About a year ago, I published My Mirror Lies to Me, my third collection of funny stories and musings on life in my little corner of rural Michigan. In one chapter, I talked about the time my husband, his brother, and my father encountered some bats while working on our house.
I was reminded of that story this week, when workers discovered a mummified bat within the walls of that same house twenty-odd years later. Let that sink in for a minute.
They found a mummified bat within the walls of my house.
Seriously, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen to other people, does it?
At any rate, Mr. Mummy Bat’s unexpected appearance made me want to share the other bat story. So here is a short peek inside a chapter of My Mirror Lies to Me. I hope you enjoy it!
A few years ago, blueberries became the big trend worldwide. Everyone, it seems, has been singing the praises of those little buggers for their health benefits and anti-oxidant properties.
Yeah, I could have told them that. I live right in the middle of “Blueberry Country.” Between the sandy soil, the moist air along the lakeshore, and the short but intense summers, this part of the world was made for growing blueberries.
I grew up here. I’ve gone blueberry picking every summer, although I’d probably owe a small fortune to those farmers if they ever got smart enough to put my chunky ass on a scale before and after an hour in the field. I freely admit that I put twice as many in my belly as I put in the bucket, and so do my kids. If I take them picking later on in the afternoon, I can usually get away with not having to make dinner that day.
Here in Blueberry Country, we put blueberries in everything. Blueberry muffins. Blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup. Blueberry wine. Even blueberry bratwursts, for God’s sake. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing as tasty as a handful of fresh blueberries on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
They are delicious, but I really don’t understand how anyone absorbs any kind of health benefits from eating them. It’s not like we actually digest them. They come out in the same condition they go in. Better, in some cases. I’m afraid to even glance down at the toilet during blueberry season because I know I’m going to start worrying about the fact that I remember chewing those berries that are now floating whole in the bowl.
It’s like stomach acids have some sort of restorative properties when it comes to blueberries.
This doesn’t just happen to humans, either. The birds around here begin dropping bright purple grenades during blueberry season. Cars, laundry on clotheslines, slow-moving pets — nothing is safe.
Just to go off a tangent for a moment here, I’d like to share something that makes me unique.
I have been hit by seagull poop at least once every summer of my life.
That’s fifty-one summers of seagull shit, people. Granted, I don’t remember the first few shitbombs, but family members tell me that the streak started early in my life.
And it’s not just a Michigan thing. One year, I went camping in Virginia with a friend and a seagull crapped on me at the campground. In Virginia. It’s like they have a secret seagull messaging system to make sure I get hit no matter where I go.
I even got nailed by one as I left work last night. At night. Birds don’t fly at night. That particular seagull must have been perched on the lightpost outside the hotel for hours, just waiting to complete its mission.
And yes, I know for a fact that most birds don’t fly at night. I learned that in the early days of my marriage, when the Big Guy and I sat in our backyard sharing a romantic moment under the stars. “Look at the pretty night birds over by the porch light,” I sighed, blissfully ignorant about my new life in the country.
“Birds don’t fly at night,” he told me. “Those are bats.”
Birds may not fly at night, but I sure did that night. I flew up the steps and through the door so fast that I’m pretty sure my feet never touched the ground.
I’ve learned since then that bats are truly wonderful creatures. They are complex animals with amazing talents, and they do so much to help control the insect population. Bats are not inherently a bad thing.
But they don’t belong in my house.
During our first few summers there, we were under constant bat attack. A bat can slip through the tiniest of openings, and our house was an old, old farmhouse that we were renovating, so there were many tiny openings. And big openings, for that matter. We seemed to have a bat or two flapping its way through the living room at least once a week every summer.
At one point, the Big Guy ventured up into the attic and discovered that it was Bat Central up there. I was one hundred percent in favor of abandoning the house and moving back into the city, but he swore he could take care of them. “We just need to figure out where they’re getting in, and then seal it up,” he told me.
True to his word, he gathered up a few friends and family members to stand in a loose circle around the house at dusk one night. As the sky grew darker, bats began to leave the cozy home they had made for themselves in our house. There was a narrow crack between the siding and the chimney, and that turned out to be a bit of a bat on-ramp.
He counted well over one hundred bats flying out through that crack. When he thought they were all gone, he climbed a ladder and sprayed insulation foam into the entire crack to prevent them from coming back into our house in the morning. Later, he made a more lasting repair to the opening and solved the problem once and for all.
However, that left the problem of an attic full of bat poop. You can call it guano if you’d like, and rave about its wonderful properties as a fertilizer. But when it’s in my home, I’m going to call it what it is: shit. Bat shit. Nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.
We had an attic full of it.
Unfortunately, not all of the bats left the house that night, so the problem sort of came to a head when the Big Guy rounded up his little brother and my father to help him while I was at work a few days later. It’s important to note here that the “little brother” is a ridiculously tall individual who makes the Big Guy seem more like a Medium Guy when they’re together. So I’m just going to refer to him as the Bigger Guy from here on out.
They didn’t tell anyone their plans for the day, probably because they knew I would have insisted on a few more safety precautions than they liked to use. I only figured it out because my mother-in-law was one of my clients that day, and she mentioned that she thought “the boys” were on their way to play tennis because they had stopped by her house that morning to borrow some tennis racquets.
Neither one of them plays tennis.
A tennis racquet is, however, the perfect defensive weapon when dealing with bats.
It wasn’t until years later that the Big Guy told me what actually transpired that day. Those three great big men went upstairs to begin ripping out the second floor ceilings to start the upstairs renovations. They took the tennis racquets to defend themselves against any remaining bats.
Apparently, none of them realized just how much batshit there really was in the attic. When they started ripping things apart, it began an ugly chain reaction that none of them would ever forget.
Along with the hundreds of pounds of batshit, the attic was also full of old bricks from some long-forgotten project started by the previous owner. Guano-covered bricks and boards began raining down, first on the Bigger Guy’s head and then on all three of them as the hole above them widened.
None of them had thought to wear any kind of hat or helmet, of course, or gloves. And I guess real men don’t wear masks, not even when dealing with hundreds of pounds of nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.
They were covered with it. They breathed it in. It went into their eyes and ears and most likely other bodily orifices that I don’t want to think about. The two brothers leaned on each other, choking and gagging and gasping for air, tennis racquets forgotten in their hands as a few angry, homeless bats flapped around their heads.
My dad, however, stood a few feet away, staring at the guano on his arms with a calculating look in his eyes.
“You know,” he mused, “people would pay a lot of money for this stuff.”
“No,” the Big Guy told him. “We are not selling batshit from my attic. And we are never, ever telling anyone about this. No one. Not even Amy.”
“Especially not Amy,” the Bigger Guy agreed. “She’ll move out if she hears about this.”
“Just seems like sort of a gift from Mother Nature, you know?” my dad persisted. “Guano is worth a lot of money as fertilizer, and you’ve sure got a lot of it.”
“Batshit is not a gift, Dean,” the Big Guy said firmly.
He finally told me the whole story just before my father’s funeral a few years later. It was, he insisted, one of his favorite memories of Dad.
It made me feel good, too, in a way, because it made me realize that I’m luckier than my father even though we both shared the same knack for being hit with bird poop. I may get nailed with wads of smelly, slimy, warm seagull shit every summer of my life, but I think I can say with all certainty that I will probably never share his experience of being buried under tons of guano.
Or, as I prefer to call it, nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.