Still going bats more than 10 years later 2016.02.10

We had a bat in the basement a few days before Rosie and my granddaughters arrived for a weekend visit. David mentioned he’d heard a strange noise in the basement when doing his laundry, but I don’t think he specifically said it was a bat. So, when I heard this other-wordly hissing coming from the basement stairs around midnight, I jumped out of my skin and raced upstairs. I shudder just thinking about it. I know I need to get over my fear of bats, but not much has changed since this column was written more than 10 years ago.


Several weeks ago, we had a bat in the house. David noticed it first, flying through the downstairs hallway. I watched it make one silent swoop over his head as I sat glued to the couch, unable to move, unwilling to move—heck, downright too petrified to move. Bats scare the beejeebers out of me. 

I yell advice. “Get a tennis racket!”

“Tennis rackets are for killing bats!” David shouts back.

“But we want to kill the bat!” I retort.

I was distressed and I’d forgotten: David doesn’t kill animals. Well, that’s not altogether true. I’ve seen him swat flies and mosquitoes and step on ants—but only in the house. He won’t kill spiders, though, and certainly not bats. I’m not a mass murderer of lowly beings, but when they come in my house, they’re fair game. 

David is much kinder. He captures moths and releases them outside. He grabs spiders hanging by threads from the ceiling and gently transports them to a better location outdoors. He uses the fly swatter to guide bees and wasps to freedom through the open back door. 

And then there’s the tale of David catching a mouse in a Iron Cat trap when we lived in the apartment above the Observer and releasing it across the street. I think he caught the same mouse three times.  

“Get a broom!” I suggest. “And a box! I think Ginny always used a box!”

He tries to guide the bat toward the open front door, but it takes a right at the staircase and heads upstairs. I use the opportunity to call my sister-in-law Ginny in Minnesota. Ginny is a bat whisperer from way back. I recall her removing a bat from our basement on at least two separate occasions. We haven’t had many bats in our house over the years, so Ginny’s bat removal expertise stands out in my mind.

My brother-in-law Thom answers the phone; Ginny is ill, unable to answer the bat call. Thom suggests throwing a blanket over the bat. I yell that advice up the stairs. I hear whoops and yells and the retreat of running feet. 

“You’re not gonna like this—it’s in our bedroom!”

I cringe. The thought of a bat in my sleeping quarters grosses me out. 

Thom suggests turning off the lights, but leaving one on by the door so the bat will be attracted to it.

I decide to get over my irrational fear of the creature and help David get rid of it. 

Broom in hand, I head upstairs and take up position in the hallway, ready to shoo the bat toward the light in the staircase. But first David comes hurtling out of the bedroom backwards. He’s been throwing towels at the bat and missing his mark. I’m not sure I want to be part of this scene, but I can’t stomach the thought of the bat in my bedroom. I stand in the dark hallway, broom hoisted, but David continues with the towel tossing.  After several more attempts, he lands one over the bat, throws the towel and bat in the box and covers it with the tennis racket.

My hero!

He takes it outside, walks down to the corner and releases it into the night air.

Oh, my fool!

I sleep lightly that night, ready for the bat’s return. But nothing. For nights afterward, I slink up the stairs, anticipating the swoosh of a bat greeting me in the dark hallway. I climb into bed with bats on my mind. Every little noise sounds like a bat. I pull the covers up to my chin and make sure I have enough play to cover my head should the need arise.

And then, late one night last week, lying awake next to the slumbering David, I think I hear a bat stirring. My ears perk up and I’m sure I hear something, a little flutter of wings, perhaps, just a bit of a stir. And, oh Lord, it’s right behind my head! I figure I must be imagining things, so I bravely reach back to check, to brush it away, and oh, my God, I touch it—and it flutters! A horrendously loud, unearthly scream jumps out of my throat; I sit bolt upright in bed. Almost simultaneously, David knee-jerks awake, jolted out of a sound sleep.

“What happened?”

Immediately, Maddie comes into our room. “What’s going on?” she asks groggily. 

“There was a bat behind my head!” I shudder. “I felt it!”

David lies back down, exhausted, but relieved it’s nothing serious. He looks toward my pillow, his arm extended over it, his hand behind where my head had been.

“That wasn’t a bat,” he says wearily, and flutters his fingers. “It was me. I must have been dreaming.” 

I felt like a real heel for startling my family awake, but, you know, I haven’t heard a single bat noise since I yowled that wild shriek.