Some of this is somewhat invented--certainly the dialogue is. Kraut says he doesn't remember this incident at all, which makes me wonder if it happened when the boys were older and he was on his mission. Anyway, Hot Sauce--who still wants to be called The Brown Dot--remembers it with frantic clearity. Except he remembers the bat as huge--which of course it wasn't. It was a tiny little velvet thing that scared the daylights out of all of us.
Phil and the kids and I were at Mom and Dad’s house for the weekend. The kids were finally in bed and the rest of us were sprawled on couches and chairs talking and watching TV.
I heard a noise I did not want to hear. It was children, not being asleep. Then I heard a louder noise. It was Hot Sauce and Kraut thundering downstairs like five legged antelopes.
This was supposed to be my mini-vacation, a respite from motherhood duties. If I were lucky Mom would cook all weekend and I would assign the kids to do the dishes. They might even do them willingly.
The boys were supposed to be asleep. I knew they probably weren’t because there was a stack of books and Reader's Digests upstairs and they both loved to read. What I did know is I didn’t want to see them anymore that night. They jumped the last few steps and spewed into the living room.
“What on earth is the matter?” I asked.
“There’s a bat! It came out of the attic and it’s gonna get us. It’ll suck our blood and we’ll die.”
“Or maybe we’ll turn into bats and fly away and never be boys again.” Trent had obviously watched a vampire movie without my knowledge.
My children were dramatic and had good imaginations but I was not thrilled to hear their imaginative drama.
“There’s no bat. There has never been a bat in all the years I lived here.”
If you say the words out loud they will be true. I was sure that was the rule—it’s a flawed rule but I pretty much still believed it in those days.
“You probably heard a moth, batting its wings against the window,” I said.
“Nuh uh, there’s a bat, we saw it.”
“It’s big, it’s flying all over the place.”
“It’s going to bite us.”
“Bats have diseases. I’m not sleeping up there.”
“Me neither. I’m never going upstairs again.”
“Me neither. Can we sleep down here, in the sunroom? Can we, huh?”
“Yah, can we sleep down here?”
Their words tumbled over each other like marbles rolling down a drainpipe.
“Now boys, there is no bat, you know that, don’t you?” I used my best mother-knows-everything voice.
“Yes there is,” they chorused together.
“Nope, no bat. Just your imagination. Mom," I looked at Mom for help. "There aren’t any bats upstairs are there?”
“Heavenly days,” she said, “there have never been bats in this house. Not since it was built in 1904.”
“Grandma, there’s a bat, we promise.” They both crossed their hearts. If they had known how to spit they would have.
“Now boys…” Grandma said as a bat came swooping down the steps and sailed into the sunroom. There were screams all around.
“Reed!” Mom yelled as soon as her own personal scream died down. “There’s a bat in here!”
The boys jumped around like five legged grasshoppers. “We told you so,” they chorused, running for cover.
I don’t remember who finally cornered the bat. Who finally scooped the frightened thing up in a blanket and set it free outside. It was probably Daddy, but I do know I had more respect for the attic.
After the bat frenzy died down I rolled up a towel and put it against the bottom of the attic door where there was a teensy little bat-scrunching space. I made sure the door was shut tight and locked—just in case bats could figure out how to open doors.
The boys didn’t care what precautions I made. They were not going to sleep upstairs and that was that. I did what every mother who has authority over small children would have done; I made a bed for them on the sunroom couch.
When we went to bed that night I made sure our bedroom door was closed tight and that the bedroom door to the bat-bedroom was closed tight too. And I slept with one eye open and a fly swatter on the nightstand. Honest I did. Well, almost, I would have if I had thought of it. It would have been a good idea.
Daddy was a better planner than I was. Years and years later, when the bat’s grandchildren returned, Daddy used a tennis racket instead of a flimsy little fly swatter. He was eighty-five years old at the time and he hung out the bedroom window and swatted bats as they came close to the eves where they could scurry into the attic. He hung out the window and swatted bats. At age eighty-five!
I wonder if bats go to Heaven because that’s where my daddy is. If bats are there I hope they are not grudge holders because Daddy swatted the life right out of a whole bunch of them.
This is a not very good photo--of a not very good watercolor I painted years ago--of the house I grew up in. The window Daddy hung out of, swatting bats, is the upstairs one on the right.