Fly Away Home

Unwelcome nocturnal visitors can drive anyone batty

It was 3 a.m. and someone was in the house.

Jolted awake by strange noises, I froze in fear for a moment, then remembered I had a pair of sharp scissors in the nightstand drawer.

Brandishing them, I slipped out of bed and gingerly walked down the hall. I flipped on the light and, through my myopic, sleepy eyes, spotted what I thought was a mouse on the curtain.

As I edged closer, the “mouse” spread its wings and soared over my head. I released a primal yell as my heart started beating faster than Buddy Rich’s drumsticks.

All I remember thinking was the aptness of the German word for bat: fledermaus — literally, flying mouse.

It flew into the home office, sailed down the hallway and through the living room. It was probably as startled as I was. After opening the front and back doors, I grabbed a broom and shooed it out. I figured it must have come in while I was taking the trash out earlier in the night.

I thought no more about it until a couple of months later. One night, I was soaking a foot I had sprained in a basketball game. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a bat flying in a zigzag pattern. Limping, I grabbed a magazine and flailed at the creature. Eventually, it escaped out the door.

The next day I started looking around my doors and windows for possible entry points. Like mice, bats can squeeze through the slimmest of cracks. I saw nothing amiss.

Bats eat thousands of insects nightly, so they do serve a purpose. But my sympathy went only so far. They can be rabid, and their guano is rife with disease.

After a few weeks, I was watching TV in bed — only to spot another bat. It swooped down at me, I dived under the covers, then declared war. As it vamoosed out of the bedroom, I went to a closet that held an arsenal of tennis racquets. Once again, I opened the doors, but this critter wouldn’t leave. I took an Andy Roddick whack at it with the racquet. I didn’t want to deep-six it, but I had tried every ruse to get it out. Besides, I was losing sleep.

But I still couldn’t understand how they were getting in. I found out after intruder number four.

This past December, I was on my exercise bike in the basement. Out of the rafters came a bat, groggily flying across the room.

I was stunned, because bats are supposed to hibernate in the winter. I was also fed up, so I called a pest-control company. The “Batman” was on his way. When I asked him about hibernation, he said some bats emerge from their sleep when there’s a warm spell.

Batman and I first tried to find the missing bat. No luck. So he went up to the attic, telling me, as he ascended the ladder, that he hoped there wasn’t a roost of them up there. Thank God, there wasn’t. But he found three possible entries. The louvered vents both had loose screens. He also found a small part of the roof that hadn’t been covered — a sloppy job by the roofers. He securely closed all openings.

Since then, I’ve been blessedly bat-free. But I never found out what happened to the missing one. Perhaps he ascended back up to the attic before Batman arrived, but that wasn’t likely.

In March, I was transfixed by a news report on TV. A bat was spotted gripping onto the outside of the space shuttle Discovery during liftoff.

So there was my bat, I imagined, ascending into outer space. I hope he’s safely ensconced in some alien’s attic, in a galaxy far, far away from this earthling’s home.