) as the Internet advised. Nothing. Nowhere. No how.
I was right! He went out the way he came in!
We took our showers, got dressed, prepared for the day. And then--from downstairs--I heard Joyce's cry: Dan! Dan!--never a good sound to hear.
I hurried down to the kitchen, where I saw Joyce pointing at the electric mixer. An archetypal image: someone in terror, straight arm extended, pointing at the source, usually a vampire or a zombie or ... an electric mixer?
I walked over. Looked inside the stainless steel bowl.
And saw Mr. Bat.
Whose claws could get no purchase on the stainless. No way out.
No, I did not turn the mixer on. That's unconstitutional.
Off he went, without even a thank-you.
And, certain he would come after me, rabid fangs dripping ... rabies, I sprinted shamelessly for the house. Slammed the door behind me. Then realized the obvious: He would be back. Oh yes, he would be back!