Last week I read a post by my good friend, interior designer Jonathan Legate and it reminded me of an experience I had written about two years ago. In keeping with sharing the good bad & hysterical experiences of country living, I decided to go back and edit this never before published piece and share it with all of you. Enjoy!
Talk about confronting phobias head on. Tonight I came face to face with the granddaddy of all of my phobias, BATS. And I’m not talking about the kind that A- Rod swings. I am talking about the Titans of Transylvania. Those webbed- winged, blood-sucking vampire vermin of the night.
Anyone who knows me knows that despite being an avid nature lover, I loathe having anything fly over my head. As far back as I can remember, I had been petrified of low flying birds. When my grandmother let my budgie, Billy Boy, out of his cage for his daily exercise, I ran out of the room screaming. Over the years, I have attempted to analyze the reason for this phobia but have not been able to come up with anything concrete. I often wonder if, as an infant, I was traumatized by a bird mobile hanging over my crib, or could it possibly be the flying spoons of soft-boiled eggs that my grandmother piloted from the bowl to my mouth each morning that set this irrational fear in motion. Perhaps it is simply because I spent the first twenty years of my life living directly under the Kennedy Airport flight patterns; whatever the reason, I am petrified of all low flying creatures especially ghoulish, rabid mosquito slurpers.
My Fright Night began quite normally enough. With Irwin in the city and my chores complete, I settled down in front of my laptop, icy cold cocktail in hand and prepared to begin my first attempt at serious writing. Before I was able to type my first word, I saw something from the corner of my eye that sent a chill down my spine. I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs of the cocktail when it appeared again. It was big and black with the wingspan of a stealth bomber and it was traveling through the den at what seemed like Mach 1 speed. Shockingly, just as I was about to begin writing a bat-tale, a new one was unfolding right before my somewhat bloodshot eyes. Being known to occasionally overreact, it should come as no surprise that I immediately began to freak out. I catapulted myself off the couch and barely missed the low farmhouse ceiling as a high-pitched shrill escaped my lips. I frightened myself and can only imagine what it did to the not-so little fella, who was blinded by all the lights on around the house. Thankful that my screams were not confused with a bat mating call, I did what any bat-o-phobic person would do; I began to rant and cry, calling for help from Charlie, our laid-back, Flat Coated Retriever mix. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, he offered no support, so I immediately pulled up the hood of my sweatshirt and ran to higher ground.
A lovely summer evening....at bat-o'clock
Our master suite is located on the newer side of the house directly above the great room. It is separated from the staircase vestibule by a pair of French doors, installed in classic “local country” manner: upside down and accordingly, they do not close properly. Being a quick witted adaptive Manhattan native, I grabbed a small towel and tied it around the handles to attempt to secure them. Actually, I am sure there were about a gazillion other choices that would have been more effective, but it was the best I could come up with in my semi- catatonic state.
All the lights were on and my not so adorable, winged friend was charging the French doors like a “ bat out of hell” as I began to hyperventilate and mumble to myself. He seemed to be trying to leave through the porch screen door located at the bottom of the stairs and being the naturist I am, I knew that bats can fit through openings as small as an eighth of an inch so I began to pray that this winged creature of the night would exit stage left through a gap on the side of the screen door. But, that wish was not realized and my nemesis continued to swoop and fly aimlessly, crashing into walls, doors and windows.
As I stood, peering out from my temporary safe haven I realized that, in my haste to escape, I had taken nothing with me; not my cocktail, not my computer, and most importantly, not even a phone. I was now sobbing uncontrollably and screaming “ I don’t even have a phone with me, I don’t even have a phone”, as the enormity of my dilemma set in. Irwin, who had always come to my aid during “bat-ventures”, was miles away in NYC and I was left with Charlie to deal with the situation. And what a situation it was. While I was sobbing, Count Batula was storming the palace.
The Count and I had one thing in common; his exit was paramount to both of us. As he repeatedly attempted to escape, I became his biggest fan, cheering him on and offering words of encouragement. Unfortunately his sonar must have been on the blink because he was just not able to find an escape route and resumed his erratic flight pattern.
As I stood trembling behind the French doors, my flying nemesis took off in search of an alternate egress, leaving me a window of opportunity. Understanding that I had little choice, I wrapped my hooded self in a towel for extra protection and opened the French doors (not a difficult task considering the fact that they don’t actually close). With the speed of a jaguar- okay, so maybe it was more like a highly caffeinated tortoise, I ran back to the den and retrieved a phone, my drink and my laptop and retreated once again to my tower. I took a couple of swigs of my lukewarm cocktail and waited for the pseudo-courage of the vodka to set in.
That's me...the speedy tortoise
That's me...the speedy tortoise
After what seemed to be a millennium, the bat no longer appeared in the vestibule and I hoped that, like that infamous season of Dallas, it had all been a terrible dream. Armed with my trusty phone, I called my husband and sobbing uncontrollably, filled him in on my predicament. In truth, I knew that he could not help me, but I had to talk to someone and Charlie was just not interested. In fact, despite my insane behavior, he was sprawled across my bed, dozing.
Irwin confirmed what I already knew. I was on my own with no safety net. I was forced to confront one of my greatest fears head on and despite my somewhat unstable emotional state, I was enveloped by a sense of inner calmness. I closed the vestibule light, took another sip of my cocktail and began to write this tale. In truth, I knew that after turning off the light, it was only a matter of time before the bat resumed his pursuit of freedom and although I was still shrouded in panic… and a bathroom towel, I also knew that I could not sleep until I set my airborne enemy free.
As I continued to write, I heard a gentle knock on the wall and knew that “Darth Vader” had returned. I attempted to quell my rising panic with another swig of vodka as I pondered my next step. Feeling as fearless as a marine, I formulated plan of action. I would brave the elements, run down the stairs and attempt to release him by holding open the screen door on the porch. At the time, it seemed like a simple solution. If ‘Bat-zilla” saw the open screen door, he would simply leave- end of problem.
I barricaded Charlie in my bedroom and flew down the stairs. I flung open the screen door and held it from behind as any courteous doorman would. I waited and waited as my worthy opponent continued to fly around the great room and vestibule performing feats any Blue Angel would be proud of. Unfortunately, he came nowhere near the door. As I stood, paralyzed in the cloak of darkness, a frightening thought occurred to me: I might actually be inviting more bats to enter rather than assisting the departure of this single bat. Despite this, I continued my bat-watch. When I realized that there were no bat sightings for over forty-five minutes, I closed the screen door and did something I would not have believed possible an hour before. I relinquished the role of victim and in its place, assumed the role of hunter in pursuit of prey. Allowing myself no time to reconsider, I grabbed a flashlight from the porch and mounted an expedition both in and around the house, shining the light into the darkest recesses, looking for my unwelcome guest. Although life altering, the unsuccessful mission brought me back, once again, to my screen door post, prey-less. Hunter or not, I was really tired and just wanted this adventure to come to an end. As if hearing my prayer, Sir “Bat-a-lot” reappeared and resumed his air show. Then, as suddenly as he reappeared- he was gone again and all was quiet on the screen door front. I was baffled because he had been at the top of the stairs near those shoddily installed French doors just a moment before. Where could he have possibly gone? A quick walk up the stairs answered my question. My very own flying “Fear Factor” was now on the other side of the French doors swooping over Charlie as he napped on the bed.
My sense of calm immediately dissipated as I envisioned Charlie being attacked by the bat. I threw open the French doors and shrieked at Charlie who followed me down the stairs and out the screen door. Now we were both on the porch holding the door open waiting for our uninvited guest to leave. It was like “déjà vu all over again” and although I can’t speak for Charlie, my patience was running thin and I was rapidly running out of steam. It was now after one a.m. and I had been dealing with this situation for over four hours. I knew I could not leave the perpetrator in the house but had no idea how to evict him. I am not a quitter by nature but enough was enough. I was ready to give up, take Charlie and sleep in the car. It was a small convertible car – but it was also a bat- free car. Anything had to have been better than this “Cat and Bat” chase.
It was just at that moment, a moment of complete and utter desperation, when it dawned on me. If The Count was not going to come to me, I was going to go to him. I went back up the stairs to watch the latest flight exhibition when I noticed “Bat Masterson” trying to escape from my room by climbing on the open window screens. I considered closing the window, trapping him between the screen and the window but could not bring myself to get that close. What if he was startled and flew right at me? Who would be there to call 911 when I started foaming at the mouth? Although like the Cowardly Lion, I too had found courage, I was not totally bonkers: I was not about to go “Rambo”. Instead, I immediately knocked out the screen from the window closest to the door, closed the door and waited. Finally, miracle of miracles, “Bat-dini” made his escape and flew out the open window. I instantly ran in and closed it and was immediately flooded with relief and awash with sheer joy.
I was absolutely giddy. I wanted to call everyone and anyone I knew and tell them that I had indeed completed my “Mission Impossible”. I yearned to shout it from the rooftop, to write it across the sky. I had beaten my foe. I conquered what I thought was an insurmountable fear. I outwitted my blind friend and won the battle. Unfortunately, it was just before two in the morning and most of the world was sound asleep so….I climbed into bed with Charlie, who had resumed his snoring, and recounted my tale to….my laptop. Just another Wednesday night in the country.