I learned a new word in French last night - chauve-souris. Actually that's two words and I knew them separately as "bald" (chauve) and "mouse" (souris). Put them together - bat.
Last week we had visitors and sat outside every night, so it was no surprise that there are lots of bats around here: we watched them swooping and diving in the courtyard. And one got in the bedroom, briefly, which gave me a chance to practice my horror film scream, twice. I couldn't believe there was this cartoon-shape nightmare creature flying around the room.
My hero Eric shooed him (I don't know why I assume it was a guy) out and I figured it was an aberration - maybe we'd wailed on keyboard, guitar and wine bottle for a little too long and he/it was trying to escape and got disoriented.
But it happened again last night, and this time the thing decided to stay. Hunkered down, or up, on the wall in the front room. I hit the floor screaming, covering my head because there's some myth about bats tending to get tangled in hair. Eric tried to get it out the window while I cowered and then crawled on all fours to another room and barricaded myself in.
It wouldn't go. I tried to calm down and we did what anyone would do - went on the internet and searched "How To Get A Bat Out Of The House".
A more common problem than I thought, there were pages of advice. A lot of them mentioned rabies, and the possibility that in a state of unconsciousness, ie deep sleep, the worst could have happened to us and that is to be bitten by a bat.
Now I know we'd been watching a Neil Simon comedy from the 70's earlier but it had never been completely coma-inducing. Had we been bitten then, I guess there's the chance we would've both been infected with the unquenchable urge to speak in breezy repartee. But that wasn't happening, yet.
The American sites really pushed the fear aspect: "HAS THE SECURITY OF YOUR HOME BEEN BREACHED BY A WINGED INTRUDER?" shouted one. They all assumed the general public possesses near-expert falconry skills, directing us to "Don heavy-duty leather work gloves, preferably elbow length, and toss a towel, net or pillowcase over the bat, taking care not to disturb it, then carefully carry outside and set free. Whatever you do, you must get the bat out of your house."
I went on the French sites, thinking they'd take a more matter of fact view. But frequent mentions of la rage, rabies, didn't help.
Staring at the photos of cute, furry bats (trying to ignore the sharp, bared teeth) and reading why a wild winged mammal would leave the freedom of the great outdoors to come into a house, I calmed down a little. Amazingly, one site pinpointed a very specific time period - the middle of July to the middle of August - when young bats are learning to fly but have yet to develop navigational skills. I looked at the calendar: July 16. Ah! I began to feel more compassionate.
The bat had worked its way into a corner cupboard and was nestled in between a fake fur winter hat and a felt Stetson (or at least that's what Eric told me. I was still too terrified to look). He opened the windows, as suggested by the "Critter Catchers" site, turned out the lights and shut the door.
This morning the bat was gone.
And so was the Stetson.