A Midsummer Nightmare
Moving up to the attic bedroom with its secret passages and dark corners might have seemed too scary for some eight year olds, but Mom and Dad did a lovely job fixing it up for me and Mary Kay when our youngest sister was born. How exciting! The top of the house with slanted ceilings where the roof came down, dwarf-sized doors leading to a hidden crawl space, and a walk in-closet—a little girl’s dream. We’d often leave that closet door open to get a taste of the night air from the whirling attic fan deep within.
Mary Kay, the middle child, claimed the bed closest to the doorway so she would be the first one out in case of an emergency. I was a bit insulted by her lack of concern for me, but she was younger—I let her have it.
After one of those long summer days when we would come home from playing and swimming and our cheeks were pink, we fell asleep because even our eyelids ached, but in a good way. I dreamed I was in a field of flowers. I heard a bird flapping its wings, flying overhead. I looked up, but I couldn’t see it. The flapping echoed louder and louder, closer and closer. Forcing myself to pry my sleepy eyes open, a dark shadow passed overhead. “Oh, there it is,” I calmly thought to myself while in that mystical place between slumber and stirring. After rubbing my eyes in small circles with my little fists, the flowers had faded away; I was back in familiar surroundings. My dream turned into a living nightmare as I realized it was a bat flying above my head! In my bedroom! Dodging the slanted ceilings, back and forth, searching for an alternate exit for he did not want to challenge those threatening metal fan blades in yet another duel.
Without another moment’s hesitation I leapt to my bare feet and vaulted right over my sleeping sister’s bed. When she heard me bounding down the stairs, she followed right at my heels, not even knowing what was happening…other than the realization that she was not the first one out.
The intruder followed chase. Terrified, we took cover under my parents’ bed sheets as he entered the baby’s room. Mom’s lioness instincts kicked in; she rushed down the hall and snatched the sleeping infant from her crib. Her soft arms seemed to effortlessly hold all three girls at once while we watched from her bed, with a brief sense of security, as Dad prepared himself for battle: white knee socks under clunky Timberlands, the old Levis with the paint stains and an inconveniently placed hole, a red plaid flannel shirt–mistakenly left in the drawer from last winter—buttoned high up to the neck in case the little beast was hungry and got any ideas, and a “#1 Dad” baseball cap. In his garden-gloved hands he wielded his weapon of choice…a bat. Yes, a bat. “Don’t worry, Dollies, I’ll be right back,” he said reassuringly.
He ran all around the house flicking on every light switch until night seemed like day–every light but the one in the baby’s room to keep this creature of darkness contained in the doorless nursery. From our hideout I saw my dad, my hero, in my mind and could almost hear Howard Cosell giving the play by play:
Dad steps into the room carrying his Louisville Slugger. He eyes the bat, he swings, swings and misses. Strike one!
Dad steps out of the room, sizes up the bat, steps in again, taps the bat to his shoe, brings the bat up to his shoulder and…swings again. Strike two!
This bat really has Dad’s number…takes another step back, takes a look around. Dad spits in his hands, rubs his hands on his bat, adjusts his gloves, steps back in and…swing and a miss! Strike three! He’s outta there!
When Dad finally realized he’d struck out, he reluctantly called for reinforcements. A police officer was knocking at our door within moments. He looked my father up and down in his get up with sweat dripping down his red face and let him keep his pride. He quietly opened our linen closet as if he lived there, knowing exactly where to find a bath towel, doused it with water from our shower, and with one quick overhand throw, knocked the bat to the floor. The officer offered a simple science lesson in a monotone voice. “They can’t fly when they’re on the floor,” he said as he succinctly wrapped the immobilized winged-devil in the towel and tossed him out the window with ease. Three sighs of relief could be heard seeping out from under the covers as Dad thanked the officer and pulled my mother’s pink flowery garden glove from his hand to shake the officer’s.
When most people think of bats they think of Halloween, vampire movies, Gotham City, or dark caves somewhere far from here, but I think of our house lit up like the fourth of July on a hot summer night, my dad in his ridiculous bat slaying costume, and how I was the first one out.