Saturday, September 15, 2007

How my heart became firmly lodged in my throat

I was doing a final tidy of the kitchen tonight before my husband and I went upstairs for bed; swiping down the counters, removing library books and a pew bulletin from the kitchen table, turning on the dishwasher.

It was a night that was unextraordinary in its alikeness to just about every other night of my life.

Except on this particular night, my husband, in a yarn-spinning sort of voice, said, "Did I ever tell you about the day I came downstairs to walk the dogs and there was a bat in the laundry room?"

I froze in the act of adding detergent to the dishwasher, and I swear the very falling of the soap crystals was arrested in descent. "Excuse me?" I said, when my power of speech returned. "What was in the laundry room? And please say something like, 'poodle' or 'baby monkey' or 'Jimmy Hoffa,' but please do not say what I think you just said and may be planning to say again."

"No, it's true," he said comfortably. "There was a bat, a very tiny little bat."

"I want to move," I said urgently. "Now. Do we have any boxes? Can you balance the couch on your back?"

"You know there are bats around here, honey," he said. "We live in an historic neighborhood. There's an empty house right across the street. It has everything bats want except a sign that says, 'Vacancy, bats welcome!' on the front."

"But those are their bats," I said stubbornly. "They belong over there, to whoever it is that owns that house."

"The bats in this neighborhood are the reason why we can sit outside on the patio all summer long and never be approached by a mosquito."

"This is my house and I don't want to share it with a bat!"

"You aren't sharing it with a bat. I took the broom and just swept it off the ceiling out the back door."

"There might be more," I whispered, looking furtively at the tops of my kitchen cabinets, which have the absolute cutest garland of deep red berries and rusty stars arranged artistically across them, perhaps forming a place where a bat might lurk undetected. I went back to the laundry room, cringing, and looked fiercely at the dogs, who were already in their kennels for the night. They both squish their blankets around to make pillows for their worthless heads to rest on as they watch bats wheel merrily through the air, no doubt. "What good are you two, anyway?" I asked them with contempt.

My husband, with the air of a man who wishes he had just kept his mouth shut, said, "You know, I probably just dreamed that. About the bat and all."

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, I'm sure I dreamed it. It has a dreamlike quality about it, because, uhhh, when I opened the back door, Johnny Bench was standing there and he said, 'Thanks, pal! You can never have enough bats!' and then I realized that our back yard had turned into Riverfront Stadium, circa 1975."

"Nice try, you big liar."

"I'm sorry," he sighed. "I'm much better with the truth."

"Okay, well....sometimes the truth is better left unspoken. When it's about bats, especially."

"I'll try to remember that," he said wearily, and turned off the kitchen light. And then, from beside me in the dark, he put his mouth close to my ear, so near that his moustache ticked my earring and hissed, "Hey! Did you hear that flapping sound just now?" and lightly mussed my hair with his fingers.


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