It was 10:00 p.m. I had just poured myself a glass of wine. I had the craft table down in our office and was painting a monogrammed canvas. Dane was due home in three days after having spent seventeen days in Guam (but who was counting?) The dog was peacefully sleeping in her favorite spot on the lambskin rug. All was well with the world.
And then… THUD. I heard something slam against the adjoining wall to out living room. The dog lifted her sleepy head and cocked her face to the side. We always leave the door to our balcony open so that Sydney can use her “potty spot” outside. This had never seemed like a bad idea to me before. THUD. We looked at each other as I heard, what sounded like hundreds of papers being thrown into the air and fluttering down. And all at once I realized we were not alone in our apartment. We had a winged visitor. I thought back in horror to the first time Dane and I had seen Okinawa’s giant bats.
Sydney tucked her tail, began to quiver and hid under the chaise lounge. I wanted to do the same. THUD. CRASH. Something had just fallen off of my wall. “That better not be a glass frame,” I thought, refusing to open the door to see. And then a new, and even more horrifying, thought occurred to me: “The living room fan is on!”
I could just imagine this giant bat flying through our tiny apartment, fan slicing through it’s 4-foot wingspan, splattering blood on my walls as it spun. You think I’m exaggerating- but the bats here grow to an absurd size… and there are two who hang on the telephone line right outside our balcony and battle one another almost nightly, so I was positive it had to be one of them. I’ve seen how they fight for their turf. As far as I was concerned, our house now belonged to which ever bat had just flown through my open door. I would not fight him for it. He could have the house, I just wanted to leave with the dog. THUD.
I started thinking about how long I could survive in the office. Why hadn’t I brought in snacks with my wine?! Could I open the door and jump off the balcony? No. Because the door to the balcony in the living room is how he got in, and if he got in, he could get out, and he might do so when I opened the office door to the balcony and attack me. THUD.
Instead I opened the window of the office and started waving my hand calling out to passerbys. “Could someone please help me?” Luckily it was a Friday night and there were plenty of people on the seawall. Three young marines stopped and looked up.
“Are you okay, ma’am?”
I thought about lecturing them that I was not that much older than them and certainly didn’t need to be addressed as “ma’am”. I mean, seriously, how old did they think I was? THUD. I decided now was not the time.
“There’s a bat in my house!” I yelled. Sydney continued cowering. “Could you maybe, ummm, come up the stairs and catch it?” At this point of the story Dane likes to point out that had I been a dude calling to women on the seawall to come upstairs to my apartment, it’s unlikely I would have gotten help. In fact they might have called the police on me if the roles were reversed. But luckily for me, in this case… I’m not a dude.
Moments later I heard the front door open, and three people walk into my living room, again calling out “Ma’am??” a little more uncertainly. I remained in the office. “I’m in here,” I said, cracking the door just enough to slip my index finger out and give them a mini “waggle-wave” thing. THUD.
All three voices yelled out and I imagined the giant bat swooping low over their heads. But then one voice half-whispered, “Umm, I don’t think it’s a bat. It kind of looks like a pigeon.”
“Oh! Great!” I said, trading my wiggling index finger for a thumbs up. This new information, however, did not ease my mind greatly. There was still an animal flying around my house, knocking frames off of the walls. “Could you still get it out of the house?” I’m not a bird person.
They followed that poor scared bird around the house holding out a broomstick, hoping it might land on the stick, for the better part of ten minutes. This plan seemed about as likely to me as the possibility that it would land on one of their shoulders and start engaging in witty banter. But- from my nickel sized crack in the door, I didn’t feel I was in a great position to be picky. So I watched them wander around the apartment. Finally I suggested that maybe one of them could use the work gloves on the dining room table (Dane was still in the building phase) and try to catch the bird with his hands.
One of them attempted. He didn’t seem to be a bird person either. Minutes went by before the second guy said, “give them to me- I’ll do it!”
Another minute passed. Syd was still hiding. I was starting to consider asking them to just throw whatever was in the pantry in to the office so I could live in the office after they left until Dane got home or the bird died.
“We’ve got it!” he cried triumphantly. I opened the door a little wider. Sure enough, he had the bird safely in his gloved hands. I decided it was now safe for me to leave the room. Sydney was not reassured.
He walked out to the balcony and opened his hands. We all watched, waiting for it to fly away as pigeons do in the movies when they are released. Instead it just sort of dropped. Damn.
No one really knew what to say. This was not the ending we had hoped for. We looked down, but it was hard to see anything in the bushes below the apartment. “Umm, thanks!” I said. Trying to sound cheerful and not point murderous fingers at these poor guys. “You really saved me.”
We all just kind of stood in a circle on the balcony.
“Can I offer you a beer to say thank you?” I asked. No marine I know has ever turned that down, and the drinking ban had been lifted so they were free to accept. I opened the fridge. No beer. I felt it was odd to offer them glasses of almond milk so I shrugged and asked if they drink scotch.
All three nodded enthusiastically as I poured Dane’s “good stuff” from the decanter. One boy took it like a shot. Okay, I’ve never seen anyone do that before, I thought. The other two sipped it as I had expected but rather than nods of approval, they both started coughing and choking. Oh geez, I thought as I offered them both water.
“Do you have any coke I could mix this with?” one boy asked me. I didn’t. “Just almond milk,” I joked. They didn’t get it. They put the glasses down. We all smiled at one another pleasantly. Awkwardly.
“Ok, well- I can’t thank you enough!” I said, starting to walk toward the door. “I guess I’ve learned to keep the doors closed!”
The boys left. I closed the doors to the balcony. I left them closed for about three nights before I missed the breeze too much, and decided the risk of a winged intruder was worth it, to fall asleep listening to the sound of waves crashing against the seawall.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.
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