This post is simply a story of an eventful Saturday night at the Ross house – no deep lessons to take away here, just an accounting of one of those events you hope never happens.
It was Saturday evening and I was in my man cave with my dog, Callie. I was reading the Bible in my recliner. Callie was asleep on the couch beside me. My wife, Linda, was in the living room on the main floor of the house on her laptop and watching TV. So far, everything was very normal.
Then suddenly Callie jumps off the couch and runs to the other side of the basement all excited and looking up. I look up to see a bat – yes, a bat – flying around that half of the room, circling a fairly small area. In 27 years of living here, that hasn’t happened before.
Normally, I’m pretty calm, cool and collected during a crisis. Not much phases me. Not having experience, though, with bats in my house before, I did what any calm, cool and collected 57-year-old, reserved, quiet introvert would do in such a situation – I started screaming like a girl. After a few yells, I started up the stairs to the back door of the house, knowing I’d have to open it to try to shoo the bat in that direction.
Now you would think that hearing your spouse scream repeatedly from another part of the house would prompt the other spouse to at least inquire about the reason for the screams. Oh, no. Not in our house. It took a number of screams and me yelling my wife’s name before she bothered to leave her laptop and TV and make her way to the top of the basement steps by the kitchen. Why the delay? She first thought, “He must be asleep and having another nightmare.” Heaven knows, she’s heard me yell at attackers in self-defense in countless dreams through nearly 35 years of marriage. After a couple of screams, she said later that she thought, “No, that doesn’t sound like a nightmare scream. Maybe it’s a ‘the dog is throwing up’ scream.” Then she finally concluded it wasn’t that scream either, so she would come see what was going on. How kind of her.
First major realization: If I ever am in deep doo-doo and screaming for my life, I may have to wait for Linda’s TV show to be over or for her to be caught up reading her Facebook news feed before she’ll ever come to my assistance. I guess I’d better be prepared to handle things myself.
So Linda makes her way to the kitchen/basement stairs door while I’m opening the back door and tell her that there’s a bat flying around. Now she gets the seriousness of the situation. Her instinctive response? To shut the door at the top of the steps blocking the bat, the dog and me from coming into the kitchen with her in hopes that I can shoo the bat outside.
Then she laughs from the other side of the door.
Moments later I hear a blood-curdling scream from the kitchen because somehow the bat sneaked by us and got in the kitchen just before Linda closed the door, trapping herself on that floor of the house with the bat while Callie and I were safely blocked off. She starts screaming repeatedly and scrambles to open the door to the stairs so she can get on this side of it.
Now it was my turn to laugh and to punctuate it with “Well, that’ll teach you to laugh at me.” At least we can both laugh nervously in the midst of crisis.
Of course, now it was time for the man of the house (albeit one who screams like a girl) to go upstairs and somehow corral a bat. Linda cracks the door open enough for me to get through and then she slips and nearly falls down the steps trying to get the door closed again. Neither of us would’ve laughed at that.
We don’t own a fishing net or any obvious item with which to catch a bat, so at Linda’s suggestion I get a large plastic mixing bowl from a cabinet. Bowl in hand, I start stalking the main floor of the house in search of my prey. The bat has decided to chill for a moment and hang upside down on the hallway wallpaper just above the open door to our upstairs master suite.
This gives me a moment to go open the front door of the house and start closing off other rooms one by one to restrict the bat to the hallway, living room, dining room and kitchen. Fortunately, the bat hung still while I closed the door just inches under it to our upstairs.
Before I could trap it in the bowl, however, it took off flying toward the living room. Armed with the bowl in my right hand as the bat circled the living room, I would swing violently at it when it approached me, yelling loudly with each swing. I hit it a couple of times, but it would quickly recover and start flying again – never choosing to go out the open door just feet away.
We live in a quiet neighborhood. In the stillness of the dark night, I could only imagine how many neighbors were hearing screams from our house with doors open and what they must be thinking. At the moment, though, that didn’t matter too much.
A broom was nearby, so I grabbed the broom thinking I would have a better shot at hitting the bat with the length of the broom, but one wild swing of that was enough to convince me I would quickly break any number of items in my frantic swinging, so I put it down and went back to the trusty mixing bowl.
Eventually the bat went back to the hallway wallpaper above our bedroom door. This was it! I was going to trap it this time. So I palmed the bowl like a basketball player about to go for a slam dunk and slapped it over the bat, trapping it against the wall.
Now what? Exactly what do you do when you’re on your tip toes holding a bat against a wall in a mixing bowl?
I needed something to slide between the bowl and the wall to trap the bat in the bowl so I could throw it outside. At this point, Linda was willing to come back upstairs and search out a piece of cardboard that would serve the purpose, as well as to get me a stool to stand on because my tip toes could give out at any moment and then the bat would be loose again.
The bat was a trooper at this point, not wanting to let go of the wallpaper and let me slide the cardboard between it and the wall, but I eventually succeeded. I told Linda to shut the front door behind me as I went out just in case it tried to fly back in. I trotted out to the edge of the very wet yard in my lounge pants and sock feet and slung the bowl and cardboard out into the street as far as I could.
Of course I had to retrieve the bowl, but as I tried that, the now-injured bat was flopping around in the street and made its way to nuzzle right up against the bowl. I kicked the bowl farther down the street and then retrieved it, leaving the bat in the road as I finally went back inside.
Second major realization: My dog Callie is the only really calm life form in the Ross house. She never barked. She didn’t go crazy. She was the first to notice the bat and go toward it, but once the new sideshow of Linda and me started, she just pulled up a chair and watched the remainder of the time, much as she does for two full hours whenever I yell and clap and pace during a University of Kentucky basketball game.
Fears of more bats, of course, came to mind and are still there, though they will hopefully dissipate with each passing day. My mother-in-law once had to have an exterminator come to her house in St. Louis to rid it of bats nesting in the walls and we want nothing of that kind of experience or expense.
I realize that some bat species are protected in Kentucky. Some are officially “endangered.” But any bat that finds its way into my house is without a doubt endangered because I will do whatever I need to do to make sure it permanently vacates the premises. So I shed no tears when I noticed Sunday morning that a car came along soon after I threw the bat in the street and finished the job I started. Flat bat won’t be flying in our house again.
Third major realization: Our neighborhood is very much a “live and let live” neighborhood. When Linda talked with our next-door neighbor Sunday morning to ask if she heard any commotion, the neighbor’s response was, “Yes, I heard, but I figured there must just be a fight going on.” Now I can’t recall a time in our 27 years in this house when we’ve ever made such a commotion – yelling, doors open, flailing arms swinging, fight or otherwise – but the neighbor just takes it in stride.
I confess that there is an evil side to me. There always has been. I occasionally like to scare people, including my wife. If she didn’t scream and make a scene every time, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun and I would probably stop, but she always does, so I keep doing it for my own entertainment. So I just had to sneak up the basement steps once today when she was in the kitchen with her back to me and yell. “AHHH!!! There’s another one!!” Of course she screamed and turned around expecting a bat to be circling her head, but I started laughing and told her I was kidding. She hates that, of course, and gets a big pouty lip and tells me I’m mean and to go away, but I laugh, give her a hug, attempt to kiss her (unsuccessfully) and then I go away.
After posting about the event Saturday night on Facebook and seeing the creative responses of my friends, I realize that all my references to my basement man cave must now be changed to refer to the bat cave. One friend even posted some videos of the original Batman TV show that we both grew up on (one of my favorites). Nothing like calming a frantic spirit with some happy childhood memories.
As I said above, before the bat appeared I was just sitting quietly in my recliner reading the Bible. I tried to go back to where I left off once everything calmed down. I was in the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) where he’s talking about what curses will be brought on God’s people for their unbelief. The next 2 verses I came to picking up where I left off read: “I will pile disasters on them; I will use up My arrows against them. They will be weak from hunger, ravaged by pestilence and bitter plague; I will unleash on them wild beasts with fangs, as well as venomous snakes that slither in the dust.”
Oh, great. Now I feel a lot better.