Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, April 19, 2018

cram_halfWarning: If you are squeamish about bats or needles, you may want to move along to the next page of the newspaper.

I had just returned home from a delightful evening in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I greeted the crowd of college students at the house, kissed my kids good-night and crawled into bed next to my husband.

As I drifted into sleep, shrieks of terror jolted me upright. "A bat! A bat! A bat! A bat!" kids screamed repeatedly. Downstairs, two girls dove under the kitchen table, naively thinking this would protect them from a creature with sonar. A third student was swiping the air with a large bedspread in a vain attempt to trap the bat. Two more were doubled over in uproarious laughter.

"Reg, it’s a bat!" several students shouted to me, as if I hadn’t heard the commotion. "Mom, catch it!" begged a kid under the table.

"You cannot catch a bat at night," I explained to the wide-eyed youths. "Bats fly too quickly, and since they use echolocation to navigate, they’ll always stay out of reach. Just ignore it. We’ll find it in the morning when it’s asleep, then call Animal Control to get rid of it."

Eventually, the guests departed and our kids headed to bed. Fortunately, our offspring had the sense to close their bedroom doors. Do you think this occurred to me? Oh, no. To make matters worse, when Peter got up during the night, he was nicked or bitten by the flying critter.

The next morning, intense searching revealed what is surely the ugliest creature ever designed by God. It was sound asleep in the folds of living room drapes. We called the animal control officer, described the location of the bat, and informed household members that the officer would arrive within an hour or two. Then Peter and I headed to work. Neither of us was home when the officer knocked at our door.

And knocked. And knocked. The door was open but no one answered her loud calls. The problem was that the animal control officer wasn’t allowed to enter a residence unless the homeowner personally invited her in. In the absence of a live body, the law required a police escort.

So, the officer called the local police, who arrived with sirens screeching and light bar ablaze.

Inside the house, police and animal control officers conferred in the kitchen. It was at that moment that 16-year old Victoria arose after sleeping late. Knowing nothing about the bat, she stepped out of her room and looked into the faces of three uniformed officers standing in her kitchen. She nearly shot her arms into the air and shouted, "I didn’t do it!" She had slept through the entire episode. That girl can sleep.

Without incident, the offending critter was carted away for rabies testing, and our family departed for a Cape Cod vacation.

A few days later, Peter received a disturbing telephone call from the animal control officer. Evidently, the bat’s brain had partially liquefied so there was insufficient material to test for rabies.

The implication of this news was serious: we had to assume that the bat was rabid. Peter had been scratched or bitten, and we’d both slept with an open door, placing me at risk as well. Since the survival rate for rabies is zero, it was urgent that we begin treatment right away.

Reluctantly, Peter and I packed up on a steamy August night and headed for Cape Cod’s only large hospital. Did I mention that it’s the only large hospital, in the height of tourist season? There were plenty of emergencies on Cape Cod that evening, so we were hardly on the staff’s priority list.

Hours passed before Peter and I were ushered into lovely his-and-her hospital green emergency department cubbies. More time passed. Finally, a nurse approached, toting a needle the size of a shish kabob skewer. "This will hurt a little," she understated as fire ricocheted through my abdomen.

Aren’t summer vacations fun?

In the ensuing weeks, as Peter and I each received the four shots that followed, we became regular customers at local hospitals – the only place where the series of rabies shots can be dispensed. For some reason, staff members always found our situation funny.

The real fun began when we had to explain the whole thing to the insurance company. Rabies treatment costs the equivalent of the Gross National Product of a small country – all for an ugly flying mammal.

Scripture assures us that eventually, every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Do bats have knees and tongues? I hope so. It would make me feel better about the wretched ordeal.


Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.