Bat no match for a good serve

I’ve written in past columns about my personal interactions with various fauna and flora. Squirrels, vultures, groundhogs, dogs, dandelions, maples.

This week it’s bats.

Kathy and I live in an old house. It was built in 1901, to the best of our knowledge. It’s a large, three-story frame house of the prairie arts and crafts style. Airtight it’s not, although we’re not aware of any major crevices or significant cracks. The chimney appears to be sound. In other words, it’s comfortably solid.

However ...

In the past we’ve hosted the occasional winged intruder, as have many older homes in the Midwest. Since my 2006 hip replacement, I no longer play tennis, but my tennis racket stands ready in the front hall as an antidote for such creatures.

Last week I had occasion to employ it once again.

I had first spotted the bat about three weeks earlier, about 4 a.m. in our semi-darkened bedroom. I’m a pretty light sleeper, and was awakened by a slight rustling sound. At first I had no idea what caused it, but 10 seconds later I saw a shadow flit by the window, and heard the telltale flutter. 

In the past, our bat visitors had generally circled a room near its ceiling. Not this one. He (or she; I’ll say it was a he for convenience sake) worked the room about head high. That meant to me that I needed to remain in a crouch when I crawled out of bed to remedy the situation.

I know, I know. Bats perform a beneficial service by snatching and gobbling myriads of insects. I’m grateful for that.

But we don’t have that many flying insects in our bedroom. 

The furry visitor was performing no service for us there. I would have been happy if he had decided to exit the room by the route through which he entered, but I doubted he would do that. Besides, I didn’t know how he got in.

So without waking Kathy, I crept out of bed in the dark, sneaked to my closet where I put on my bathrobe and slippers, and went downstairs to grab my tennis racket, a pair of gloves and a paper sack.

Now fully prepared and armed, I climbed the stairs and strode confidently back into the bedroom, ready for battle.

Nothing. I waited for the shadow and the flutter. No sight of him, and no sound.

Kathy was still asleep, and I decided that was an awfully good thing. 

So I left the room, closing the door behind me. I turned on the hall light, a light in each of the other bedrooms and the hall bathroom, and inspected each in turn. Nothing. I went downstairs and repeated the drill. I looked behind all the curtains. Still nothing.

I reasoned he must have left the building. So back to bed, but taking the tennis racket to our bedroom to stash it on a chair, just in case.

I don’t know where he went. But two weeks later he decided to return, and once again he woke me up in the early morning with his flutter. Once again I got up, retrieved the tennis racket from the bedroom chair, and waited for him to fly by. But once again he disappeared. Frustrating.

The third time was the charm. 

Last week he appeared again, and this time Kathy woke up when I climbed out of bed to take him on. I explained what was going down, and in a few seconds he appeared to flutter up from under the bed. Kathy shrieked to alert me, and promptly pulled the covers over her head and waited for something to happen.

This time I turned on the overhead light and shut the door with all of us inside. He was circling the room about six feet off the floor. That’s six inches higher than my head, so all I had to do was plant myself in a likely spot next to the bed and wait.

It didn’t take long. On his third pass I launched an overhand serve and swatted him against the window behind the TV, He fell next to the wall baseboard.

I timidly got down on the floor and looked under the TV. He was spread-eagled against the baseboard. 

More confidently, thinking he had expired, I reached with the racket to pull him out. But of course he flew up and started circling the room again.

This time I connected with a more solid forehand, sending him against my closet door with a thud. 

Mission accomplished. 

I picked him up with a towel from the hamper, carried him through Kathy’s closet and the outside door leading to the flat porch roof, and dropped him into the bushes beneath the magnolia tree. 

We’ve been bat-free ever since. But judging from the weekly police report, we might not remain so. I may be challenged again before cold weather sets in. 

Bring it on.

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