by cheri

She should hate bats.

Actually, she should go berserk, like a crazed Norseman of yore, whenever one of those dark-winged drones flaps by her ear at that time when the nocturnal awake–dusk.

She should go crazy because of a past experience that left its mark.

While riding in a school bus packed with the Washington High School’s boys’ varsity swim team, accompanied by its coaches and  one awkward  freshman girl<moi>, someone passed a  wadded-up towel up to the front of the bus, its destination aimed at that  naive person who stupidly opened said towel, only to be met with the gross and (at the time) terrifying body of a dead bat, fully spread-out–wings and all, staring back at her with dead eyes and what appeared to be a tangle of ligaments.

Looking back, she realizes those ligaments were the wings.

The scream which emanated from her soul that day electrified the varsity boys, so much so that during the swim meet, many shaved seconds off their times in the 50 freestyle. Thoroughly humiliated, but never one to shirk her responsibilities, that day she timed their races dutifully, holding a silver stopwatch up and punching it with aplomb at the beginning and ending of each race.

But deep in her psyche, the image of that dead bat found  a dark place to lodge so that for years when dusk approached, when the swallows put up for the night and ceded the sky to their winged counterparts, she retreated inside the house, sure that a bat would get tangled in her hair.

Boating on lakes at dusk or riding her Missouri Foxtrotter, Cricket, back from a glorious evening trail ride, always, her own interior radar pinged, hoping not to intersect with a bat.

She has lived  on the Rancho for twenty years, carving out from an overgrown oak forest and weed-filled meadow, a  tame environment. Gone are the wild boar who rooted her lawn and deer who nibbled her roses. Now that her home is fully fenced, the mountain lions stay far away and the bobcats only occasionally trot across the road at dawn. Skunks, raccoons, opossums, and foxes come to the little creek to drink at night.

To her feathered friends ( owls, finches, hummingbirds, bluebirds, red-tailed hawks, and doves) and enemies (wild turkeys), the fences mean nothing. And then there are the bats.

They live here. So does she. They eat mosquitoes and other bugs.

Last year, she had a change of heart when while  opening up her patio umbrella for the spring.

She cranked the handle clockwise. Silver spokes began to unfurl upward and outward.

The green canvas spread open.

Suddenly, one sleepy little bat, dropped like a stone onto the patio table shaded by the umbrella. Disoriented, he turned on his radar, donned his sunglasses, and fluttered off, into a dark oak tree.

And her heart changed.



About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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21 Responses to Bathos

  1. says:

    Fabulously written!

    Cindy Block Usedom Cindy and Partners

    Cell: 510-501-4140 Office: 925-426-3760

  2. Brighid says:

    Well done, Cheri! Love those little bats, they eat a lot skeeters, and no see’ms…

  3. Good job Cheri. I always looked forward to the evening parade of bats sweeping out on their designated quest for sustenance. With grandsons in tow we would look for them each evening t dusk. I think my resident owl takes care of them now.

  4. Richard says:

    A brisk romp through a full and satisfying life in superb surroundings and no belfry. Even your one demon is subdued.

  5. Christopher says:

    Whence comes our fear of the bat? Well, it’s a flying rodent that flies in the dark, and we’ve always feared viscerally the rodent and the dark.

    As for the fear of getting a bat caught in one’s hair, it’s only women, from my experience, who have this fear. Odd.

  6. Ladybugg says:

    I do not know the answer, but your interpretation makes sense to me. Once, a mouse darted from under my desk in my room at school. At the time, I was teaching freshmen and we were reading The Martian Chronicles. Even though I was an old day-camp counselor, had pet rats, etc. etc. etc., I screamed in front of my students. One boy jumped up, took a coffee can sitting on a shelf, and trapped it. Then, embarrassed, I tried to connect (unsuccessfully) the event to the story we were reading.

  7. wkkortas says:

    Bats? No thanks, even as a country boy who should appreciate their role in the ecosystem ‘n ‘at.

    This piece? Yes, thank you very much.

  8. Ladybugg says:

    I thought of you via Edgar Lee the other night, wk. One of my colleagues delivered his colloquium speech on the poetry of Vachel Lindsay. I had no idea that Edgar Lee Masters wrote a biography on Lindsay, did you?

  9. shoreacres says:

    Wonderful tale, and I was in a completely different neighborhood with your title. I was sure it was a play on “bat-hou(se)” or “bat-ho(stel)”, and the irony was delicious — your fear of the fluttering hordes undone by a bit of bat domsticity.

    In any event, lovely tale. Did you know that you can see bats on radar? There’s a large colony living in a cave outside San Antonio, Every evening in the summer, you can watch them emerge. It looks like a thunderstorm forming, and then it dissipates as they flutter off into the night.

    My only close encounter with a bat came in Liberia, when I found one in my dinner bowl. Fruit bat is considered a tasty treat there, and they really do taste pretty good, since they eat only fruit and such. I was enjoying what I was eating, and didn’t realize what I had until I found the W-shaped wing bones in the bottom of the bowl.

  10. Ladybugg says:

    Thank you, Shoreacres, for your kind review.
    And yes I am quite familiar with bats and their radar. The same black cloud of bats emerges from the caves at Carlsbad Caverns, an “event” which we witnesses while camping there with our children in 1988.

    Your final paragraph with that zinger of a last sentence almost made me put down my oatmeal this morning.

    Oh boy. Not a W-shaped wishbone, for sure.

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