It was a quiet night, the kind of summer night you only get at the beginning and end of summer, the kind when the windows are all open and a breeze bells the curtains out in a whisper and the noise from the street has died down and only cool air comes in the windows, no sound at all. It was finally cool enough at night that we didn’t need the air on and could actually pull up the blanket instead of immediately kicking it onto the floor. I settled into my favorite sleeping position with a sigh and prepared for a great night’s sleep.
A few hours later, the darkness was impenetrable, and my breathing was slow, my dreams blissful. I was deeply asleep, but apparently not deep enough. Something woke me, something frenzied and violent, a jerking movement of the bed and as my eyes flashed open, they were assaulted by the vision of my husband vaulting from the bed, his arms waving about his head, his skin a pale glow in the darkness, like a reflection of the moon on still water.
I blinked and lifted my head. Clint was peering into the corner of the room, up near the ceiling. “What is it?” I asked, but I knew what the answer would be. We had another bat.
Our house is old and probably riddled with holes we haven’t discovered yet. The holes come for free with the hardwood floors, the tall ceilings, and the irreplaceable charm. Since the summer began, we had had five bats, and Clint has dutifully chased each one out, contriving various bat catchers with broom handles and mesh shopping bags and wire hangers. I don’t want to make him out to be a pansy, but he’s really afraid of bats. He gets almost giddy with fear when he hears the flapping of leathery wings. And I have to leave the room when he starts bat hunting because the sight of his cringing swats with the improvised bat catchers elicits uncontrollable laughter in me, and it hurts to laugh that hard that late at night.
So that night, with a bat hiding in the darkness of our room in the middle of the night, he stood and shook and tried to find the bat as I lay in bed watching him through sleep-blurred eyes. “What should we do?” he asked.
I flopped back down and pulled the blanket up to my chin. “Go back to sleep.”
I heard the pad of his feet on the floor and then felt him slide in next to me. He lay rigid in bed as I drifted back to sleep, probably listening for that leather whisper of wings.
Sometime later, a distinctive sound penetrated my dreams. Flap-flap-flap, metallic shiver, small plop. Flap-flap-flap, metallic shiver, small plop. How did I know what it was? How could that sequence of sound mean anything to me? But it did. I nudged Clint. “The bat’s flying into the screen door.” (We have a door to a balcony in our room.) “Go let it out.”
He was paralyzed next to me. I hate getting out of bed at night, even to go to the bathroom. I figure that night-time feedings for three children more than makes up for any occasional excursion during normal sleeping hours. Besides, Clint is the man. It is his job to mow the lawn, chop firewood, and take care of any noises that occur between the hours of 10 pm and 7 am. Bats included. But I could feel the dread radiating from him, so, with a sigh, I heaved my body from bed.
I slid my feet across the floorboards, trying not to make a sound as the bat hurled its body against the screen door and then flopped down to the floor in defeat. Three times the poor creature did this as I slowly crossed the room. I wasn’t afraid, really. I don’t know why, but I don’ t mind bats. The only thing I feared was stepping on it as it lay panting on the floor. But my feet didn’t encounter any furry foreign bodies, and I made it to the door. I reached out my hand, felt for the handle, and pushed. By then, the bat was on the floor, but it roused itself for one final attempt at escape, and this time it found success.
I slipped back into bed and Clint pulled me close. Finally, his body had relaxed. “Thank you,” he whispered, and I fell back into sleep with a smile of triumph on my lips.