Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Bat In My Belfry

From True Tales of Detroitcirca 1989 (!!). All present-tense references are very, very dated.

As of now this True Tale has no ending, only the threat of disease.

It began this morning. I awoke in my swank bachelor pad, stretched and yawned myself into consciousness, and staggered into my tiny kitchenette to brew up a pot of coffee. Then I pulled on some clothing, pocketed a few coins, and headed out to buy the morning paper.

I had only gone a few paces when I spied an unidentified mass in the hallway, high up near the ceiling. Gadzooks, I thought. The slobs are at it again – attaching unspeakable refuse to the walls. How can they treat their home so poorly?

But when I stepped up for a closer look it was rodentus nocturnus — in common parlance, a bat.

I leaped back several feet and looked again. Indeed – a warm-blooded, fur-bearing creature hanging by its feet, with distinctive rat-like ears – capable of instilling fear and inflicting an incurable wound, in one rabid bite.

It was 7:30 a.m. Who needed coffee? I was wide awake now.

I dashed down the four flights of stairs to the main floor, and knocked on the door of the building manager. There's a bat in the hallway upstairs, I told her. “You know, a bat? Vampires, Dracula, rabies?” She said she’d do something about it.

I bought my paper and went back upstairs, slinking past the beast. With its wings closed it appeared somewhat larger than a gerbil. It moved as I went by, adjusting its foot-hold on the panelling by the ceiling. 

Back in the safety of my apartment I read the paper, sipped coffee, and wrote out a check for that month’s rent.

A few hours later I emerged to run some errands. The bat still clung, upside-down, to its perch. When I got home he was still there. He had not moved, save for the occasional adjustment of his foot-hold. Goddam foot-dragging management! I grabbed my camera and crept up on the beast, and took several photographs.

I left again in mid-afternoon. The bat still clung to its spot, no doubt waiting for nightfall. It was time to confront the manager again.

Her name was Mattie. I found her in the hall outside her quarters, smoking and engaged in lively conversation with someone I determined to be a handyman.

I got her attention. “You know...that critter is still up there.”

“Oh, no!”

The handyman looked at me. “There’s a bat upstairs,” I said.

“A bat?”

“Yeah. You know – vampires, rabies?”

“We had one once before,” Mattie said. “It was in the basement. My nephew was here then. I had him take care of it. But this time...” her voice trailed off, and the handyman realized it was up to him to get rid of the thing.

“What did he do?”

“Oh, he ain’t afraid of anything!” Mattie chortled, dragging on her extra-long cigarette. “First, he hit it with a stick, and then stomped it to death.”

How quaint, I thought. “I’ve had to walk by that thing about ten times already. Somebody has to get rid of it. I don’t want rabies!”

The handyman appeared uneasy. “Where is it?”

“Right above room 409!”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

The bat is still there. It's been twelve hours – or rather, it’s been twelve hours since I first saw the damned thing. I hope they don't kill it, but they probably will.

The accompanying pictures were shot on film, and scanned from a proof sheet.

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