There are some aspects to living in the country that are to be anticipated, there are some that are less than desirable, and there are others that are downright, out-and-out positively horrific.
Even as a through-and-through city gal, I was not born yesterday. I fully expected to be presented with some or all of the following: mice and their droppings as an everyday occurrence. Shooting, trapping, or otherwise “getting rid of” animals such as groundhogs and raccoons. Roadkill. The constant, nagging fear of hitting a deer with my car. The subsequent thought of, “What if it doesn’t die straight off?” And bugs. Bugs, bugs, bugs. Of course I knew there would be “more” bugs in the country, but I must admit I didn’t expect hoards of them pounding on our windows every night screaming, “Let us in! Let us in!” I had no idea the crunching clash of their bodies hitting the glass in joyous suicide would be audible through a wall and a door.
I wouldn’t exactly say I was prepared for spiders the size of small rodents, but I took them in stride. And I could have told you before I moved that shooting animals like groundhogs and raccoons was never going to be hunky-dory with me. And so.
Last night. Nothing in my experience thus far could ever have prepared me for what I was forced to endure. Not the vermin, not the poop, not the bugs with their bodies inflated beyond all believable proportions.
I had started getting ready for bed first, and my husband stayed behind in our living room to finish up a few e-mails. I had just climbed under the covers to read for the few minutes I knew it would take for him to join me when I heard a resounding clang from the other room.
I looked up as if I could see through the intervening walls and explain the metallic sound. The cat on the bed, the dogs in their crate, all of us were looking out the door and wondering. Then we looked at each other for an explanation. Nothing.
And then I heard the sound of my husband’s step and knew he had walked toward the bedroom. He spoke from the hallway and his words were hesitant and matter-of-fact in such a way that my city instincts knew this was going to be more awful than any of the other awful things I’d already lived through. He said:
Uh . . . we have a problem.
The dreadful words drifted over his shoulder and tickled my ears eerily. I said nothing and waited.
His voice was far away, even though I could tell by the pop and creak of the floorboards that he was right outside the bedroom. He was standing out of my line of sight, and by the hollow echo of his voice I knew his back was to me and he had spoken into the empty adjoining room. He didn’t want to stop listening—could he see something too?—and I strained and strained but couldn’t hear or see.
I sat up in bed slowly. We were both quiet. I could hear his slow, halting movements as he continued to hover in the hallway. What terrible thing was he going to tell me when he appeared in the doorway? I climbed out of bed and the tickle moved down my spine.
Finally he made it in and the look on his face was so queer I almost crawled back in and pulled the covers over my head.
What is out there?!
Did I scream it?
At last he decided I’d had enough suspense and explained the problem: somehow, some way, a bird or a bat managed to fly down the chimney and was now battering around in the dark hellish belly of the unused woodstove standing sentry in the living room.
Did you catch that it might be a friggin’ bat?!
We both crept out to the living room and waited together for more ferocious flapping. (Pause.) That was it! My husband explained that the loud clang I had heard earlier was him knocking on the stove to make sure of where the sound was coming from.
It was undeniable now. I looked at the stove in horror and could almost imagine the frenzied, rabid dance going on inside. As I thought the word rabid my heart stopped in sudden shock and a montage of all the television images I’ve seen of bats flicked across the interior screen of my clenched eyelids. Pink lips. Pointy teeth. Slimy, shiny tongues.
Crazed swarms pouring out of bell towers. Seething masses dangling and pulsing in the green, night-vision light of a camera suitable for a cave deeper than hell.
I’m an animal lover, blah blah blah! The fact that there is even a possibility of a bloodsucking, dirty, disease-ridden rodent beating itself to death in our living room while I stood in my pink bathrobe was enough to make my skin crawl.
In fact, the animal lover in me was as silent as the stove as I stared and listened to the devil wings thrashing around frantically. I wanted to scream: Get it! Kill it!!
Eyes wide, I started barraging my husband with questions. How did it get in there? How do we get it out*? Isn’t the chimney capped off? What kind of crappy cap was installed outside that a bird/bat can get in? Is the cap not functioning properly, or was it put on incorrectly? What if we were actually using the stove . . . what kind of cap would we have then? Who’s head is going to roll for this?
My husband smiled indulgently and shrugged, unconcerned. We’ll get it tomorrow, he said. It happens.
*I was informed that this is the professional process to remove the bird or bat: first duct tape a garbage bag to the front of the stove and then open the door. A quick prayer that the duct tape will hold is also a good idea. If you wait a few days before attempting this and the beast dies in the meantime, well . . . that is considered Ideal.
WHAT! That's it?! No one ever made clear to me that a regular part of daily life could include an entombed bat in my living room. Nor did it matter at this point that it "could be" a bird; I was only seeing a frothing, livid creature peering out from the vents of the stove. And my nonchalant husband casually covered the vents with duct tape, leaving me and my imagination in the company of those beady black eyes, and went peacefully to sleep.