Being strong for our kids, especially when they are frightened and bewildered by the world around them, is one of the great acts of parenthood. I, unfortunately, fall woefully short sometimes.
Like last Monday, for example.
My daughter, her friend and I were relaxing in front of the TV when my daughter flipped off the couch and screamed my favorite words, “THERE’S A BAT IN HERE!”
Now I have no idea where this infernal creature came from, all I know is that it is flying around the family room like it’s insane.
Both girls are lying on the floor screaming, and as the head of the household I made the most reasonable choice I could at the time: I lay on the floor and screamed too.
I’m not sure who we were screaming for, but then it dawned on me that they were screaming for me to do something. Which made me scream louder.
Anyone who has followed my columns knows how I feel about spiders, which, for the record, pales in comparison to how I feel about flying rodents with fangs.
Yeah, yeah, I know. Bats are nice. They won’t hurt you. They eat bugs.
Well you know what? I don’t believe it. Bats bite, especially when they’re mad and confused, and this creature certainly appeared to be both.
Then again, I’m sure it was quite a scene from the bat’s eyes... people screaming, dog barking, cockatiels shrieking and cats running around like they’re on crack, no doubt the bat is thinking, “What the hell kind of place IS this?”
Through the pandemonium I hear my daughter do the unthinkable: She called her dad.
When we were married he was the bat-catcher. The past couple of years I’ve been blessedly bat-free, but I’d always dreaded this moment.
All I can hear is her side of the conversation, but it was mortifying.
“Dad, there’s a bat in the house.”
“She’s on the floor.”
So at this point I knew I had to do something, but there was only one problem, even with all the humiliation in the world heaped on me, I couldn’t move.
“Dad said get a tennis racket,” my daughter told me after she hung up.
Yeah, that’s great advice, but it would require standing up, and at that particular point my body was pressed to the floor like I was on the Gravitron.
Blessedly, the bat flew out of the room and into my front parlor. I sprang off the floor and tore after it, but only so I could slam the parlor doors shut.
Leaning against the door jamb I realized that I had just shut a very precocious cat in the parlor with the bat, so, crouched down low, I cracked the door open. “Here kitty kitty,” I whispered from the floor.
Perhaps my biggest surprise of the day is that the cat actually came, because we all know how cats are, so I snatched it and slammed the door again, feeling very relieved.
It only took a minute or two for that relief to wear off completely and for me to realize how stupid it was to think this was over.
I paced around. I chewed on my lip. I opened a beer. Okay, not really, but if I’d had any beer at that point I definitely would have.
Finally, I had a plan.
With blankets, I figured, the girls could cordon off the hall and staircase outside the pocket door. If I propped the front doors open, the bat would of course see his beloved home in the darkness outside and fly right out. All I had to do was nudge it in that direction.
So with our blankets stretched out, I flung open the pocket door. I’d like to make it sound like I was being really brave, but actually I was covered with a blanket, crawling on the floor and holding a tennis racket.
The bat must not have seen a creepy blanket monster before, because it got all scared and started flying around the parlor, swooping low enough to leave me a screaming bundle on the floor again.
I have no idea how long this went on, hours maybe, or a couple of days. Okay, maybe five minutes, but on an 80 degree night I was sweating to death under that blanket and the girls were screaming from the lactic acid burning inside their outstretched arms. It felt like forever.
Finally, incredibly, the bat swooped out the door and was gone into the night, probably a thousand times more relieved than we were.
The girls went back to the TV, and, shaken, I sat in a chair and drooled on myself for a while.
I suppose we learned a little something about creative thinking that night, or about patience. But what I’m hoping that bat learned is that my house is crazy town inside and he’s telling his friends they’d better stay the heck away.