At two am, my cell phone wakes me. It’s my daughter. She is calling from her bedroom. Dad, there’s a bat in my room, she whispers. What do I do? I imagine her standing bravely on top of her bedspread, staring into the eyes of a mammal hanging from her ceiling fan. She is no coward, my girl. But the sound of beating wings and the feathery touch of passing skin would concern the bravest of us all. She knows: somehow this incident must be contained.
I consider. The last time we had a bat, it was my wife and I who were visited. On that occasion, I woke first, and ran from the room, shutting the door behind me. Only after this instinctive response did it occur to me that I had just trapped my beloved in the room with a whirling dervish crazed for small insects. I will not make the same mistake again.
Here's what you do, I say. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl out of the room. Close the door behind you and then we’ll assess. This does the trick. We now have two humans standing in the hallway, and a confused bat on the other side of the door, bouncing off the walls. It’s all a bit too much to process, so we decide to go to sleep – she plunks down on a couch and I go back to bed. I’ll sort it out in the morning, I promise.
At sunrise, I arm myself with a tennis racket and a trash can. This is, of course, the time-honored method of bat-removal in the Kreider family. I first observed this technique in 1979 in Goshen, at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather was a dignified man, a scholar and a humanitarian. But perhaps my fondest memory is the sight of him in red striped pyjamas, striding down the upstairs hallway of their 8th Street house, brandishing an ancient Wilson tennis racket. One efficient forehand smash, and a misbegotten bat was knocked cold – straight into the waiting wastepaper basket. I was in awe – not only could my grandfather type letters on a Royal standard typewriter, he could strike bats from the air with a twist of his wrist.
With this childhood memory, I slide my daughter’s door open and slip into the room. Tennis racket extended, I stalk from bed to closet to desk to bookshelf. Every sinew is straining, waiting for the inevitable moment of attack. I am ready – I can feel the sweat beading on my neck – but I am also incredibly brave. Nothing happens. The minutes tick past, as I feel increasingly silly. Finally, I lower the racket and begin opening and shutting everything, banging walls and jumping up and down – doing anything I can to try and make the bat appear. It has apparently gone to ground. FINE, I say, loudly. I AM LEAVING NOW. AND I AM LEAVING THE DOOR OPEN. I’M GLAD THE BAT ISN’T HERE AFTER ALL. I am banking on some reverse bat psychology here.
I leave the door open and walk away.
A whole day passes. Then, at nine PM, as are watching television, a sudden chill falls across the living room. The bat is back. And it is HUGE. I swear it is the size of a Bald Eagle, with a wingspan the width of the room. It blunders from wall to wall, scraping our heads on the way past. AHA! I cry, and grap the bat-catching kit that I have stashed behind the couch. This is for my grandpa, I shout. And take a huge swipe at the bat. And miss. The racket scythes through thin air, as I strike the floor with authority. Take that! And that! And… I flail helplessly as the bat wheels around my head. This is harder than I imagined. I try swearing as I swing, which only adds to the rapidly unfolding comedy. On the eighth or ninth swipe, I finally make contact, presumably because the bat is too exhausted from all its flying. I knock it to the floor, scoop it into a trash can, and carry my prize outside.
Back in the house, I expect to be greeted as a conquering hero: Andrew, Slayer of Bats! Instead, the family seems more amused than impressed. I return the racket to the basement, and we resume our television watching. Maybe someday I’ll be as good as my grandpa. In the meantime, we’ll try and keep the windows closed.
For Michiana Chronicles, I’m Andrew Kreider