Bayou-Picayune Podcast, S02 EP11: The Bat in the House
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It is humbling when a man cannot protect his wife and home from an invading menace that’s smaller than a poodle.
It was a hot August night when I learned I did not measure up to my “manly” gender role. My young wife and I were renting a small house in rural Louisiana.
We were just starting out in life together and had only two pieces of furniture for the four rooms in our house — a dining table in the kitchen and a bed in one of the two bedrooms. The second bedroom was bare, and so, too, was the living room except for the telephone, which we kept on the floor near the front door.
We were watching the late-night news on the small black-and-white TV we kept on the dining room table. My wife was in a chair at the dining table, and I was sitting on the floor with my back against the wall.
Aside from the glow from the TV, the room was dark.
When the news went off, Renee said she was going to bed, so I jumped up and turned on the kitchen light. As I did, I saw something flit around the ceiling. I knew instantly what it was. “There’s a bat in the house!” I shouted.
My wife darted into the bedroom, shut the door and blocked me from entering. “Kill it!” she screamed through the door. “Kill it!”
I looked in the kitchen. It was a bat, sure enough. With its wings outstretched, it looked huge, like it could take in the whole room.
“Kill it!” she continued to scream. “Kill it!”
But I couldn’t kill the thing. It was flying too fast, whisking triumphantly around the room, hitting against the ceiling, the curtains, the walls.
I banged on the door. “I don’t have anything to kill it with!”
She let me in, and I explained to her that I knew nothing about bats except from what I had seen in the movies — that they were blind and flew by a radar and fed on human blood.
Renee, my ever-enterprising wife, went to the closet and, even though it was a hot August night, made me put on my winter coat. She buttoned up the top button on my artificial fur collar so that it covered my neck. There now! The bat wouldn’t be able to suck the blood from my throat.
She studied me. My glasses, she said, protected my eyes, but the bat might go for my hair, so she took out a pair of her pantyhose and put them over the top of my head so my hair was covered.
I stood there, with the legs of the pantyhose hanging down my back. I still wasn’t ready, she said. I needed a weapon.
I was a good tennis player. “My racket!” I said. Maybe I could swat the thing out the air.
She produced my weapon from the closet and gave me a towel for my other hand.
Having armed and clothed her reluctant warrior, she pushed me out the door.
But, when I looked for the bat, it wasn’t there. The damn thing had gone into hiding.
That meant I had to hunt for it. I had to root around the house, look under the table and chairs in the kitchen, shake out the curtains, poke around in the crack between the kitchen counter and the landlord’s refrigerator.
I turned on the light in the living room. Still, no bat.
Then I remembered one place I hadn’t checked.
The previous tenants had cut a hole in the wall to install an outlet for their window air conditioner; and, when they left, they removed not only their air conditioner but also the electric outlet they had installed in the wall. This left a small, rectangular hole where a bat, if it had flown in to the house through an outside vent, might have gotten trapped between the inner and outer walls of the house until it found its way inside through the opening.
I jammed the handle of my tennis racket up into the hole; and, as I soon as I withdrew it, out came the bat! Twice it swooped around the ceiling. Then it attacked me.
I ducked under the table and heard its claws clickety-click against the tabletop. I stumbled out from under the table and threw myself against the bedroom door.
The bat, however, turning away, flew into the empty bedroom, the only room where I had not turned on the light.
I couldn’t see it in there, but I could hear it, flitting loudly around the ceiling and the walls. Maybe I had wounded the thing, I thought. Maybe, when I had shoved the handle of my racket up the hole, I injured one of its wings. It was certainly navigating more loudly and erratically than before.
The light switch was at the other end of the room, but it occurred to me, if I could close the door to the room, I might trap it in there. And that made sense because of something else I remembered about bats from the movies: They were creatures of the night and could not stand the light of day.
I didn’t know this for a fact. Actually, the whole bat incident exposed a hole in my education. I knew nothing about vampires except from what I had learned in the movies.
Still, it suggested a strategy for me. If I trapped this evil creature in the empty bedroom, maybe in the morning God’s light would cripple it or kill it.
There was a problem with this, however. The door to the room did not open into the hall but from the inside, and a thick carpet made it difficult to close that door.
All the same, I soldiered on.
I was only able to pull the door half-closed when the bat dive-bombed at me. Again, I threw myself against our bedroom door, and Renee cracked it open so I could squeeze inside.
The last thing I saw as I looked back was my kamikaze attacker, swooping down at me, aiming at my jugular — coat collar or no coat collar.
Renee slammed the door shut behind me.
I had lost the fight. The bat had won. It controlled three rooms in the house, and we were reduced to one.
Then an argument broke out between my wife and me, our first argument. It concerned the room where we had placed the telephone. When we moved in, Renee wanted the phone in our bedroom, but I objected, saying there wasn’t any room because we didn’t have a nightstand to put it on. It would be better to keep it in the living room where we wouldn’t be constantly kicking it and stepping over it.
“If we had the phone in here,” Renee argued, “then we could call somebody to come and kill the bat.”
Who? I asked. I reminded her it was almost eleven. Who would we call?
“Or the fire department.”
The fire department? How were they going to help?
“They have special helmets. They have protective gear.”
I tried to reason with my wife. The police and fire departments would not come out in the dead of night to rescue a family from a bat in the house.
“All the same, we need to call someone to help us,” she said as she removed the pantyhose from my head, “a man of some kind.”
I had to agree with her about that. We needed a man in the house, and I certainly didn’t see one around.
With Renee insisting we sleep with the lights on, we decided finally to go to bed.
Now there was something neither of us knew at the time. The bat was also in the room, with us.
Apparently, it must have been clinging to my coat collar and was partially crushed against the door jamb when I squeezed into the room. Once inside, the injured bat must have fluttered to the window curtain near my side of the bed and clung there most of the night until finally it lost its grip and fell to the floor.
Neither Renee nor I had seen the bat when it came into the room. Our terrified eyes were fixed on each other.
Anyway, in the morning, the bat’s scratching on the floor woke Renee. And she, in turn, woke me up. Shaking me violently, screaming, shrieking, she didn’t use words, but I still knew what she was saying: “David, the bat is in the room, and it’s there on the floor, next to you!”
Now there’s something else you need to understand. I was sleeping on my belly with my left arm hanging over the bed and, since we didn’t have a nightstand, I kept my glasses on the floor. This presented a problem for me because, as I tried to rub the sleep out my eyes, I saw two black splotches on the floor. One was my glasses, which I was supposed to put on my face. And the other was the bat, which I was supposed to crush. Without my glasses, though, I couldn’t tell which was which.
Then my wife let out another scream.
I looked up over my shoulder, and there she was, standing above me on the bed.
Before I go on, I need to insert here that my wife, in our many years of marriage, has borne me two beautiful children, but never was I more proud of her than I was at that moment when I looked up and saw her there, standing over me like an Amazon, like a female Colossus, wielding with both hands her cloth suitcase above her head. She let out a war cry and hurled the suitcase down on the beast.
She pounced on top of it; and, with my softball bat — where that came from, I don’t know — she jumped up and down and pounded the suitcase with the softball bat.
After she had finished, she flipped the bat on to the bed and said to me, “Now sweep it up!”
When I removed the suitcase and saw the dead thing, I was amazed by how small it was, how tiny. Why, it was no bigger than a mouse. But, when I first saw it swooping around the kitchen, it seemed large and terrible, very, very large.
So, don’t talk to me about John Wayne and the gender roles of a man and a woman. In our home, when it came time for a man to stand up, it was my wife, my small, wonderful, Amazonian wife, who stood up with her blessed, blessed suitcase and rescued her man.