Monday, October 26, 2009

Going Batty--Part I

I used to be afraid of bats because I thought if one bit me I'd get rabies and have to get 27 shots in my belly.  But a few years back, I got a blood clot and had to get 10-12 shots in my stomach anyway so now bats don't scare me so much.

Me and bats go way back.  They  used to get in our house in Huntington through our barn fan.  I'd be having sweet dreams, lying in my French Provincial bed, which sat on lime green shag carpet, safe inside my four Baby's Breath Pink walls.

In the middle of the night, my three older brothers would come tearing down the stairs yelling, "Bats!  Bats!  To arms!  To arms!"

I'd get my hamster Houdini out of his cage and take him under my percale sheets and quilt.  "Don't be afraid," I'd whisper.  "The Bat Busters will protect us."

The boys would then race down the stairs to the basement.  Our dog, Holly, a Beagle/Spitz mix, would follow them, doing the Beagle howl with great passion.  Dad would bring up the rear, grumbling and taking the Lord's name in vain.

In the basement the boys would don their Bat Buster regalia--winter coats, boots and gloves.  "Don't leave any skin showing," Dad always said.  "Those little flying rats will sniff it out."

The boys would each grab a paper grocery bag from behind the stand-up freezer and cut holes for their eyes and mouth.  After they put the bags on their heads, Dad would hand each of them a Wilson tennis racquet.  Back up the stairs they'd gallop, carrying their racquets and making a racket.  "En guarde!" they'd yell, stabbing the air with their racquets.  "Touche!"

Before they went back to the second floor, they'd call out to Mom and me.  "Women and children!  Abandon ship!"  We'd don robes and slippers and scurry towards the front door.  I always took time to clip a leash on Holly because I worried that all her howling might attract the bats.  Mom would grab her lighter and cigarettes so she could have a quick smoke during the bat break.

The boys would run up the stairs and back down, whooping and hollering and swinging the racquets.  I don't remember them ever killing a bat though one time one of the boys did sustain a minor head injury.

I'd stand outside on the front walk with Houdini in my robe pocket and Holly by my side.  Mom would stand on the other side of me, blowing smoke rings over our heads.

"Don't kill the little guys," I'd yell.  "Just shoo 'em out the front door." 

Mom would put in her two cents.  "Make sure you scare them good, so they don't come back."

Dad would stand in the hall, between the two bedrooms, giving orders.  After all, he had served in the Navy in World War II.  "Men, there's one in the corner above you," he'd shout.  "Swat it!  Shoo it!"

After all the fuss and fury was over, the boys would come out and fetch Mom and me.  Even with their winter coats on I could tell their skinny boy chests were puffed out a little bit.  "Everything's fine," they'd say in deeper than usual voices.  "The coast is clear now.  You all can head back to bed."

Mom would tuck her hand into the loop of a son's arm and look back at me and wink.  "I feel so safe having all these strong men in the house, don't you?"

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