03 October 2006

Bat Story

A slight break in the rain on Sunday meant I could do that last bit of wash left over from my beach trip. The washing machine sits on my little, 4 by 8 foot balcony. It’s good for doing laundry but not much else. I dumped my clothes in the machine, threw in the soap, then bent down to adjust the drainage hose before turning it on. This required some maneuvering as the washing machine is in a corner and the hose is between it and the wall. Strange, I thought when I saw a large, black spot, what is that on the hose? I walked around and peered down. Oh my god! It was a bat! He was sprawled on top of the hose, sort of the way a squirrel lies on a tree branch. This couldn’t be good. Bats do not sprawl.

I leaned in as far as I could and saw that one of his little bat legs was outstretched. Was it broken? Was he dead? But then the other little bat leg twitched, so I knew he was alive, perhaps dying. I sat down to think. It was mid-morning, and all good bats are asleep. Maybe he was just waiting for the night shift. Whatever his state of health, I certainly couldn’t do a wash. I would have to let him sleep, hope he survived the day, then flew off in the evening.

All day long, I went to check on him. I worried that it would start storming and he would get wet. Or maybe too much light was disturbing his rest. I rigged my umbrella to afford a darker alcove and protect him from any stray rain drops that might appear. On one of my checks, I noticed that he had moved a bit, and what I thought had been an injured leg had now changed position.

Mostly, I just sent mental encouragement to him, but at one point I bent over and whispered, just keep resting, little bat, you’ll be ok. His ears started to twitch and I jumped back realizing that a whisper to a sleeping bat was equivalent to a megaphone in a human ear.

Right around 5pm is when all the bat brethren take to the skies to feed. There is still plenty of light in the air, so as soon as I saw them flying I went out to once more check on the patient. He was moving! I think I remember that bats have to pump blood into their wings before taking off. And since this guy had been sleeping at the wrong angle all day, I assumed it might take him longer. I waited about five minutes and went back.

Carefully, I opened the glass door to the balcony and froze when I saw that my bat was at the edge of the door and I had nearly squished him. He obviously wasn’t quite fit to fly. He was also in the way and I needed to close the door. The last thing he needed was to fly into my apartment. I looked around for something to nudge him with. I grabbed a towel, and gently gave him a scoot. He turned on me, threw a wing out to the left, bared his teeth and hissed. But he did back up enough for me to close the door.

I was getting really worried, because he should have flown off. I peered through the door and watched helplessly as he ran around on his little feet and front claws. He’d try to take flight, but couldn’t get any height. He ran around the balcony with amazing speed, bumping into walls and trying to scale them. His little claws simply couldn’t attach to the concrete.

What could I do? If I tried to pick him up, I’d give him a coronary. And then what would I do? Dump him on the ledge where he would plunge to his death? Maybe he needed nutrition. All I had was a banana, and although I was fairly sure he wasn’t a fruit bat, I put a piece out for him. He ran into it a few times and gave it no notice. I sat down again and watched him and willed him to take off but finally, I couldn’t stand it any more, so went into the other room.

That’s when I decided to build him a ramp to the ledge. I was not sure that that would help, but he was going to kill himself trying to get to higher ground. I took a large basket and turned it upside down, then leaned the ironing board next to it. If he could scale the basket, then hop on to the ironing board, he could climb up to the balcony ledge. I returned to the living room and turned on the TV. I now worried that if he did try the basket escape route, he might get a foot caught.

I took one last check that night. It was dark, but I didn’t see my bat, or hear him scampering around. I brought the basket and ironing board back inside, and checked to make sure he wasn’t stuck to either of them. I would do a more thorough check in the light of day.

The next morning I searched my balcony at least ten times, but there was no sign of him, so I assume he made it out alive. The thought did occur that maybe he had died under the washing machine. But he couldn’t really fit under there and I would have smelled something by now. I still can’t figure out how he ended up where he did. There is nothing on my balcony that is bat-hanging material. Possibly, he was a little slow on the uptake and tried to hang from the electrical outlet, fell asleep, then plopped onto the hose. Whatever the case may be, I am so grateful I did not have to do a bat burial.