“My words trickle down from a wound which I have no intention to heal.”
Paul Simon

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

bats in the belfry
Tue 2014-06-03 22:16:16 (in context)

I slept poorly last night, and I'm going to blame it on the bat.

Not, mind you, on the mug of strong tea I had at 9:30 because "It's too early for me to be this sleepy." Not on a session of Puzzle Pirates that went until 1:30 AM because I couldn't resist just one more battle on my way back to port from the site of the looted shipwreck. Neither of these would have been a problem once I finally turned off the lights, lay down, and actually tried to sleep. (Trying to sleep is a thing. It involves actively directing my mind in useful, sleep-promoting places, rather than lying there resentful about the way it races here and there.)

But when a bat gets into your bedroom, well, that'll do it every time.

We still have gigantic holes in our ceiling from shortly after September's storm. Bureaucratic movements towards interior repairs have been detected, but it wouldn't do to get too excited yet. Meantime, it's becoming clear that the roof is not as critter-tight as one might hope. Several days in a row the other week, we were getting bees in the house, despite the windows being closed. They'd show up on the living room window, either crawling around on the inside of the screens or lying dead in the panel track. Our suspicion was, they were getting into the roof and then exiting the roof space via the hole in our living room ceiling. This was no great feat of deduction. It was like seeing rain and suspecting it came from the sky.

That the bat came in from the roof was even more obvious. We could hear it vocalizing from the bedroom ceiling.

Have you ever heard a bat vocalize at close range? It's not a sound you're likely to forget in a hurry. One afternoon a few years ago, we came across a bat clinging to the rim of a step in the apartment stairwell. It obviously wasn't feeling at its most chipper, given that it just hung there stoically as we carefully stepped over it to get to our door. I donned some gloves and gently coaxed that poor, tired, confused thing into our largest plastic leftovers container--the big rectangular one I use for soup--and then I coaxed it back out onto a support strut in the open air parking structure, where it could safely rest until it decided to fly away. It wasn't until it was safely installed in its new location that it took a close look at me (I was taking a very close look at it) and decided it didn't like what it saw. It uttered a series of high-pitched, loud, piercing shrieks that caused me to recoil like a snake just struck at me.

That was when I realized that what I took for "these weird birds that chirp in the middle of the night during the summer" were in fact not birds at all. I've been told that this vocalization is social in nature, rather than having anything to do with their echolocation hat-trick.

Anyway, that sound started going off at 2:30 AM and I sat straight up in bed. "Sounds like a bat in distress," I said, and went to the window. From that vantage point it was clear that the sound was coming from above me, not from outside. "It's a bat in our ceiling." And lo, the elbow bend of a bat's wing briefly jutted into view.

We tried to coax it out--naively, I thought I could get it into that soup container again and take it outside--but it was having none of it. It scrambled back into the tight space between insulation and ceiling until we had no hope of seeing it, much less reaching it.

There didn't seem to be anything we could do. We tried to go back to bed. But that bat kept making noise. It chirped a little more, and then it just--scrabbled. Now, knowing that the scrabbling noise coming from the ceiling is a bat moving around is kind of comforting. It's a lot better than wondering if it's a cockroach, for instance. (Not really a Colorado problem. More of a Louisiana problem.) But it is impossible to get to sleep if part of your brain is constantly listening for it.

But I almost managed it. Right up until the bat was flying circles around our bedroom.

Bats are really, really quiet. It's the most uncanny thing. When a songbird gets into the house, it makes a hell of a lot of noise, not only with its voice but with the very motion of its wings on the air. Feathers are noisy. Furry leather, not so much. It was so contrary to my expectations as to give me the weird impression that I was watching something flying in the far distance, despite knowing it was in the same room with me. Which of course made it all the more startling when the bat's desperate attempts to find a way out brought it suddenly close to my face.

There was no question of trying to get it into a plastic container. This wasn't a tired daylight bat. This was a healthy nighttime bat. It wasn't going to stop for anything. So I opened all the window screens, knelt on the living room floor, and waited. It was kind of awesome in a close encounters kind of way--I could feel the breeze from its wings on my face!--but it was also kind of sad in a trapped bird kind of way. Unlike a bird, it knew exactly where the windows were. But, like a bird, it didn't seem to realize that Here Be Out. It swooped right up to the open windows again and again only to swoop away once more. Every once in a while it alighted on a piece of wall or ceiling to rest for a second. Then it was off again, flying in clueless circles.

Finally it disappeared, not through a window but up into the hole in the living room ceiling. It found the space where the insulation had been removed from the roof awning that jutted out some four feet beyond the window, and it vanished back there completely. I heard a little more scrabbling, and then nothing. It was probably 3:30 AM by then.

I have no idea whether it escaped out whatever hole the bees have been getting into, or if it's still up there. I suppose I'll find out if it starts flying around the house again tonight.

Or maybe I won't. Maybe I'll sleep right through it. Like I said, bats are super quiet when they're not shrieking at the top of their lungs. And I am going to be super tired, guaranteed.

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