I had been driving so long my leg started to cramp. I didn’t even know that was a thing that happens.
Austin and I switched back and forth between my Etta James music and his Billy Joel. California vineyards and orange groves zipped by. We can always see the mountains in this piece of Cali.
In the backseat a shoebox was strapped in. Inside lay a little, dusty, chocolate-brown bat curled up on a few layers of white tissue paper. I named him Bruce.
About eight hours earlier I had been walking into the comunity college, and seeing a couple of folks giggling and freaking out over some dark little mass on the floor. They were taking pictures and dancing around if it seemed to crawl towards them.
I remember looking at him and noticing first that his legs didn’t seem to move, only his right wing a little. And I remembered this one time walking out of a movie theater with my mom when I was little, and I saw a bird in a cement planter, and I saw it was alive but it didn’t move its legs. And my mom told me if its legs aren’t moving then it’s too late. And I tried to talk her into letting me take it home to try to fix it, but she made me leave without it, so I didn’t talk to her for the rest of the day.
But I don’t know anything about bats, so maybe next to no leg movement is a normal thing.
One girl stuck around, it seemed out of curiosity, to see what would happen to it. Her name was Natalie.
The little dark mass on the ground started to crawl a few inches before pausing and trying to fly. The little dork made it maybe half an inch off the ground before it hit the tile again. He’d go still, as though he were weak from the effort and trying to think of his next move. Craaaawwwwlll. Craaawwwwll. Flapflapflapflap….thud……Craaaawwwwwll-
I emptied my makeup bag and stuck it in front of him to climb into. In he went. But just as quickly he turned around and tried to squeeze through the hole I hadn’t finished zipping up.
“No, you dummy. I’m saving you.” I said as he went back out. I just stuck the bag in front of him again and zipped it up faster than he could realize what had happened.
“We could just stick him outside.” Natalie said, staring at my bag.
“It’s cold and he seems weak. Besides, I don’t want some stupid college guys to come across him and start messing with him.”
“Yeah…yeah, for me, it’s just I don’t trust the guys.” I got the sense she was trying to attach herself to me.
Some guy came in then. Petite build, dark hair, gotee and slightly bulging eyes. He had a small box with him.
Natalie announced that he was her friend from the college bookstore, and he was planning on taking the bat.
“Where is he?”
“We’ve got him in a bag.” Natalie said. She glanced over to me and took a few steps closer.
He looked me up and down. I spoke and nodded to the box, “Is that for him?” He nodded, and told us to follow him outside to put the bat in the box. Natalie followed behind him and I gathered my things. I felt protective of the squirmy little dark mass, so I intentionally lingered. I dislike being told what to do by someone not in authority, so part of the lingering was to quickly fume in silence over this odd human being telling me what to do as though he had authority over my actions.
I stepped outside and there they stood. It was still sprinkling outside. It was cold and windy and the sky was a big poofy blanket of grey cotton. He opened the box, I put the little fellow in and waited for him to explain his plan of action as he taped up the open end. But then he stood upright, his eyes flicked from Natalie to me and back again, he suddenly looked to the other end of the campus, “Hey…I think I see…yeah…” he quickly started walking away and said, “I’ll take it from here.”
Natalie turned to me with a smile, “Well, we did what we could.” I watched the petite, bulgy eyed fellow as he strode off. “What is he planning on doing with it?” Natalie shrugged and started walking back into the building, “At least we know we tried.” She said, waiting for me to follow. I watched the fellow and started after him. I’ve seen this walk of his before, because I’ve done it. When a conversation gets awkward so I make up an excuse to leave and walk without knowing where I’m going, I just keep going until I think I’m out of sight. That was his walk. No leading direction, glancing, walking, feet pointing this way, then that. I felt irritated. He had no plan for the bat. He handled the box roughly. I imagined him dumping the thing in a dumpster or worse. He eventually started for an area of one building that had nothing but stairs. I followed and didn’t bother being subtle. I was getting the squirmy mass back.
He glanced behind himself several times to see me follow, he’d quickly glance away and pretend as though he didn’t see me. Darting from one area of buildings to the next. I lost my patience and jogged up to him, “I can watch him for a while, I don’t mind driving him somewhere after class.”
He stopped and stared at me for a few seconds. “I…uh, I actually have a friend who can handle bats…I can call her….actually, I think I’ll do that now.” He started dialing on his phone, and then suddenly started striding quickly away. I followed and stared at him. I’ve never felt like such a weirdo. And I can’t remember purposely trying to make someone so uncomfortable until that moment. Natalie ended up joining us when he stopped walking aimlessly. Eventually he agreed to hand the bat over, insisting he get my number to check up on the little guy. Natalie insisted she have my number as well. I forget her reason stated.
The odd little man eventually left, and I found myself faced with an attachment. Natalie explained very quickly and suddenly what’s wrong in her life. I felt again that she was trying to attach herself to me, this time through quickly gaining pity. I grew up figuring out this personality type, my great aunt Violet was a person of this sort. They suck energy out of whoever they can. Energy and money and material things. I found a reason to leave the conversation after about ten minutes and promised to let her know what would become of the bat.
I talked to him when I found myself alone somewhere. ‘Bruce’ seemed fitting as a name. I went home, made a lot of calls. And discovered that the closest wildlife rescue center that was equipped to handle bats was about four hours away. One woman who works at the center offered to meet me in the middle, everyone at the center who I talked to seemed thrilled to get a bat. Eventually I found out it’s because a woman who works there pretty much lives for bats. The very pleasant human being I met was a woman in her late 50s, very long, braided grey hair. Beautiful skin. I guessed she was a vegan. I glanced over to her car and saw peace signs. Very warm and friendly woman. I handed off the shoebox, she securely placed it in her backseat, which was layered with towels and carriers and food bowls. She handed me some newsletters, I hugged her, and that was that.
I tried to get Austin to listen to my ‘Learning Czech’ CD on the ride back into Clovis. He played nice for a minute or so before he had to make fun of the accent. Back to Billy Joel it was.