Like Father Like Son

Let me take you back to a hot and sticky August night in Wellesley, Massachusetts. For those of you unfamiliar with Wellesley, it is a nice suburb located west of Boston. A fair amount of classy, civilised people live there, and those who aren’t think they are classy and civilised. The year was 1980.

It had been 100 degrees that day (obviously that’s in Farenheit — you Celsius people will have to convert cuz I ain’t doing it).

Due to the oppressive heat, my father-in-law lay on top of the bed sheets, “naked as a jay bird.” Now, I won’t delve into the expression “naked as a jay bird,” because I don’t really understand it given that jay birds are at least covered by feathers and thus somewhat less naked-looking than humans without their clothes on.

Anyhoo, moving right along. His bedroom and the three other bedrooms, each containing a child (aged six, four and two, or thereabouts) were on the second floor of the house, all off the same hallway. All the bedroom doors were open in order to promote maximum air circulation. As he drifted off to sleep, the air was heavy and still.

He awakened to a fluttering above his head. He thought, “what’s that?” And then there was another fluttering.

He thought, “it must be a bat!” He jostled his wife to wake her. “I think we have a bat,” he said. “You have to protect the children!” she barked. (Read: “kill it, you asshole!”) The wife had spoken, and now it was time for the man of the house to kick it into high gear and get all craaaaazy on that bat.

He carefully got out of bed (or I should say he got off the bed since he was lying on top of it and not really “in” it). He ducked into their small closet, closed the door and turned on the light. There, he selected and changed into a pair of Bermuda shorts, a polo shirt (do you think that he thought to put the collar up because it was 1980?) and a pair of white Hane’s men’s briefs, which he put on his head for extra protection. This is apparently standard bat-fighting procedure. Seriously, it’s right there on page three of the manual.

He emerged from the closet and went out into the hall. He did not see any bat and determined with relief that he would not have to venture any further.

When he reported this to the wife, her response was “no, you have got to get it!” (Read: “no, you asshole, I said to kill it!”) So he summoned some courage, stepped back into the hall and turned on the lights for both the first and second floor halls.

Immediately he saw the reflection of the bat flying around in the window on the stair landing. He therefore decided he would not go down the stairs to where the bat was, because, in his own words, “it was too scary.”

Instead, he returned to his bedroom. He was pleased to notice that his car keys, among which was a house key, lay on the bureau. So, rather than simply go down the stairs and confront the bat head-on, he devised an ingenious plan. Or maybe he got it from the bat-fighting manual — I am not sure.

From the second floor (and this would be the first floor in the UK or elsewhere in Europe so don’t be too too impressed), he would climb out the window onto the roof over the front porch. He would then swing his legs over the gutter and try to find the lattice work on the exterior of the house with his feet. He would then climb down the lattice to the ground below. Apparently it did not occur to him that climbing out a window from the second story of a large house with high ceilings, swinging over the gutter and climbing down the lattice in the dark was a might bit more dangerous than walking down a flight of carpeted stairs in the vicinity of a small flying rodent, especially with the extra protection afforded by the Hanes briefs on his head. But that’s really neither here nor there.

At this point, he inadvertently awakened my husband (the eldest child), who for the first part of this story shall be known, as he was, as “Billy.” Billy woke up and started screaming, crying and carrying on, as was apparently his nature.

So, with Billy shrieking in the background, and with a pair of men’s underwear on his head, my father-in-law climbed out the window, swung over the gutter and shinnied down that lattice work. Once he had reached the ground, he briefly considered running away. This may not have gone over well with the wife, so he thought better of it.

Instead, he stood his ground and looked through the windows into the house. There he witnessed the bat flying from room to room, baring its teeth* (*whether he actually was able to see the teeth is of no consequence because it makes the bat seem a lot scarier if the teeth were out so I’m going with it). He unlocked the front door with the house key that he had pocketed and opened it wide, and then opened the screen porch door wide. After this procedure, he did a mad dash from the front door to the fence separating the front yard from the street. He perched on the fence and waited. (May I remind you that he had a pair of men’s underwear on his head…)

He could see Billy and his wife upstairs, Billy still hysterical, and his wife attempting to calm the child down. But then, to his amazement he saw the bat fly right out the front door and away. He yelled “there he goes!”

Later that summer the family acquired tennis rackets, not because they wanted to play any tennis or anything, but just in case there was another bat. I really have no idea why they did that considering how well the plan worked the first time. But there you have it.

So last week we took a short vacation in the south of France in a beautiful village called Gordes. And by the way if you have never been to Gordes you should go there because it is truly Gordes-geous ha ha ha ha. We stayed at a lovely hotel set high in the hills with a killer view of the Luberon.

The hotel did not have adjoining rooms so we each took a child and settled in for the night in side-by-side rooms.

One night, my husband, f/k/a Billy, only slightly intoxicated after a meal in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and donning his dorsal night splints and mouthguard (see We’re Sexy and We Know It), was awakened by a “flapping-scratching-banging” commotion in the bathroom. His companion for the night was Charlotte, our five-year-old, who naturally slept through the entire incident I am about to relate to you, not being as high-strung as her father.

Bill had gone to bed with the bathroom window open and the bathroom door ajar, for air circulation, even though it was neither hot nor sticky in the room. In fact it was so pleasant outside that he wanted to get some fresh Luberon air, for which one can hardly blame him.

Anyway, there he stood, just outside the bathroom door. He was most certain that what he was hearing flapping around and banging into walls in there was a bat. We had seen a number of them flying erratically, as they do, while driving around the region. And now one had flown into the bathroom in his very own hotel room.

Now, at this point in the story, let us reflect on the damage inflicted on my husband by the bat incident in Wellesley, Massachusetts in the year 1980 and the effect this must have had on his mental state. All of this compounded by rich food and copious wine and maybe some port… And I can only imagine the terror he must have experienced when he realised that he did not own a pair of Hanes briefs or indeed any briefs to place upon his head. Nor had we brought tennis racquets despite the fact that the hotel boasted lovely tennis courts. Not to mention that climbing off the hotel balcony and leaving a sleeping five-year-old child in the room was out of the question. Anyway, there was no lattice work to speak of.

Bill considered his next move. He closed the bathroom door. The bathroom light was off, and he thought that maybe if he turned the light on, the bat would be offended (being nocturnal and all) and would fly out the window.

When he turned the light on he heard a flurry of activity and then silence. His hope was that the plan had worked, and bothered by the light, the bat had fled the premises. His fear was that, thinking it was suddenly daytime, the bat had decided to go to sleep until night-time and would hang upside down under the swimming trunks he had drying in the shower. The real problem of course was the not knowing. Naturally, if the bat were hanging under the swimming trunks, it would definitely come out and fly straight at Bill’s head the instant he opened the door in the middle of the night when he went into the bathroom to pee. Especially because he wasn’t wearing briefs on his head.

He decided to leave the bathroom door closed. He then turned off the light (thinking that if the bat had hung itself up under those trunks when it was tricked into thinking it was daytime then it would start flying around again if it then thought it was night-time… can’t you just see the thought process and the gears turning) and went back to bed.

Sure enough, several hours later he awakened for a midnight wee. He approached the bathroom door and listened. Nothing. He slowly opened the door and looked in. He craned his neck to peek around the corner and then finally entered the bathroom. Having determined that the bat was no longer in residence, he shut the bathroom window.

Only then did it occur to him that the lady who came in to do the nightly turndown service had been closing that bathroom window (which he had been leaving open) every night for a reason.

All I can say is that it is a good thing I’m around to deal with shit like this. When you have had cancer, killed it, looked death in the eye and told it to bugger off the occasional bat doesn’t phase you too much. Just in case I’m put to the test, and to put my money where my mouth is, I have purchased several pairs of white men’s briefs. Now I’m in the market for a used tennis racquet…

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