The infamous bat sweater and the ultimate spade

I’ve written about past snake encounters along Nebraska Avenue, as they plagued us for years but finally made their exodus after a two-year street/sewer project drove them away.

Thinking of those horrifying experiences also reminded me of the plague I encountered many years ago in my first “married house” which unfortunately involved what I simply refer to as “flying rodents.”

In Elgin, where I used to live, we had bats. Lots of bats.

When we first moved to our house in town, I used to marvel, out loud, at how our trees were so wonderful “the birds chirped and flew from branch to branch, even at night.” Then the husband informed me those weren’t birds — those were bats. Hundreds and hundreds of flying mice (my perception), just waiting to invade my territory, get stuck in my hair (the usual phobia) and basically gross me out beyond belief.

As long as they stayed outside, I was safe. They couldn’t touch me, I reasoned.

And that’s when everything changed.

I went home to change clothes on a Saturday afternoon after working the lunch hour at our restaurant/bar. All I had to do was go home, shower, change clothes and head back down for the Saturday night run. My husband manned the joint while I ran home to accomplish this seemingly simple task.

So, I showered. Only wearing a towel, I headed to the bedroom to get dressed. The kids were all home — the sisters were in their rooms, doing Saturday teenage stuff. No big deal.

Kelly, “the middle one,” informed me she had done laundry and a pile of folded sweaters were on the window box in our room. What a good kid, I said.

I went inside, shut the door and proceeded to get dressed. There was my favorite sweater — a multi-colored, circa 1988 pullover. It was black, red, green, blue . . . you remember the style.

I pushed my arms through the sleeves and began to pull it over my head. As I did so, I felt something kind of crunchy (with a lack of a better word) on the front where there were a few buttons. Was there duct tape stuck to it, I wondered. Why would there be duct tape stuck to my sweater? Then again, with a house full of kids, anything is possible.

Because the sweater still hadn’t passed over my head, I couldn’t quite see the crunchy thing stuck to it. As my face neared the neck opening, I pulled the sweater out, perpendicular to my eyes. I didn’t see anything at first. And then time stood still.

As I looked at the sweater, I realized that just a few inches in front of my face, there was something looking at me. I couldn’t make my brain register what it was. It had eyes and there were those wings . . .

Frozen, my brain hadn’t yet processed anything. Until one of the wings moved. It wiggled again. It was stuck to the sweater, the other wing was caught between the buttons.

“Dear God!” my brain screamed. “It’s a bat! It’s a bat!” Yet, I couldn’t move.

He looked at me. I looked at him. It was a show-down. Who was going to have a heart attack first?

Then suddenly, finally, my brain kicked in. Shrieks of horror came from my mouth, panic struck my heart and made it stop.

Flight or fight?

I frantically tore off the sweater — I caught my wedding ring on the sleeve and ripped at it ferociously. The sweater came off, landing in a heap on the floor.

And then it was time to run. I swung open the door and ran through the house, only in my underwear, screaming and crying until there was nothing left. That’s not a good idea when there are pre-teenage girls in the house. I was unable to tell them what was wrong. I just kept screaming.

Finally, Crystal and Kelly ran out of the house, screaming as well, because they didn’t know what was happening. They didn’t know where to go or what to do, so they just locked themselves in the van parked in the driveway.

I’d scream, then Maria would scream. I’d scream at her. She screamed back.

“It’s bat, it’s a bat,” I finally yelled as I ran past our open patio door, open windows, never remembering that I was only in my underwear and we had a 12-year-old boy living next door.

“You have no clothes on! Where is the bat? What are we supposed to do?” Maria yelled.

“I touched it, it was on my sweater! I was wearing my sweater!” I screamed.

She grabbed the cordless phone (we didn’t have cells back then) and headed for the van. Kelly and Crystal only let her in when they realized she had the phone and apparently the information imperative to their survival.

While I ran about the garage nearly naked, looking for a weapon, they called for help. They called the only person known to have killed at least three bats in our house before — the husband.

Of course, he was at work — but when he got the call he wasn’t sure if the house was on fire or if they were afraid for my sanity. At that point, it really could have seemed like both.

“She’s in the garage now, with hardly any clothes on — we think she’s looking for a shovel,” they relayed to him, play by play.

And indeed, there I was. Going through the racing parts and lawn tools — anything to kill the bat. At last, I spied my weapon of choice — a nice, heavy spade that was sure to do the trick.

While the girls cried and the husband laughed until he cried . . . my crusade was on. It was either him (the bat) or me. I inched across the carpet, not knowing what to expect.

The sweater lay motionless on the carpet. What if it moved? What if it made some sort of sound? What if it had little bat friends, waiting to attack me?

I started swinging that spade, hitting that sweater, nearly causing an indention in the bedroom floor.

By the time I was done, the sweater was indeed motionless and I didn’t like my favorite garment any longer. Loose threads were sticking out — it was just a pile of yarn left behind from my mayhem and uncontrollable killer instinct.

I left the sweater lay. No use in checking things out — if he was able to take me on again, I surely didn’t want to give him the chance.

I put a towel around me and headed down to the kitchen table. There I sat, crazed and in shock, holding my spade, staring at the wall.

After the husband coaxed the girls out of the van, they slowly walked near me. They stared at my mascara-stained face, hair full of knots, green towel and red marks on my chest where I had feverishly tried to wipe away any possible bat remnants. With one sock on and one sock off, I sat silently holding the spade, waiting for the next attack.

The husband brought down the sweater, concealing my victim’s body within the pile of rags.

He made it all go away – but I kept a hold of the spade.

Years later, we moved to York where we haven’t had even one bat. Sure, we had our time with hundreds of snakes, but I think the Elgin Bats were worse.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore animals. But not snakes or rodents or rodents who fly.

Sure, I lost the infamous bat sweater in the war – but if any unwanted demonic creatures ever come near me again, I still have my ultimate spade.


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