When I was a child, we had a small red brick house on a winding street in town lined with other nearly identical small red brick houses. It only had two bedrooms, so my sister Sherrie and I shared a room, and my brother Gil slept in the attic. It was built on a little hill, so the house had a walk-out basement garage, and a separate one-bedroom apartment next to the basement, which my parents rented out for a few years.
There were wooden stairs from the kitchen to the basement and garage. Mother stored her canned vegetables and jams on shelves down there, while Daddy kept his tools and the lawnmower there. This was where we went when a tornado warning went out and where Daddy considered building a bomb shelter during the Cuban missile crisis (but never did.)
Usually the garage door was kept shut unless Daddy was working on something in the back yard or the parking spaces–we had room enough for two or three cars to park. Sometimes he worked on his old truck until dark in the summertime. It always seemed to need something done to it to keep it running.
One summer night Mother and I were watching the black-and-white TV in the living room when something flew across the room and lodged itself in the drapes. It was so fast I almost felt it pass more than saw it. Mother went to the door to the basement and found it cracked open. “George!” she called. “I think there’s a bat in the house!”
After a few minutes Daddy came up the stairs. “That garage door must be open and it flew up here. Do you want the broom?” Mother asked. “Naw, I don’t need the broom,” he said.
He pulled on a pair of heavy leather work gloves and walked over to the drapes. I could just see a small lump near the top of their folds. In what seemed like one quick gesture, Daddy jerked the drapes back with one hand and grabbed the lump clinging to the inside with the other hand.
“You want to see, baby doll?” he said. I looked in his gloved hand. It was a bat. He had picked off the drapes so quickly that its wings had not had a chance to unfold. It was furry and grey, looking rather like a mouse. I touched its warm stomach with a finger. Then it opened it mouth and showed its tiny, needle-like teeth.
“Get that thing out of here, George,” Mother said. “It could get loose and fly at our heads!”
Daddy chuckled. “Don’t worry, old woman,” he said. She opened the front door for him, and he turned the bat loose, flinging it up toward the sky. It spread its leather wings instantly and disappeared into the night.
Mother made sure the garage door and the kitchen door were closed so we wouldn’t have any more visitors. I was glad I got to see one up close.