To the Batmobile….

I can’t really write a book about my life without a little something about my hopes and fears. I have written about my dream of becoming published but I haven’t given any depth of character in terms of what I am afraid of. Here goes. I am afraid of four things; 1) bats, 2) sharks, 3) house fires 4) needles.

I grew up in a house on the river, a property that was a haven for bats. The warm, humid summers, the myriad of overgrown trees, the swampy, mosquito filled tall grasses were forever outlasting, outwitting, outflapping and outplaying our 100+ year old Victorian home. Bats are smart and they are small. They fly in unpredictable patterns, they make a quiet chirping sound when they are flying around your head in your bedroom at 3a.m. and they are impossible to find once they realize you know they are in your house.

We had a bat at one of my birthday parties hanging upside down in between the old storm window pane and the screen.

We found a bat watching us from the bottom of a clear, flower vase, perched on the kitchen window sill one morning while preparing breakfast. They hid behind huge bureaus in the living room, loved curtain rods and as legend suggests, they can collapse their bodies to fit through a crevice as small as a mesh hole in a tea strainer. They carry diseases, they fly, they are furry and they are ugly, ugly, very ugly.

With four kids in our house growing up, my parents eventually caved and put in our own phone line. My mother once called me from my parent’s line at 10 (ish) p.m. panicked. She and my Dad were hiding under their sheets. Her unrecognizable, shaky voice said, “Liz, there’s a baaaaatttt in the house,” followed by a series of squeals and screams. That’s all it took, I bolted out the basement door and waited in the yard. Strange that the only safe place on earth was the place the bats were meant to be in the first place.

I once returned home from working a shift at my summer job as a waitress and the doors and windows in the house were all open, all lights turned on. That was the signal. There was a bat in the house and my parents had run out the back door. The bright lights were meant to deter it from swooping around but they never did. If anything, they magnified the tiny, black, bat bodies making them look like huge crows dive bombing the floor in search of food. They never seemed particularly interested in finding a way out despite our ongoing campaign to keep all exits clearly marked.

My family took to wearing the arm sleeves from our family room couch and chairs over our heads after a sighting. At the very least, if a bat flew at one of us, there was no way they were going to swoop into our hair and get their claws caught like so many unsuspecting people we had read about before us.

After moving out of my house, in my first rental unit in University, one of my roommates discovered we had a mouse. They all moved out but me. Amateurs. Something small, on the ground that I could step over did not bother me in the slightest. Something that could get caught in my hair, bite me, infect me with a painful, lifelong disease that caused my mouth to froth and required a series of excruciating needles, that was something to fear.

Greg witnessed some of the bat shenanigans when we were dating. When things got serious and he tried to spend the night at the house, he ended up apologizing and leaving after the scratching sounds in the ducts were more than his fraidy-cat reflexes could take. To this day, no one believes the wee claw I watched protrude through the vent above my bedroom door, pat down the wall to figure out its surroundings, a la bad mime stuck in small box. I obviously didn’t stick around to watch him collapse himself and slide through the slatted vent or melt the metal with his laser beam eyes.
In our first house, I was at peace living in a new subdivision with all new construction. There was some solace knowing the bricks were new, there were no major gaps in the newly poured cement, the screens were secure, there was no chimney and Greg obeyed the rule of always keeping the dryer door closed as the tricky little devils used to get in through our exterior laundry vent and my Mom would get a bat flapping out of her hamper on more than one occasion while trying to separate the boy’s underwear.

Why then do you suppose a bat ended up under my pillow that fateful night? Here I was, in my bed, in my new home, newly built, not a tree for miles around? (we didn’t realize then what a nice streetscape might have meant for resale value) Was I crazy to think that was actually a bat? Was it a cruel, CRUEL and immature prank?
Could I get up, pack my belongings, write a note of apology to Greg and get out through the garage without being bitten….more than once? I was poised. What if I was wrong? I wasn’t, I looked again and again and tried to smother it with my pillow. If it tried to squeeze through the base of the pillow, well, it probably could, it was a bat, it could get through anything, despite my arms shaking from pushing so hard on the mattress trying to trap any air underneath in the hopes of suffocating the wee monster.

I couldn’t tell Greg there was a bat. He would disrupt its sleep with his boisterous accusations calling me crazy and it would end up suctioned to my neck. I had to deal with this myself. It took every ounce of courage and strength I could muster and after I counted to three Mississippily, I sliced under the pillow at record speeds, a karate chop no black belt could have seen coming. The bat went flying into the bathroom! It was not a dream! I’m not crazy! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!!!!!

The next problem was finding the bat to convince Greg that not only was our new home harbouring a fugitive, that its chosen resting place was in our master bedroom, under my pillow but that I actually made contact with my bare skin and it flew away. He was never going to believe this in a million years. I peeked into the bathroom and there it was lying on the tile floor. He could be dead, I did hit him with adrenalin loaded, super human strength. In front of the bath-tub, probably thinking the warm, moisture from an earlier bubble bath felt like home, he lay still, shaking off the tremendous blow. How dare he come here? Had he been living in my clothes this many years just waiting for the right opportunity to show his filthy, pointy-toothed head? No. In fact, it wasn’t moving on the bathroom floor and once again, heart pounding out of my flannel clad chest, I turned on the light and saw it.

He was fuzzy, he was in a ball, and he was Greg’s sock. The new hole in the toe might have been from my superfly ass-kicking but I had faced my fear and I wasn’t crazy. I did however always remember to shake out the sheets after folding the laundry.

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