Melodramatic Bat Fun

When I was a kid, I was sure I was going to be kidnapped- snatched away in a big windowless child-molester van one afternoon walking home from school. So frightened was I of this, some days I would run past the big open fields between school and my house (because that’s where it would happen) crying and hyperventilating. I can still feel the gravel under my maryjanes and the panic in my heart.

At Halloween, I threw a great deal of my candy away. Like the child-molester van that was going to take me, I was sure someone had dipped my Tootsie-pops in arsenic. I didn’t know what arsenic was, but I knew it was bad. Childhood desire would overcome me, and I would eat a piece of parent-inspected candy, and then I would lie in bed and wait to die.

To be fair, I wasn’t inundated with over-protective parents who frightened me- we had the normal talks about safety and strangers- but my overactive imagination filled in all the gaps, and then some. This was all me. Me and my creative, dramatic, paranoia.

Suffice it to say, no Tootsie-pops ever killed me, and no child was ever snatched from our urbane Northern California idyllic neighborhood. Time has taught me that sloughing these fears off serves me well, and I’m generally not the high-strung, frightened girl I once was. Until I am.

Enter the bat.

A friend of mine left a comment on my post about Annie and the bat, noting that rabies can be carried in saliva, and if I had touched the bat at all, I should probably consider that information. She and her family had recently gone through the series of shots for rabies exposure when they found a bat in their house.

Cue Tootsie-pop Girl. She’s still in there, waiting. Waiting to whisper how I surely must have gotten bat saliva on me in my efforts to trap the little beast, that I then must have rubbed my eye, and that I now surely HAVE RABIES and am GOING TO DIE!

Since I’m not ten anymore, I emailed two doctor friends of mine, and asked them what I should do- both agreed the risk was minimal, but I might want to consider getting checked. Oh, guys, that’s not what I wanted to hear. I took it to Facebook. As you might guess, that didn’t help. The thing about Rabies is, there are no symptoms, and when they do show up, it’s always fatal. So guess where I went Saturday afternoon on Labor Day weekend? Yep.

The ER is always a hoot, and Saturday afternoon on Labor Day weekend was an interesting parade of what looked like extras from Men in Black III. I joked with the receptionist and told him the bat story, and he soothed me by saying he would have come in too. Most PCP’s don’t carry rabies vaccines, so going to the ER was a good move. I bet he says that to all the girls.

Blood pressure was normal, temperature was normal, have a seat and wait, Ms. M. I joked with them about having rabies, and meandered over towards the hospital cafeteria. (This is the same cafeteria where I wept and vomited when I was nine months pregnant with Abby… ah, memories.) The triage nurse caught me before I left the ER and told me to stick close, as they were going to fast-track me. Woohooo!

(Next time you’re in the ER, be nice to the receptionist if at all possible. And be even nicer to the triage nurse- these two got me in and out of a hospital ER on a holiday weekend in less than two hours.)

Back in the room behind the curtain, the doctor came in and laughed at me. He actually laughed. Said the risk of the bat being rabid was less than 5%, and that the risk of transmission without a bit or scratch was also less than 3-5%. Now, I ‘m no mathematician, but those are fairly decent odds in my favor, I think.  So did he. He said the shots were a series of four very painful shots to the gut, and the CDC doesn’t advice using them unless exposure is certain. He did tell me I should go down to the county and have an antibody test (same thing my doctor friend told me and didn’t even charge me) and then proceed from those results.

So Tuesday I have to head to the county health building downtown and get myself a rabies antibody test. You can imagine what fun Tootsie-pop girl is having with this little fiasco. All because of a little bat at 2 am. I think I’m ready for a boring life. Anytime now…

The Bat

Crazy Chicken Annie doesn’t have any chickens anymore- but there are plans to fix that travesty once everyone is settled more substantially in Ohio. Walking into her new-old house though, is just like walking home. Despite the fact that the set is different, the heart and soul of who Annie is and what she provides has never changed. Instead of a California mid-century, the digs might now be a 110 year old barn house, and the ceilings might be 12 feet and made of lath and plaster, but it feels exactly the same when you walk through her door.

Harry the dog greets you with sniffs and a wagging butt, Jesse squawks at you from her regal perch in the parlor, and bowls of fish and plants spill from every surface. The picture of the sea otter is still over the mantle, where it’s been in every house she’s lived. Books are stacked floor to ceiling, bits of sea glass from Big Sur and pine-cones from Yosemite fill jars, and sunlight casts rainbows through prisms in the wide, open windows. The front porch is peppered in comfy chairs and dripping with plants and flowers, and the front door is always open- and I do mean wide open. Neighbors are welcomed, friends pop by, and life overflows.

The night of Heather’s wedding was incredibly hot and humid, and when we arrived back at the barn house in the wee small hours, Harry was chomping at the bit for a walk, which Annie happily obliged and meandered down the street. Tired but still happy from the spectacular wedding and after-party, I was covered in bug-spray and drenched in humidity; an exhausted shower before falling into bed seemed more than worth the effort.

As I was stepping from the cool shower, I reached for one of the creamy organic towels (because would Annie have any other kind? nope) on the hook. Tucking the towel around me, I reached for a second to wrap my hair up, but a flurry of flittering and blur of wings caused me to jump back with a pounding heart and shaking hands. What was that? At first I thought it was a bird- a sparrow or some other songbird who had meandered into the house through the open door policy. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Peeking my head from the creaky annexed bathroom door, I called out “Annie? Annie?! Are you back? Do you have a sparrow or another bird that lives here?” I tucked the towel tighter around me and padded in my barefeet, legs dripping beads of water in my wake, through the dining room, the front parlor and into the entry hall. I peered around cautiously- the door was flung open, perhaps the bird had flown out? It was pitch black outside, and the house was dimmly lit; it was hard to see as I squinted at the ceilings and windows.

Hmmm… I thought perhaps I was imagining the whole thing, and turned to tiptoe back to the bathroom in search of my jammies. A flutter to my left caused me to whip my head around, and thin leathery wings brushed the side of my head as I ducked and landed on my bed. I may have shrieked the tiniest bit. But it was a quiet shriek if it happened at all. HOLY CRAP IT”S A BAT!!

Heart pounding now, I sat up, tucked the towel back in again, and looked around. Where did it go? Oh man… a bat. Do bats have rabies? Crap. I don’t see it anywhere. “Annie?” I call again, hoping she and Harry are back. “Annie? Do you.. um… do you have a pet bat?” It sounds absurd, but I honestly thought it was a legitimate question at 2 am- she’s had other pets people don’t usually consider pets, and I didn’t want to go chasing a a bat around if he were a friendly.

I was standing back in the front hallway when Harry bounded up the steps, all blond hair and pink tongue, happy to have his people back. Annie followed closely, leash in hand, still in her mother-of-the-bride dress, hair still done from the wedding. “I think there is a bat, and I think he flew upstairs, but I’m not sure.”

“A bat? Hmm. Okay.” I love Annie. A bat? No problem. No big deal. Hi, bat. Let’s find you and get you out of here where you will be happier… Annie and I both head upstairs. Yep, there he is. A little bat, brown, furry, leathery wings that somehow bend backwards and evoke horror movies and primal recoil. Hanging from the linen curtains in her room. We turn out the lights. Yes, because we were thinking clearly at 2 am, turning out the light to catch a bat seemed bright. I know…

For the next hour, we chased the bat from room to room, attempting to throw towels and sheets over him, and otherwise assure him we meant him no harm, but he really did have to get his little scary self back outside where he belonged. We tried to chase him out windows, open doors , and finally, in the closet in Annie’s room, we caught him under a woven basket.

Two things: Bats smell bad, and they made very strange shrieking noises when captured under woven baskets by two crazy ladies in the middle of the night.

Ever so carefully, we carried the basket downstairs, out the front door, and released our little intruder into the inky black night. He was happy, I hope, and we were relieved. We looked at each other, suddenly exhausted as the adrenaline of the hunt left us, and we trudged back up the front steps and into the thick heat of the house. With a deep sigh, Annie closed and locked the front door with a solid click.

You can read more about Annie here and Heather, here: Heroes in the Family and here. Also, my favorite post ever, The Swing, is about Heather’s dad.

Spilling my Guts

I am utterly overwhelmed. In trying to get my kids ready to go back to school next week, the supply lists for three kids are absurd. I have bills due, and no idea when the fraction of my child support will arrive, and the bills my RS president said would be paid last month never were, and now I have late fees and turn-off notices on top of them not being paid. I just got my textbook list for this fall and all four of the books are over $100 each, and I’m still fighting with Financial Aid to get my loans funded. I’m carrying 19 units this fall and its already starting to cause me to lose sleep, and two of the classes I have to take are at the farthest campus and I’m stressing over gas prices. Two of the classes I need are only offered M-F during the day with no night option, and I have a kindergartner on top of 2nd and 5th graders. I’m going to have to figure out what to do with her while I run back and forth from the far school, at least 2-3 of the five days. This is feeling more and more like a disaster waiting to happen, but no matter how I look at it, I can’t see a way around it. If I want to graduate, I have to take these two classes. I have to take the GRE this fall, when I thought I had until spring. I have to get my apps in for grad school before Christmas, when I thought I had until spring. I have more on my plate than I imagined possible. There is back-to-school night, and all the domestic chores, laundry and housekeeping stuff on top of all that other stuff. I have several free-lance jobs in the queue, and I need to get to them asap. But when? If my loans would fund it would solve a lot, and I could at least pay my bills. Scouts starts next week, Bean is turning eight and you know what that means, and I can’t even begin to think about it. All I want to do is crawl in bed and hide. And I can’t.

I know this will all shake out. It always does. I just can’t help feeling like I’m drowning this exact moment. And I don’t see any life-preservers bobbing on the water….