They can have the belfry …

… just keep them out of the house!

Ok, so this is the story I thought was going to be the story from my Jamaica trip last year.  I was staying in a guesthouse that calls itself a ‘cottage’ but which is so huge (7 bedrooms, full kitchen, formal dining room, 2 living rooms …) it doesn’t match anything my brain conjures up when I hear that word.

I was the only guest for most of my time there, so I had the whole huge house to myself.  One of the things I liked about that was getting to leave all the windows and doors open without having to negotiate with housemates.  Leaving the doors open was safer than it sounds.  All of the doors had metal gates I could keep closed and locked.  But with the doors open the wind blowing up from the ocean could flow right through, keeping the house cool.

The other thing I liked about the house were the hammocks on the balconies.  I hadn’t spent any time in a hammock since I was twelve, but the ones at the house had my name all over them.  I spend a lot of time that trip dozing, writing, knitting, arguing with AC, watching the sea birds and the waves … all from the comfort of a hammock.

Jenna, the caretaker of the house, came by one evening and found me in the hammock.  “If you put some pillows in there, you could probably sepnd the night outside,” she said.   She assured me that the house was so safe and the weather so fine that I would have no problems.

Great idea, I thought.  I had my mosquito patches (like nicotine patches but, well, for mosquitoes) and a box of mosquito coils (curious, surely toxic product that does a good jog of keeping the bugs at bay), so I figured I’d be fine.  It would be so great to stargaze myself to sleep.

And for a few minutes, it really was great.  The sky was clear and crammed with stars, and I had just seen my first shooting star … and then I saw something odd.  It looked as if a piece of dark grey paper had been flung down from the roof.   And then another.  And then another.  But there couldn’t be anyone on the roof, could there?

And then one of the grey pieces of paper flew right in front of my face … and revealed itself to be a bat.  Yes.  Bats.  So I gave up on the sleeping outside idea and brought myself and my stuff back into the house … except the bats flew right inside with me through the gates!

I had two bats circling around the ceiling in my bedroom as I cowered in the bed, hoping they’d stay up around the ceiling.  They didn’t.  One swooped right over my head.  That was my cue to grab my phone and call Jenna for help.

“Are you afraid of bats?” she asked when I told her the situation.
“Uh … yeah.”
(Strangely-long silence.)  “Are you afraid of crabs?”
“Um … no, just the bats.”
(Another silence.) “Are you afraid of ants?”
“No.  Really it’s just the bats.”

She wanted to know how she could help.  She offered to come over with spray.  Bat spray?  What would it do?  “Oh, it will kill them,” she said.  Well, I didn’t want to kill them, I just wanted them out of the house, so I told her to forget about it  Eventually the bats left my bedroom, and I shut the door and windows and slept bat-free for the rest of the night.

The next night, Jenna came by the house with a giant can of bug spray.  She said it would solve the bat problem.  I expressed doubt.  “Oh, no.  This will kill them,” she said.

A little while later, she pointed to the light that was on behind me.  “Your friends the bats are back.”

I whipped around, ready to get away from wherever the bats were … and saw some moths around the lightbulb.  I thought she was messing with me, more of the “Are you afraid of crabs?” teasing I’d gotten the night before, so I just laughed it off.

Next day, I was on the phone with one of my ex-pat friends and I told her the story about the bats, and she started laughing.  More teasing?  No.  “Stacie,” she says, “in Jamaica, ‘bat’ means ‘moth’!”

A moth?!  Jenna thought I was calling her at 10:30 at night because there was a moth in my room?!  No wonder she asked  if I was afraid of ants.

Right.  So what should I have said?  I should have said “ratbat.”  Ratbat.  Of course.

Fast forward a few days and I’m having dinner at AC’s house.  I noticed that he had a large, decorative brown butterfly-moth thing on his wall.  I didn’t pay it any attention, just ate my dinner.  No problem.  And then he got up quickly.  He was agitated, looking for something.  I asked what was wrong and he pointed behind me.  “Got to get that bat out of here,” he said.  I turned and saw that he was, of course, pointing at the ‘decorative’ butterfly-moth thing that was right. next. to. my. head!  I practically had a heart attack getting off my chair and away from it, whisper-screaming, “It’s alive?!!”

So I grabbed my camera and took this picture.

'bat'

In the midst of my freak-out, I didn’t get him quite in focus, but you get the idea.  This moth is bigger than my hand (and I have big hands).  This moth is big enough to get redeye in my photo!  So very wrong.  If this had been flying around my bedroom, I would  definitely have called Jenna and had her come over with that spray!

And while I’m not afraid of crabs, I was pretty surprised to find this guy:

houseguest

on the steps inside the house after the hurricane (which, of course, became the real story of my trip last year!) …  He was bigger than my hand, too.  Bigger than both my hands.

_____

is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers.

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8 thoughts on “They can have the belfry …

  1. Yeah, the whole ‘ratbat’ thing was just too literal for me! Once I learned about the bat/ratbat difference, I had to laugh. The idea that I would be cowering in my bed because there were moths in my room was just too funny … until I saw Mothra’s cousin at AC’s house! I still can’t believe how big that thing was!

    Stacey– I’m so glad you shared your story. I’ve loved reading all of the pieces you’ve written about your grandparents.

  2. Yep, we call bats — the kind that look like flying rodents — ratbats here (Bahamas) too. Makes sense. They look like rats.

    The moth kind we call money bats. They are supposed to be good luck and bring you wealth.

    Some of our ratbats live in caves, where their nanny (guano, poo, excreta, you get the picture) makes very good fertilizer indeed. That set we call ledderin bats. I presume that is because their wings are leathery? Dunno.

  3. I’m still thinking about this dream house you lived in this summer. What a treasure filled with wonderful potential to dream away.

    And then the story appeared in it….tell more…

    Bonnie

  4. inmate1972

    I used to run an old vaudevill theater that had a bat problem. After I educated myself on bats, I grew quite fond of the little buggers. Of course, having to pick them off walls (discreetly) during perfromances and toss them outside (discreetly) proved a tough trick.

    Bats are like frogs. A healthy bat population directly corealtes to a healthy environment. Plus, they can eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour.

  5. Ah, Inmate, perhaps the bat population explains why I got fewer mosquito bites last year than during any other Jamaican visit! (And I’d love to hear about the vaudeville theater … you have the most interesting resume!)

    Bonnie– I have so many stories to tell from Jamaica. Maybe I’ll get back to the house on Monday …

    Scavella– (Lucky you, living in the Bahamas! Good to know about the crossover lingo, so I’ll know what to say when I make it over there! Your take on ‘ledderin’ sounds right to me, too. Thanks for stopping by!

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