At first I thought it was a stuck eyelash making the hall light seem to flicker. I blinked hard several times to clear my vision and went back to reading my phone, my youngest asleep on my chest as I sat on my bed. Then the light flickered again; again I blinked. This time I dropped my phone and rubbed my eyes. As soon as I removed my hand, the lash moved again, angling the other way.
Then I noticed that no other lights were flickering. I looked down at my daughter; for some reason I could see her pale, perspiring, head just fine. Then—
I picked up my phone and voxed my wife: “Maggie, come upstairs. Now.” Actually…. “No, stay there.”
I crunched my way upright and found the floor, careful to overstep a glass of Marzen ale I had been sipping. I walked toward the hall, placing Betsy in her bassinet behind our bedroom door. The light kept flickering at regular intervals. Something was crossing up and down the stairwell, pausing on the upper doorframes of my bedroom and my older children’s adjacent door, which was cracked. The air grew dense.
Lord, please let this be a big, black butterfly.
Suddenly the creature dropped from its perch and dove toward me, spreading its wings to reveal the distinct contours of the Batman distress signal before peeling off to explore the dim cave in which I now crouched. I remember a lot of profane screaming (my own) as I grabbed a pillow (my wife’s) and stood defending the bassinet, swatting at the beast and commanding my wife to get herself up here to evacuate our oblivious child. As they escaped, the bat evaded four, 10, 20 of my blows, finally settling above the window by my desk.
Across the room, I stared at its pointy joints, its elbows poised akimbo for our next engagement. At present it was exhausted, and a sitting duck. But how…?
My eyes searched the room for solutions. For a long second, they rested on the holster above my bedside bookshelf. Then they returned to the bat. Could I…?
Tabling that idea, I joined the woman and child downstairs, closing the bat cave behind me.
“Michael. How. Did. A bat. Get in. Our house?”
“I don’t know. And I don’t care right now. Let’s hear ideas.”
“One of our closets. It has to be yours. You’ve been leaving yours open. I—”
“No, I mean—first of all that’s absurd—and I mean ideas for catching this thing. How do you catch a bat?”
“It probably has a nest. It came in through the attic and ate its way into our—your—closet.”
“Do we call someone? Like, animal control?”
“Or it came in through the kids’ room.”
“My dad would use a broom.”
“Your dad’s done this before?! See if he’ll come over!”
“Do you want me to?” I really considered it.
“No. Don’t call him. Crap.” I brooded for a minute. Then I walked to the kitchen for supplies, returned, and faced the stairwell. Behind me my wife spoke.
“You should open the window up there.”
“Thanks. I already decided that.”
“You know, bats can’t see very well.”
I looked over my shoulder. “I’m aware.”
I trudged upstairs with a paper bag, a broom, and its attached dustpan. I closed my kids’ door all the way (they slept through everything to follow), then stared at my own door. Back into the chamber, turning, all my soul within me burning….
I entered unmolested, closing the door behind me. The bat had not moved. I tiptoed to the window near my side of the bed. Open then I flung the shutter; with luck it would just leave. Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer….
We squared off. I unclipped the dustpan and brandished the broom, aiming its thousand bristles at the bat. I lunged; it crawled an inch higher. I had tickled it. I lunged again, with feeling. The bat fluttered, then plummeted to the floor and lay still. As I approached, it resurrected and darted toward my wife’s nightstand, where it fell again. I beat at it clumsily. It shot upward, madly circling the room below the spinning ceiling fan, by turns approaching the open window before veering off, each time eluding my broom with its sonar.
At last I landed a high and outside blow, synchronized with a kamikaze scream. The creature careened into the wall, dropped, and appeared to die.
I found the paper bag and dustpan, and edged closer until I loomed over the intruder. I exhaled long. Then—I laughed, involuntarily, without smiling. I lowered the bag.
The careful touch of paper fibers was epinephrine for its rubbery wings. Inches from my hands and face, the bat came alive. It clambered, flapped, and darted toward a corner as I fell upon it with the bag, my hands, bloodlust, and profanity. I reached behind me with my strong hand, catching the broom handle and raising its bristles nearly into the fan. With its lance end, I stabbed at the bat through the bag over and over and over.
I do not know how long this went on. Some time later, I carried its lifeless tissue downstairs.
“Is it done?” quoth my wife.
“Why does your face look like that?”
I stepped outside into the darkness. I saw my neighbor across the street through his window, washing dishes. I stood watching silhouettes in other houses. Then I heard a voice—actually, a faint scream. My gaze found and lingered upon an open second-story window down the street. Through it I saw what appeared to be a broom being raised, bristles-up, toward a ceiling fan, and repeatedly lowered in a stabbing motion toward the floor. I blinked, and the broom was gone. The street was quiet.
I resumed my pace to the dumpster behind my garage. I elbowed open a trash bin, deposited my victim, and dropped the lid. Victory was ours; but our triumph was not without losses. For one, a bat had been in our house. Were there others? For another, over the next 10 minutes, my body got goosebumps about every thirty seconds. Where was the “grace under pressure” that Hemingway required of real men? How embarrassing.
I walked back toward the house. Yes, we had won. Our proof lay lifeless in the shadows on our trashcan floor. But a piece of me lay with it and shall be lifted nevermore.