It was with the exhaustion of 40-hours-in-transit that I collapsed onto my chair this evening after a halfhearted trip to the crappy grocery store. The crappy grocery store is positively Soviet in the emptiness of its shelves (they spread out the toilet paper – one pack every couple of feet – so that the 15 that they’ve got take up the whole aisle. It adds a certain allure to each 4-pack. Marketing Charmin like its Chanel). It’s not the best option in town, as it proved once again, but the crappy supermarket is close and it was very cold and I was very, very tired.
I’d been on an insulating frenzy all afternoon, between breaks from work. I’d come back to a frigid Georgia laden with a Home Depot haul of thick foam runners and sticky insulating tape, and foam filler spray cans and heat-activated window shrink wrap. The wind was gusting banshee wild all day and up in my attic it felt as though a thousand little straws had pincushioned the flat and somebody was blowing tight arctic kisses through them all. I’d followed countless leaks back to their sources, smothered them in foam and tape and plastic. But there were always more.
So, after a day of this, exhausted and jet lagged, I settled into the chair to goof around on the internet. I was settling into a happy comfort when suddenly WHOOSH! A meteorite flash diagonal across the room. ZOOM. Before my brain could register WHOOSH it zipped back, tracing a long deep ‘U’ across the room, just behind my head.
I, dear reader, hit the deck. Jet lag forgotten. Jack rabbit instincts taking over. Have I ever moved so fast? I army crawled to the corner, gasping, panting. Over my shoulder, a horror. I saw the chair I’d just vacated under aerial assault. Again, and again, speed so lightning fast you could barely make out wings, barely make out color. But I’m not an Austin grad for nothing. I know bat when I see bat.
I watched from my curled-up ball in the corner in absolute, unmitigated terror as this mad creature bombed about like a ricocheting bullet. Every ten swoops or so he’d pause for a breather. This was incomprehensible. This was the worst thing that could happen. I cannot solve this. I am near the front door, I can just leave. But I am in my pajamas. And it’s well below freezing.
The bat was in a frenzy. I had no idea how fast they were. My ceilings, you should know, are not exactly towering. In fact, this being an attic, they dramatically slant until they meet the ground. There was not room for two of us in this joint. I knew I had to let him out, it was the only way. But the scorched earth between me and the nearest window was treacherous in the extreme, unavoidably violating the airspace my nocturnal friend had claimed for himself. I sat there, completely uncertain as to whether I could will my limbs to move. Once or twice they ignored me, giving me a chance for a second thought about locomotion into the batswoop.
Finally, I crept out of my foxhole, hyperventilating, terrified, knowing at the smallest fraction of any second it would swoop again, right over me. Somehow I made it to the window, raised one arm towards the latch and then WHAM threw the window open, took a sideways dive for the floor, just as the bat loosed itself from its roost and swooped straight for me. I screamed as I hit ground and slithered over to my bedroom.
It was tempting in the extreme to shut the bedroom door and never leave. The bedroom had been out of bat path and I wanted to keep it that way. The problem is, I realized, if I do not watch the bat go out that window with my own eyes, I will not ever sleep again. So I sat on the floor in the door way of my bedroom and observed. There was silence. The silence stretched for ages. It hadn’t flown out, I was sure of it. I grew bolder. I opened a second window, creating a cross breeze. Now the tiny arctic kisses I’d hunted and plugged one-by-one were of little concern. Bellowing frigid winds sent my pendant lamps swinging wildly, the shadows on the ground mimicking those of the bat, rendering me perpetually panicked. I’d freeze for nights if I have to, I thought sternly. But I will watch that bat go out the window. I kept my vigil, stubbornly welcoming in the deep winter. In the corner my little heater hummed plaintively. Still, nothing.
Finally, I got out for a proper look. I turned all the lights on so I could see my little bomber, not wanting to see him at all, not wanting to have anything to do with him, but unable to wait him out forever. Finally I spotted him. High up on the wall, a small brown rectangle about four inches long looking nothing at all like a winged creature. He’d been there quite a long time, but I thought it was one of the many holes in the wall cut for wiring and never patched. I stared at him, not wanting to see him at all. It was agonizing. I wanted him to move so that he’d fly out my windows and leave me to my heaters, still ineffectually puffing against the wintry onslaught. But if he moved I would just die, I would shriek and die, and would probably dive and not see him leave a window, and live forever in terror. I briefly considered moving out again. Everything was ruined, that was for sure.
But then two things occurred to me: (1) my landlady lives downstairs. And (2) my landlady has a husband. I called her at once:
“Oh hey, you’re back, huh?”
“Tatia, there is a BAT up here.”
“Yeah, great huh?”
“What? Did you hear what I just said?”
“I hear you fine.”
“I said there is A BAT IN THE HOUSE.”
“A WHAT? How?! Did you leave the window open?”
“Tatia, it’s like negative 8, do you think I’m crazy?”
“Are you scared?”
“I am TERRIFIED!”
“I’ll send my husband up. I can’t come!”
Relieved to longer be alone with my nightmare, I kept a bloodhound watch on the greasy furball clinging to my wall. Don’t even think about it, sucker, I thought. Oh I was very brave now. I had backup.
Soon enough, the husband came trundling upstairs. He was marvelous. Exactly as brave and decisive as you hoped he’d be, but no macho posturing. After some consideration, he shut the windows and decided he would have to capture it in a bucket. This was madness. Catch it? A bat? Can you do that? What if the thing took off as he approached it with the bucket? And he had a bat flying directly at his face? The horror was unfathomable. The best thing for me to do, I figured, was to hide in the bedroom so I wouldn’t tip him off to his grisly fate and risk him quitting the field.
From the kitchen he found a plastic bucket and fashioned a sort of lid out of a firm sheet of plastic. I watched through the cracked bedroom door as he crept stealthily towards the wall, no doubt cursing his gender and the bat-catching duties that are its birthright. I couldn’t watch any more. I shut my eyes.
There was a solid thunk as the bucket hit the wall and no screeching followed so I knew he’d won the first round. Kneeling on top of the piano to reach the bat, he slipped the plastic under the bucket and peeled the bat from the wall. It did not take to madly careening around the bucket, for which we were both silently grateful.
Peeling it off the wall, the husband made a run for the window, I opened it, and my little visitor was tipped out onto the eaves where he lay for a while in shock. I knew how he felt.
I started a fire in the fireplace and fell in front of it on my bean bag, comforting myself with handfuls of fudge that my mother had, with great foresight, sent in my bags, a calming taste of a faraway land of central heating and abundant kitchens and no aerial bombardment by flying rodents.