I was minding my own business the other morning drinking coffee in the living room of my apartment here in Staunton, when something through the bedroom doorway caught my eye.
What is that? A bird flying around in there? I thought. Nope. Upon further investigation, I found my cat Joey, watching with rapt attention as a bat flew around my bedroom ceiling.
Holy shit! Now what?
Being new to the area, I couldn’t call up a friend or neighbor to ask for assistance. A quick google search and I was on the phone to the local wildlife rescue folks, “We don’t do bats,” a woman explained with a Southern lilt to her voice. “Then who does?” I asked, a bit stridently.
She kindly put me in touch with a local “critter catcher” who I promptly called.
“Do you have a glass jar and a piece of cardboard?” he asked. “You can scoop it up and catch it that-a way.”
Scoop it up? I laughed nervously. “I don’t plan to get anywhere near that bat. I’ve seen too many vampire movies, ” I confessed into the phone. Well, that’s not entirely true. I can never get enough of vampire movies.
My sister Dory and I both loved Jonathan Frid’s character Barnabas on Dark Shadows and I attribute her whispered coaching to my fear of vampires. She was the one who told me they go for the neck. I slept with the covers over my neck for years after that (OK, I do now again).
But back to the bat whisperer. Soon after our conversation, a beat-up truck pulled in front of my place, and a sixtyish year-old gentleman with camouflage pants lumbered out of a truck that upon inspection, looked like a hoarder’s four-wheeled dream. Mesh animal cages were stacked in the truck bed and there seemed to be some sort of disorganized mobile office in the cab with stacks of paperwork and bits of this and that.
Bob the critter catcher got to work. He took a small mason jar and lid, went into my bedroom and closed the door. I paced outside and could hear him talking to the bat. After a few minutes, the door cracked open. “Do you have a badminton or tennis racket?” came a muffled drawl.
I handed him a broom through the door crack. A few minutes later, he emerged with his prize. A brown bat. He then proceed to tell me about the white nose fungus that has decimated millions of these poor creatures. This one did not have that affliction, and would be released by Bob the bat man in a neighboring town.
By day the bat is cousin to the mouse.
He likes the attic of an aging house.
His fingers make a hat about his head.
His pulse beat is so slow we think him dead.
He loops in crazy figures half the night
Among the trees that face the corner light.
But when he brushes up against a screen,
We are afraid of what our eyes have seen:
For something is amiss or out of place
When mice with wings can wear a human face.
I know bats are not evil. They eat insects and generally mind their own business. But just in case, with neck tightly covered, I slept on the couch that night.
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