I bet you think this is going to be one more rave review of The Dark Knight, don’t you? But no. I didn’t see that — Jason did, along with Jennifer’s husband David, while Jennifer and I went to the deliciously campy and ridiculous Mamma Mia! So I have nothing to say about THAT Batman.
I have much to say, however, about my very own Bat-Man, ruthless slayer of only-mostly-dead bats, my husband Jason.
Let me back up a bit and talk about bats. Growing up as a child in Newfoundland, I believed bats were in the same category as snakes, skunks and “Help Wanted” signs in store windows – mythical creatures that only existed in books, on TV, and Away. Apparently we had bats here all along, but they must have lived deeper in the woods, because I never saw bats until I moved Away.
It didn’t take a lot of exposure for me to figure out that I don’t like bats. I know they’re harmless and all, but the whole idea of rodents flying around on leathery black wings — it just creeped me out.
In recent years, not only have bats started showing up more often here in Newfoundland, they’ve become quite an issue up at my parents’ cabin. It’s not that we see them all that much — though one did make quite a spectacular appearance in the middle of a family lunch here a few years ago — but that they leave behind evidence of the presence all around the exposed brick of the chimney in the living room.
My dad has made several efforts to research “how to get rid of bats” but everything he finds online gives instructions for how to ATTRACT bats to your property, because they apparently eat flies and mosquitoes. He has tried lining the brick chimney with mothballs, which they’re supposed to dislike, and plugging in a device that broadcasts an ultra-high-pitched sound that humans can’t here but which apparenlt irritates bats. I think all that’s happened is that we have given evolution a helping hand by developing strains of bats who are impervious to the smell of mothball and who actually like the music we’re playing on the little bat stereo.
I started off with a screaming terror of bats — running out of the room covering my hair and my throat whenever a bat appeared, even if it was the frail body of a bat that had been dead for weeks.
But I adjusted my thinking. If I kept demonstrating that level of ridiculous, stereotypically female fear, then my days and nights at the cabin would be ruined by fear of bat appearances. I bent my will to achieving a more sanguine attitude towards bats. They eat bugs: good. They are not vampires, or even vampire bats: there is nothing they can do to harm me. Ergo, if they wish to swoop through the air far above my head as go outside on the deck, I will not shriek or run away. I will live and let live, and accept that bats and I all have our place in the Circle of Life.
But bats INSIDE the cabin? That’s a whole other thing. Then we’re into “fly in me face” territory and that’s where I draw the line.
Among his many efforts to discourage bats from living in people places, my dad set up these bat traps around the cabin, which are essentially like flypaper — things that bats can fly into and get stuck to. He’s had them up for ages but never caught anything. Until Friday night.
Friday night Jason and the kids and I went to bed peacefully in a bat free cabin (OR SO IT SEEMED). I was awakened at 3:30 a.m. by a high-pitched chittering sound, sort of like a chipmunk on speed, frantic and intense.
It continued. I woke Jason. “Go see what that noise is,” I said.
Good husband that he is, he got up and followed the sound to the kitchen, where he flicked on the light and said, “Oh frig. It’s bats.”
Two bats were caught on the bat-trap up high near the kitchen ceiling. One was dead or nearly so, but the other would not go gentle into that good night, and was frantically struggling and squeaking.
Cowering in the bedroom doorway observing the scene from a distance, I had a romantic notion that the bats — at least the one that was alive — could be humanely freed from the trap and set loose in the woods to fly again. A sort of bat catch-and-release program, as it were. Remember, I don’t have a problem with bats OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.
The reality was much messier, and involved a stepladder, an ice cream container, a piece of cardboard, and a large garbage bag. In the middle of this interesting process (during which I was not at all helpful), another, very live, bat flew out from the same area under the kitchen ceiling and shot towards me, veering off at the last minute (I assume they can smell fear) into the living room. Later, when Jason had the two trapped bats secured in the ice-cream container, he removed another dead bat from yet another trap by the chimney, and soothed my mind by telling me that was probably the same one that had flown across the room. Later still, in the cold light of the next day, he confessed it was extremely unlikely that that bat had flown across the room, straight onto a trap, and died instantly on contact … which meant it was probably still fluttering around up there somewhere. But I didn’t know that when I went back to bed.
Even without that revelation, I found it hard to get to sleep. I had been fully awakened by the process, as had both the kids, and as I lay there at 4:00 a.m. I had to contend with a wakeful Emma who was worried about bats, my own worries about possible fluttering sounds in the dark, and a husband who lay beside me quietly composing his own parody: Baby Got Bat. (“I like…dead…bats and I cannot LIE! I like ’em when they cannot fly!!”) Needless to say it took awhile to get back to sleep.
In the morning, we didn’t see any more bats, but Jason went out to inspect the Tub-o’-Bats on the deck, which he had left there with a large brick on top of it, and reported to my horror that he could still hear fluttering sounds from inside. After being caught on a trap and then incarcerated in an airtight container under a brick all night, the thing was still alive. What did we have on our hands … Batsputin?? I expected to hear a tiny voice from inside the container (if I’d gotten close enough) squeaking in a Monty Python accent, “I’m not dead yet!!”
Batsputin and his less-lively pals spent the rest of the day in the basement of the cabin, waiting for the ultimate disposal. Later that evening, before dark, Jason went out into the woods to dump the bodies.
You’d think this would be an act you’d do alone, in an appropriate grim solitude, but it turned into kind of a group event, because not only did Chris want to see what happened to the dead bats, so did Jennifer and David, who were spending the evening with us. Apparently it’s true: friends help you move, but real friends help you move bodies.
Emma and I excluded ourselves from the process. Like me, Emma has the running and shreiking under control, but she likes the bats to stay at a safe distance. When yet another bat flew through the cabin that evening, everyone else went eagerly chasing after it while Emma and I tiptoed outside chanting, “Don’t like bats, don’t like bats, don’t like bats!”
So Emma and I stayed behind and played checkers while the Bat Disposal Crew went into the woods to do their grim duty. They went off laughing and joking, but came back in a sober mood. Apparently, and incredibly, after spending all night and all day in the ice cream tub, Batsputin was STILL ALIVE. But a humane release, though attempted, proved impossible because his wings were still stuck firmly to the heavy plastic bat-trap. So Batsputin had to be put out of his mercy — with a heavy piece of wood, there being no ice-pick handy.
Jason vows that if the bat-traps ever caught another bat he’ll kill it instantly rather than letting it suffer and die slowly. I’m hoping he won’t have the opportunity to put that resolution into practice. But we’ll find out when we go to the cabin again in a couple of weeks — same bat time, same bat channel.
Apart from the Bat Events, we had a great weekend, attending campmeeting at our church camp down the road and spending lots of time swimming and boating in our pond. In the long run this may just blend into the endless summer memories of Weekends at the Cabin. We may remember it as the weekend we first got the Sea-Doo Dolphin (which I have already christened The Dauphin), or the weekend Max ran away and came back wet and tired at 2:30 a.m.
But I think, and devoutly hope, that it will stand out in our memories as the Weekend of the Bats. Because the other possibility — that bat appearances in the cabin will become so commonplace that this weekend won’t stand out at all in our memories — is just too horrible to contemplate.
In case you lost track, here’s the Bat Tally:
Bats (eventually) dead in the woods: Three.
Bats seen flying through the house: Two, or perhaps one on two separate occasions.
Bats still lurking unseen inside walls or chimney: Unknown, possibly hundreds.
A husband who deals with life’s messy stuff, dead and nearly-dead bats included: Priceless.