Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Flying Cat

In every home I own, I have an executive command seat. Said seat must offer clear sightlines to monitor the misbehavior of children, proximity to the television to keep tabs on ball games, and quick access to my Diet Pepsi stash. On Sycamore Street, my seat was at the end of the dining room table. Books and computer were close at hand, the TV was clearly visible so I could censor MTV, and the kitchen was steps away.

One evening, when I was in the middle of a particularly good murder mystery, the children's pitiful cries for food finally penetrated my reading fog. I debated between chopped up hot dogs in 1)Spaghettio's or in 2)Kraft Mac and Cheese. Then Ruthie the cat flew by my right ear.

My brain does not always respond quickly to the unusual or bizarre. In this case, the internal dialogue went something like this: "The cat just flew by me. She's circling the table. Cats don't fly but she's 3 feet off the ground. She's not flying like Superman, though. She's vertical, not horizontal. So how is she doing this?"

My eye followed her from tail to head as she rounded the corner. And there, clamped between her (apparently) strong jaws, was a bat. As a librarian, I often shared with the children the wonderful contributions that bats make to our ecology. I have even shed a tear over the beauty of books like Stellaluna and The Bat Poet. But in my heart of hearts, I hate bats and they scare the hell out of me.

So being a mature, confident parent, I screamed, "There's a bat! Bat in the house! Run! Run outside! BAAAAAT!" The children, genetically being 50% me, raised their little arms above their heads and pounded down the front stairs, alternating screams with wet sobs. They barelled out onto the porch and huddled together, wailing.

Meanwhile, I was upstairs trying to formulate a rescue plan for the poor cat. With each circuit around the room, she grew more frantic. Her eyes were bulging, her fur was standing on end, her tail twitched in rhythm with the bat's wings. But her brain was the size of a pea and she just couldn't open her mouth and drop to safety. While she flew around the dining room, I prepared for battle.

My armour:
Pink crocheted hat (with fetching flower) to protect me from the dreaded "bat in hair." I've been told repeatedly that's an old wive's tale but why take the chance?
Sunglasses to protect my eyes from, oh I don't know, bat venom?
Heavy jacket to protect torso and limbs.

My first choice was a broom, but that was in the kitchen behind the kitty aviation show.
My second choice was a tennis racket. Ditto.
So I grabbed the umbrella and headed into battle.

In the end, after a few futile swats with the umbrella, I settled on a tug of war technique. I pulled on the cat, the bat dropped to eye level, I screamed and let go, I pulled on the cat again, the bat dropped to eye level, and so it went. Finally, the bat, the cat, and the warrior were so damned tired that the cat let go or the bat flew out. I wasn't clear how it came about; it was probably a mutual agreement. I grabbed the hissing cat and locked her in the bathroom.

Now I had to deal with the bat in my dining room. I stepped in, umbrella raised, and the bat dive bombed me. To be fair, if I saw a plump middle aged lady in that rig, wielding an umbrella, I would be tempted to dive bomb as well.

I did what any warrior might do in the heat of battle. I screamed, wet my pants a little and made a hasty retreat to the front porch. I joined my Children's Greek Chorus and my sister, roused by the riot on the front porch. She was incredibly calming and helpful. "My god, what if it has rabies?" she shrieked. Suddenly, Ruthie the cat's very life hung in the balance. We suited her up (she had a broom) and made another assault. The bat, by this time, was so exhausted he had moved to the back porch and was just hanging on the wall. But try as hard as we could, he just wouldn't fly into the box I had to capture him.

So we did what women have done for untold generations. We called a guy. My future brother in law arrived with twin tennis rackets. Within seconds, the very dead bat was boxed, ready for a rabies autopsy. As our conquering hero, our Julius Caesar, our George Patton, swaggered by me, he leaned in and murmured, "Nice outfit."

I heard on the news the other day that our local bat population is being attacked by a fungal illness and is in danger of extinction. In my head, I care. In my heart, I'm relieved.

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