September 4th, 2004


Bats in the …

…bedroom. Thursday night a bat entered one of our chimneys. The cats knew about it long before we did, & were busily nudging books off the shelves in front of the fireplace in their effort to catch a glimpse of it. Last night somehow it escaped. Again with the help of the cats we found it, hanging above one of the bedroom windows, almost invisible against the wooden frame.
I put up a ladder and climbed up with a plastic container & a sheet of cardboard (the standard bug-catching apparatus). No sooner had I reached the top than it flew off, circling the ceiling fan. We turned that off so as not to have sliced bat on our bed. Then we waited as it circumnavigated the space just below the ceiling, dozens of times, utterly silent, mixing in a occasional looping run into the corners where it would brush up against the wall before circling again.
Eventually it got tired, and came to rest hanging again above the window. This time I was able to catch it. No longer silent, it vented its displeasure with scratchy little squeaks. I’d never seen a bat, at least not a live one, up close before. This creature looked like a dark brown rag—
fusca facies et stridens vocula
as Alciati puts it—
folded up, with teeth. Those it bared, doing what it could to intimidate the gigantic spooky things that had imprisoned it.
It’s easy to understand why bats are traditionally regarded as uncanny, creepy, the stuff of gothic tales. In flight they make no noise at all, though their wings may be flapping furiously; and the wing motion is different enough from that of birds to be, disturbingly, familiar & unfamiliar at the same time. The face is ugly even by rat standards, the body ill-defined in shape when the wings are folded, like a lump of coal shrouded in chamois. No doubt the Stephen Kings of the vespertilian world have equally unflatttering things to say about us.
I handed it to M who threw it out the front window, container & all. It was gone before the container hit the ground twenty feet below. We are hoping it gives our bat motel a very bad rating.