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.
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.