Batting down the hatches

It happened again! I’m not sure how; I’m not sure why. I thought I was careful -obsessive, almost- but there you have it, The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men gang aft agley, as a barely understandable friend of mine once put it.

At any rate, I checked all the usual culprits – a torn screen here, a door ajar there; shining a flashlight from at least 15 feet below them, I even checked to make sure all 6 skylights were intact: they were… But, even with every light switch I could find turned on, and fresh cataractless eyes staring into the infinite void of the star-filled sky beyond, it was hard to be sure. Of course, as with any Science, certainty is seldom achieved; we mostly console ourselves with probabilities. I mean, look at quantum theory, eh?  Okay, I don’t understand that either, but you take my point.

Perhaps I should rely, instead, on the favourite aphorism of Sherlock Holmes: When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Working with that inscrutable logic, it occurred to me that the bat couldn’t just have materialized, nor would it probably have been the result of something like Scrooge’s explanation for seeing Jacob Marley’s ghost: an undigested piece of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, or a fragment of an underdone potato (I’d had a re-heated left-over piece of salmon and some microwaved rice for dinner).

The only factor common to the other bat debuts to which I had been privy, was the spinning ceiling fan in my  bedroom… again! I should have known better than to turn it on; like a magician pulling a bouquet of flowers from her sleeve at a children’s birthday party, my fan has a proclivity for creating bats, although from whence I cannot say. But, short of sleeping in the increasingly tepid water of the bathtub, or risking the mosquitoes on the porch, there didn’t seem to be other options.

And no, I don’t have an air conditioner; I live on a little mountainous island near the mainland of southern British Columbia -not in Abu Dhabi or wherever- so until recent years, an AC would have been bored just hanging on the outside wall as it slowly rusted in the rain. And anyway, I shouldn’t have to make excuses for turning on the ceiling fan: like any machinery, it’s not just for show, and much like my bicycle, I figure it needs exercise every so often. I look upon it as a proof of concept.

But back to the bat. Because I thought I had learned my lesson[i], I have been careful about any trips to the patio outside my bedroom. Before I open the door on a summer evening (when the bats from the barn seem to awaken like Rip Van Winkle to hunt for insects… okay, I’m not exactly sure what Winkle hunted, to tell the truth…) I thoroughly check the area just outside. Then, with what I think of as a practiced swoop, I crack the door open, squeeze through and shut it quickly in one smooth, but lightning-quick movement. Nothing could sneak in with me on bat-duty like that.

So, because of my obsessive anti-bat rituals, I was loathe to believe there had been a break-in under my watch. But the sight of a small, dark, whirling, terrified form whizzing around the room in its haste to escape left little to the imagination… Uhmm, actually, I did wonder if it might be that of a sparrow waylaid by the light in my bedroom on its way home from a feast somewhere, but I had no idea how a bird, let alone a little bat could have made it  through my defences. Oh, and the way it was able to cling to my wooden walls like a bat seemed to argue against an inebriated bird flying home at night.

I thought when the fluttering stopped it must have flown to another room in vain hopes of succour, and I closed the door to the hall so I could get some sleep. Neither of us would sleep however; we were both trapped in same room.

Fearing rabies, or the white-nose syndrome they get, I performed my swoop out the bedroom door to find a net in the garage. Unfortunately, the only net I had was intended to capture something considerably larger and slower  than a bat, and anyway the aluminum strut that held it open was broken. Still, beggars and choosers, eh?

I gloved up (you never know with bat teeth), lugged the net into the bedroom with a noisy and inelegant swoop, and waited until my wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie (in the words which the same barely understandable friend of mine might have used) noticed me again and panicked.

I suppose I should have turned the fan off before I swung the broken wobbly net around the room, but I was focussed on the bat, eh? As it made a pass near the fan, I struck with a mighty swipe, and the fan short-circuited. So, as it happened, did the bat, and somehow managed to tangle itself in the unlikely strands of the net as both dropped to the floor.

When I kneeled beside it, to see if it was still alive, I could see how very small it was. Much smaller than previous visitors, I wondered if it could be a baby bat, out on its first hunting trip, and inadvertently separated from the pack, or whatever they call them. Maybe it had not yet completed its echo-location training but had begged its mother to take it along anyway to watch how it was done; some mothers fall for that sort of nagging… well, mine only agreed to anything if I ate all my porridge and had cleaned up my room -but that’s a species-thing, isn’t it?

Anyway, fully gloved (teeth), and holding my breath (white nose and rabies prevention), I picked the tiny creature out of the net as carefully, and softly as I could, and threw it out the patio door into the heavy warm air of an August heatwave.

It wasn’t there in the morning, so I have to hope that its mother found it, and not a prowling cat. Or maybe, like used to happen in the bedtime stories I made up for my kids, it had learned an important lesson, flown back to the barn, cleaned up its roost, and never nagged its mother again.

I can’t help it, though; I worry about the little bat…

Still thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e’e.
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

Okay, I googled it, eh?



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