Bat Country

We have a thing for bats here.

My first real run-in with a bat was when Mollie was about seven or eight. The room at the top of the stairs was hers and I had the bedroom at the bottom of the stairs (very small house), and in the middle of the night, I heard this godawful scream, and the very few maternal instincts I have propelled me out of bed to the bottom of the stairs where I caught her as she flung herself down them.

There’s a bat in my room!” she screamed. “It’s caught in the fan and it’s flapping!”

“No, honey, it’s just a piece of paper,” I said, patting her, and then the bat flew down the stairs.

We hied ourselves into my bedroom and slammed the door, and I said,”Okay, that was a bat. But it’s outside in the hall–” which is when the bat swooped over our heads again.

So we both dove under the covers on my bed, and I said–I remember this very clearly–“Would you like to be the adult for awhile?” and she said, “NO!” and I left her under the covers and opened the door to a room off my bedroom (weird little cottage house, this was), and opened the window there, and then sort of shooed and prayed until the bat went in there and I could slam the door. When the dog started barking at the door (Jasper, a dachshund, of course), I knew the bat was in there and gave Mollie the all-clear.

I’m pretty sure she remembers this like it was yesterday, especially the part where I tried to hand off adulthood to her.

Years pass, and I pick up my first Hunter Thompson book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It begins:

We were somewhere in the desert around Barstow when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like, “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive . . .” and suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice screaming, “Holy Jesus, what are these goddamn animals?”

Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken off his shirt and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. “What the hell are you yelling about?” he said, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses. “Never mind.” I said, “It’s your turn to drive.” I hit the brakes and aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats, I thought, the poor bastard will see them soon enough.

The book was written in 1971 which is one of those years I remember vaguely, through a haze of pot smoke and Moody Blues, but even for the time, the drug use in the book was insane, ludicrously dangerous, and–as un-PC as it is to admit it–hysterically funny. But my favorite line comes later on in the chapter, when Thompson tells his attorney, “You can’t stop here! This is bat country!”

That’s a line that’s come in handy any number of times over the decades since I first read the book.

Oddly enough, I didn’t use it when Lani woke me up at 3AM to tell me there was “a bird” in the house and then hid under the covers while I got rid of the bat. Instead I said, “You were a great help,” and went back downstairs to bed. I also didn’t use it when she threw the fit about the dead baby bat in the lamp–“Why would you show me that, why, WHY?”–but I did use it in the opening to Welcome to Temptation because I loved it that much.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when Lani was sick as a dog and still refused to throw out ancient tuna fish even though she was already nauseous. I got her this get well card (it was a birthday card, but who cares):

Best card ever. Then Krissie came to visit, working on the rewrites for her fallen angel/vampire book, and we mentioned the bats and showed her Diego, the bat Skelanimal, and he became her new Favorite Thing so she had to have one. Immediately. I will glide past the Skelanimal hunt we went on, and just say that Target only had purses and stuffed animals (no Diegos), and ToysRUs had only Kits and Marcys, but Borders had their Diegos on closeout at 50% off so we scored there. Then Krissie wanted to stop at T. J. Maxx for a new suitcase because she’s trying to preserve the Pig, and when she bought a four-wheeled (ALWAYS buy ONLY four-wheeled) cheapo the color of dried blood (sort of), she handed it to me and said, “Paint it.” I said “Diego?” and she said, “Oh, goody,” and I made her a Bat Country suitcase, since she’d be traveling with it.

First I gathered up the stuff I’d need: black and silver Sharpies, red and white acrylic, and thin brushes. I printed out Diegos and cut one out to make two patterns, the black shape and the white skull shape with the two eye holes showing. (You can click to enlarge these photos.)

Then using the patterns, I drew around them to get the outline on the suitcase and colored the black part in with the black marker.

Then I painted in three coats of white on the skull because covering up dried blood is not easy. It should have been four, but I only had two days before Krissie was going to start packing it, so I skimped. Then I added the toes in white and the heart in red, and outlined the black with the silver to help it stand out a little more against the dark suitcase.

Krissie wanted just one small Diego in the corner on the back, like a Japanese chop, so that was easy.

But on the front she wanted the Thompson quote, so at 3AM Saturday night/Sunday morning, I did three more Diegos and then free-handed the lettering which turned out all whopper-jawed which was oddly appropriate given the quote.

And this is what it looked like when it was done. Sloppy because I was blind from lack of sleep and didn’t have the time to do it right, but I think that adds to the terror-stricken scream of “Bat Country!” That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

And this is Krissie at the airport with the bats and the Pig and the Multiple Pursonality Bag, getting ready to wow the baggage handlers.

Now Lani wants her purple suitcase painted with the “It’s when you can’t hear the bats” line, so stay tuned.

Bat Country. I live there. And now I must go write a book there. Argh.

80 thoughts on “Bat Country

  1. A friend sent me that birthday card. I keep it at work, to worry my co-workers.

    I loaned another friend my copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. She — and this is a highly liberal hippy Art major friend — got rid of it because she feared “it would be a bad influence on me.” Maybe I shouldn’t have told her of laughing while I read it.

    1. How can one NOT laugh reading Fear and Loathing? Had she had some sort of humor-ectomy?

  2. Oh! I live in bat country too. They are constantly flying though my house, swooping down when ever we open the attic stairs. It’s scary.

    This is not helping my very worst fear of all: bats in my hair. I’m pretty sure I could handle anything the world throws at me as long as it isn’t bats in my hair.

    I’m printing the “It’s when you can’t hear the bats” line and hanging it on my fridge as a reminder.

    1. My uncle found my grandmother chasine a bat out of her house with a broom. Her outfit? A housecoat, and one of those accordian-fold plastic rain bonnets they sold in the ’70s. So the bat wouldn’t get caught in her hair, of course.
      Sadly, I can’t advise you where to find one of those bonnets these days….

    2. Bats are really good at avoiding things mid-flight, especially moving things. It’s a given for anything that chases and eats bugs for a living.

      Trust me, they have no intention of landing on you or even getting near you because you move waaaay too much and outmass them. Your hair is safe, because to them, you are a big, scary predator. They aren’t getting anywhere near you if they have a choice in the matter.

      1. I’m sure you’re right, but it isn’t the sane, rational bats with jobs and bat families and bat hobbies, that I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of the crazy bats, the ones that hear voices that tell them to fly into my hair and bite me with their foamy little rabid bat teeth.

        1. Thank you, Juneb. I didn’t want to admit that even though I KNOW bats won’t want to fly into my hair- I’m scared anyway. Glad to know that I’m not the only one.

          I guess I’m just scared of the irrational bats.

  3. If ever you should run out of words (heaven forbid!), you’ll have a brilliant career in bag design. Best Bags Ever. LOVE the bats 🙂

  4. Priceless!!! Absolutely Priceless. I want a Jenny Original Suitcase, are they available on QVC? lol

  5. Well now you know what you can do if this writing gig doesn’t work out.
    Seriously, that suitcase is SUPER cute! I want one.

  6. If I see any of those suitcases at the airport, I’m totally stalking Krissie.

    They’re fantastic. Every last one.

  7. When we moved into our house there was a baby bat sleeping between the screen and the window in my oldest daughter’s room. That’s how I knew it was a lucky house. I’m pretty sure they live in the attic too, although I’ve never seen any when I’ve been up there. Mostly, when I’m in the attic, I’m dodging the sticky fly strips my husband hung up in there. They get stuck to my hair and I get trapped in the attic.

    Maybe they aren’t really fly strips, maybe they’re wife strips. Hmmm.

    1. We have, like, insomniac bats. There are definitely bats in our attic, and every spring when we get the early fake “don’t stop hibernating!” thaw, at least one wakes up and blunders around until it falls down between the wall studs and hangs out in the upstairs hallway wall making tiny but persistent bat screeches. I assume it’s saying “WTH? WTH? WTH? WTH?

      The extra-frustrating thing is, my boyfriend listened to too much heavy metal so he can’t even hear in those registers. So it only bothers me, usually.

  8. That is an awesome bag.

    I got a little freaked recently as there were hoards and hoards of bats flying over my house – very odd, we don’t normally get them in my area of Melbourne – and then I thought that I really needed to mention it to Lani on her blog, but changed my mind as I thought it might be a bit mean!

  9. Love the bat stories (I read Lani’s on her blog and the whole bit was so funny) and love love love your paint job on the suitcase, really great!!

  10. I love your books, but finding out one of my favorite authors likes doing some of the same things I love to do is just that much cooler! I’m in the middle of a screen printing debacle, so I’m envying your beautiful Diegos.

  11. That is a splendid Diego bag! Krissie is probably the most recognizable traveler on the planet.

    I like bats – when they’re outside. Inside, not so much. I love the story about when Mollie was little!

    OMB, Preview is working! I hadn’t checked in a while. Now I’ll probably forget to use it and STILL whine about not closing my formatting. But I’m glad it’s working!

  12. You call that sloppy?! That is ART. I decorated a black suitcase once but cheated and used stencils. But it was right after 9/11 and it seemed right to have words like “Joy”, “Hope”, and “Faith” on my suitcase.

    I need to get a new one for Nationals and was toying with one of the four-wheel kind. Never had one before. I better start comparison shopping. Where did Krissie find the inexpensive one? (Is it wrong that I love that color red?)

    1. T. J. Maxx. And it’s burgundy, but T. J. Maxx has many suitcases, so I’m sure there’s a red one there for you.

      1. That was the exact place I was going to look. Ha! Now, to wait and see where this new Nationals suitcase and I will be heading….

  13. So much talent and such lucky friends, also Kohl’s has some great purple bags.

  14. I so sincerely wish that you would take over Martha’s Stewart empire…your shows would be so much more funnn!

  15. I’m stealing the suitcase idea. I’m left handed and when I was in (I think) second grade, my teacher stopped at my desk and told me that when bats leave their caves, they always turn left. I still find myself mulling that over from time to time.

    1. If that teacher was implying you would grow up to have an innate sense of direction, boy, was she ever wrong. Thank you for always using the Garmin. I sleep easier.
      For my luggage, could you just put “IRON MAN” on one side and the Stark Industries logo on the other side? You can? Great.

      1. Nah, if you’re going to go for an Iron Man suitcase, get a picture of RDJ as Iron Man on it. Much better eye candy!

  16. “Whopper-jawed.” Great word and people always look at me weird when I use it. Lived in Ohio for 13 years – maybe that’s where I got it.

  17. I wish I had a friend who could make suitcases look as awesome as you do! LOVE the bat story. Hmm, I’ve never read Fear and Loathing. I may have to rectify that.

  18. I bought that one, too! And the Paco one. I gave Krissie the Paco card for her birthday. That’s the one with the wrestler-looking guy in a colored wife-beater on the front that says, “So, you will not go to Omaha with Paco? Paco can show you many things, but Paco will not beg.”
    And then inside, it says, “Birthday or not, don’t go with Paco.”
    She laughed a lot.

    1. Heh. I gave the Paco card to one of my then-teenage sons for his birthday a few years ago. It only confirmed what he already knew, that his mother is flat-out bonkers.

  19. Why didn’t I think of asking my 2 year old if he wanted to be the adult when he woke at 2 am screaming in in his crib because there was a bat flying around his room? Why? No, instead I woke up my husband and said, “there is a bat in the baby’s room.” He looked at me. Looked away. Then looked at me again, “You’re not kidding are you?” Let’s just say there were tennis rackets involved.

    But then, there were rabies shots for the baby. Current CDC protocol is that you get prophylactic rabies shots after exposure. Yep, 8 of them.

    So, Bat country = Bat Shots. Not good.

    1. We didn’t tell the CDC. We didn’t get bit and when one of the kids came out of her room, I said, “There’s a bird loose,” and she said, “Okay,” and went back to bed.

      1. Actually, we waited a month after the bat incident to mention it to our pediatrician. She said, “A MONTH AGO!?” I said, “Yea, sorry, he seemed okay to us. What should be be looking for?” And she said, “Foaming at the mouth.”

        But then she called me back and said that she recommended that rabies shots based on the CDC thing, and that he might have been bitten and we didn’t know it, and that the shots aren’t given in the stomach anymore, and that once in the history of the universe a kid got rabies a year after the exposure. And well, you’d hate for your kid to be the second freakish occurrence in the universe just because of a bat. So we did the bat shots.

  20. Personally I love bats cause they eat an amazing amount of mosquitos per day. We have some. I sit outside after dark sometimes and watch them flying around the street light.

    Great suitcases. Clever idea, too. It would be so easy to spot your suitcases at the baggage carousel.

  21. Well, Jenny, if you ever get bored writing novels (which heaven forfend!), you can always switch to designing amazing luggage. Both those suitcases are brilliant.

  22. The minute I read that you went on a search for Skelanimals I knew there was going to be more decorating with them (other than the awesome purse)…and then, yes, there was the suitcase. So incredible! So, so funny! Yes, go into the luggage biz, Jenny, so we can stop hauling around boring luggage!

  23. Yeah, I knew that the conservative choice would be rabies shots after the bat in my bedroom. But I didn’t think it was worth it, just as prophylaxis, unless I showed ANY symptoms. It’s probably too late then, but still.

    Hey, does anyone know – if I had gotten the shots after the FIRST bat, could I have skipped them after the SECOND bat, about a year later?

    I definitely approve of bats eating mosquitoes. Just not in my bedroom. There aren’t enough mosquitoes there to fill one up.

    1. I’m pretty sure you only need the shots once because the pediatrician said that baby can be a veterinarian now that he’s had the bat shots.

  24. Most Adorable Luggage ever!! I’d almost be afraid that somebody would swipe it just for the bags, to hell with the contents.

    I hate to admit that I’m so out of the loop that I’m unfamiliar with Skelanimals, but Diego is delightful and I can see why Krissie loves him. (I guess my ignorance is due to the fact that five of my six grandchildren are male, and Lizzie is currently into Tinkerbelle.)

    Anyway, this was one of the great blog posts. Thanks for all the laughs.

    Lynda, who has also not read FEAR AND LOATHING but obviously should

  25. Between my own experiences and the stories here, it appears that bedrooms and bat country are the same place. Maybe it’s time for a door sign collection in addition to luggage.

    BTW – thank you for being one of the first writers to use the word “snarky” in a book. I’ve been using for years and no one believed me that it was a word. Published work makes excellent proof!

  26. OMG, those suitcases are terrific!

    I speak Spanish fluently, but my husband knows only one word. It’s not hola or cerveza or baño, but murciélago — the word for bat.

    Surprisingly, it doesn’t come in handy very often.


  27. When I was a teenager we lived on several acres of woods and had a pool. The night I finally got up the nerve to go skinny dipping, I dove into the calm pool and swam around, feeling brave and free… and then was tearing out of the pool, buck naked and screaming for my life, not even bothering with a towel cause my arms were too busy waving away the bats. The damn things come out and swoop down onto unsuspecting night swimmer – one actually flew through my hair. Hate bats.

  28. Once, while swimming in a murky pond on a camping trip (clue: two of my three least favorite things are murky pond swimming and camping), my seven year old daughter, who is terrified of snakes (clue: my third least fave… snakes), came swimming up to me and said in a Very Worried Tone, “I think I just saw a snake swim by me.” Now, of course, I knew that she had. What else would be swimming by in a horrid murky pond, eh? But I didn’t want a riot on my hands. So I told her, no, it was surely just a floating stick. She looked dubious because she’s smart, but decided to believe me. Until three minutes later, when a large snake swam by us, with about two inches of separation. Suddenly I was wearing a screaming seven year old girl as a hat, as I tried to keep us both above water and swim for shore. It’s really, really, really hard to swim for shore when you’ve got an hysterical seven year old climbing on top of you. Not to mention the hysteria bubbling up inside yourself. Of course, the commotion drew the attention of her twin sister, who also panicked, but happily for me, she swam to her dad and climbed on him. And, obviously, we made it to shore. That was the last time for murky pond swimming and camping for me. Alas, not the last time for a snake encounter. Snakes and bats. Twin forces for evil.

  29. I can see it all now: a long line of women wearing Cherry gear and dragging butt-ugly four wheeled suitcases wandering along the Ohio river looking for Fake Aunt Jenny’s house. And bats. The neighbors will mutter.

  30. I should have sold tickets to the show when I found a bat in my bedroom! The Humane Society said to just open the door and the bat will smell the outside air and fly out. Yeah, right! I didn’t know that my bat had no sense of smell! I opened the front door and the screen, turned all the lights on and there I was, in my nightie, trying to convince the bat that going outside would be a good idea! Using the broom, I barely touched the bat so it would start to fly. I then put my arms over my head, ducked and start screaming as loud as I could. Surprisingly, no one called the police. Half an hour later, I thought, “There has got to be a better way to do this.” I ended up getting a shoe box and its lid, took one side off the lid and waited for the bat to land on a wall. I covered it up with the shoe box and then slid the lid up between the wall and the bat. I took it outside and let it loose (after closing the door) and then took a bow. I haven’t seen it on UTube yet, Thank you God!

    P.S. I am in Omaha and need to find the Paco card!

  31. Oh that is just awesome! You free-handed those letters??? They’re perfect!
    I need to find the kind of friend who will just drop everything to personalize me a really cool piece of luggage! Or I suppose I could figure out how to do that stuff myself…but a friend is definitely better! Are you, by chance, looking for any new friends? 🙂

  32. But where is the dachshund luggage?

    Oh, hey! Dress up one of the dogs as a bat! Or design a new skelanimal that is a dachshund! In your free time, of course! 🙂

  33. (-: How can bats and pigs possibly co-ordinate?? And yet, they do . . . that luggage looks great together.

    I was thinking about doing up my computer case this week; now I have an extra dose of inspiration (-:. I’m going to draw a design on fabric, then mod-podge it to the nasty old, beat-up, scraped-over naugahyde cover.

    I love that quote for a travelling piece, by the way. I get too nuts when I travel to actually use it, but I have been to several airports that have been metaphorically bat country.

  34. You know, I LIKE doing the luggage. Even if I screw it up, it’s still easier to find on the baggage carousel.
    But no, I’m sticking to family on this stuff. But really, it’s easy. You all can do it yourselves. Honest.
    I was dumb enough to buy floral luggage (whosis, the one with the prints, what’s her name?) and I can always find it in airports but it doesn’t leave me much scope for decorating.

    1. Vera Bradley – lipstick case with a mirror, holds TWO lipsticks. The best.

  35. the bat bag is fabulous. i’m totally stealing that idea. mine. and, should i ever see that bag undefended somewhere, may steal it too. mine!

    i like bats. my dad used to sing (very not well) “twinkle twinkle little bat, how i wonder where you’re at” and so on and so forth at night. i loved dad being silly, therefore bats = good.

  36. Love the luggage. No, I can’t do that. Honestly. I am artistically challenged.

    And nobody else ever wants to be the grown up.

  37. Ooooh. Jenny, just a thought. Before you give up on bags entirely, you need, really really NEED to make … The Luggage.

    1. Ooooh, yes please! And I’m not just saying that because I’m trying to get back into McB’s “good graces” 😉 That would be so cool!

      “The Luggage’s expression could only be described as wooden.”

  38. Oh, The Luggage! (I’ve been reading like a maniac. A sick maniac, but am feeling better.) Teeth and feet, wow. Of course, I’d have to remember to scent our undies with lavender. I’d have no problem with that, but my husband would say it doesn’t suit Iron Man’s image.

  39. Oy so much win! And as Stephen commented over my shoulder, there’s never a bad time to quote Hunter Thompson.

  40. Wow, I seriously covet Krissie’s luggage. I thought ‘The Pig’ was amazing but the latest masterpiece is truly brilliant.

    I cheated last year,when buying new luggage. Saw hot pink with black zebra stripes and it had my name written all over it.

  41. “Trust me, they have no intention of landing on you or even getting near you because you move waaaay too much .”

    People always say this. And I should have told that to the bat that decided to use my inner thigh as a resting post. I was brushing my teeth and felt the oddest pressure. Strange, I thought, then I brushed at the spot. The little bat was a squeakin’ and a flappin’. I screamed, my husband ran in, took one look, shut off the light and slammed the door. So, I jumped on the tub and screamed some more.

    Good times.

    Love the bags.

  42. Awesome suitcase. I’m now pondering doing something to my loyal plum suitcase. Hmmm…what to paint, what to paint?

    As to bats, I’d rather have a bat in my house than a skunk. We had a skunk spray our house once, freak out, fall through a broken basement window, and spray the storage room he ended up in. This was after he’d walked past my then-housemate and her large chocolate lab, who were sleeping on the porch. His fur brushing her arm woke her up. I’ll just finish by saying that the adventure did not end well for the poor, probably mentally-altered critter. Oh, and permeating skunk smell is a great diet plan. You have no appetite. And no friends, but who needs those? 😉

  43. The bat discussion has reminded me of a story in the news inthe UK about 2 years ago about a girl who got dressed and went to work, only to discover about 5 hours later a bat sleeping, wait for it, in her bra!! How do you not notice? I get a crumb in mine and I know!

    1. It was probably the girl whose grandmother died on their camping trip to Spain. In order to avoid all the hassle, the family decided to wrap her up in the tent, tie the thing to the top of the car, and drive home. And then in the middle of France, the car was stolen.

      It’s one of the urban legends in Europe, together with the one about the woman who bought a Yucca plant and after a while, a hoard of huge spiders crawled out. Although I find that halfway believable, seeing as we had an incredible invasion of big flies around New Year one year. We could not explain where all those flies came from in the middle of winter until we realized that the larvae were probably hidden in the bark of our Christmas tree and the warmth of our living-room made them believe it was summer.

      1. If it was an urban myth they got the BBC too, because that’s where I read it.

        1. Lani was just at a party where somebody told the troll-in-the-closet-is-really-a-dwarf story, and I Snopes-d that and found out it was a legend. I think it’s just the knee-jerk reaction to an “You’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” story. But there is no bat-in-the-bra story on Snopes.

  44. Oh Skunks! I think I blogged about the crazy skunk that came and tried to steal the dog beds. I’ll see if I can find the link, because I’m just too damn lazy to write it again, and besides that I couldn’t do it justice after all this time.

  45. You could not pay me to go into a cave. Not gonna happen.

    Missouri is closing most caves in state parks and historic sites to help contain a disease that’s fatal to bats.
    The Department of Natural Resources says the closings are temporary and will be reviewed in mid-July. Four main tour caves remain open with visitor screening.
    The agency hopes to reduce the chances that people who visit multiple caves will spread white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has devastated bat populations in the northeastern U.S.
    White-nose syndrome causes bats to awaken more often during winter hibernation and search for food. That causes many to freeze or starve.

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