Suburban Memoirs

Having grown up in suburbia I have lots of funny and interesting memories. There were squabbles with the neighbors about whose dog was barking all night long. There were games of “Indian ball” that lasted for hours and had special rules about what happened when a car approached. There were bets about whether or not my little sister would kiss a worm. (I won 25¢ on that one; I knew she would do it.)

There was also the occasional encroachment of a “wild” animal, like the time a squirrel started chewing on the side of the neighbors’ house and my father sprayed it with a hose. He also showered their open bedroom window when the squirrel started running toward him and the hose flailed wildly. Or when a bat started flying around our back yard; that’s quite a story.

There we were, me and my siblings, playing out in the back yard. I don’t remember exactly what we were doing, but I am sure it involved running around screaming and avoiding piles of dog poop, as that was par for the course. Twilight had fallen, but since it was summer time we were not required to go inside until the streetlights came on. Suddenly, one of us noticed a bird flying drunkenly around the yard. It was zigzagging and caroming in all directions, not like the finches and swallows that we usually saw. After a few minutes of watching it swoop around the yard, we realized what we were seeing: It was a BAT! A real, live bat. Not a Halloween decoration or Dracula transformed on “Scooby Doo.” And bats have RABIES! AAAAAAAAHHH!

We ran riotously toward the garage, my sister grabbing a push-broom as we ran, presumably to defend us from the rabid, airborne creature that we were sure was ravenously pursuing us. When we reached the door, our progress came to a screeching and unceremonious halt. My sister was in the lead, still holding the broom. Unfortunately, she was carrying it horizontally, so it clotheslined all three of us in one massive thud as the ends caught the door frame. Still screaming, but also now doubled over in pain and laughing, we managed to enter the door and went running inside to report the disease-ridden intruder.

In breathless, high-pitched voices we told my mother what we had seen. “Are you sure it was really a bat?” she asked condescendingly. We reassured her that there was in fact a huge, rabid, bat out in the yard, and that it was chasing us and gnashing its vampire teeth. Our insistence and excitement finally won her over. She walked out to the garage with us and we all peered out the panes of glass in the garage door together. As our eyes readjusted to the gloom, we saw our winged nemesis come into view as it swooped and dove. “I think that really is a bat!” said my mother surprised. Then, she reached down and locked the garage door. She understood the danger this creature posed to our idyllic suburban existence. We had all heard those horror stories about having to get forty shots in the stomach to cure rabies, and none of us wanted to go through that ordeal. Locking the door was the prudent course of action.

We went inside and my mother called Animal Control. I heard her insisting that they needed to send someone out with a net or a trap or something. She was also asking how to tell if the bat was sick or rabid. When the Animal Control officer had assured her that not only was there nothing that he could do, but that the bat was probably harmless (and, I assume, he had chuckled at her a little bit, too) she said, “If that creature bites one of my children and they die from rabies, it’ll be on your head.” I’m really not sure what he said in reply, but my mother took the phone away from her ear and looked at it with a puzzled expression, and then hung up.

We weren’t allowed to play outside after the sun had started to set for quite a while after that. Eventually, when we were once again allowed outdoors in the evening we saw the bat occasionally, but we had come to the mutual conclusion that we should not mention it to our mother, lest she quarantine us in the house again. And every time we saw my sister carrying a broom after that, we made a point of reminding her to tip it into a vertical position before trying to enter a door.

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