A few months after relocating to the country from the city some friends of ours made the hour-long trip, a significant portion of which included a lumpy trek along our gravel road, to tour the farm and have dinner with us. We had a great visit catching up on Portland news and hearing about their latest exploits rescuing feral kittens from the huge laurel hedge that rose up next to their apartment complex blocking their view from the road. We had one of those kittens with us on our farm; she was now a young cat and tended toward the wilder side of things, though we had raised her as a house cat until we’d moved to the farm. Our Australian cattle dog liked to run cats and anything else that would give chase so we left one of the bedroom doors closed and the window open that way the cats could come and go as they pleased without fear of the dog chasing them around the house. It had worked well up to the night of our friends’ visit. We barbequed garden burgers for our vegetarian friends and I made our favorite potato salad recipe then we retired to the front deck to watch the sunset behind our neighbor’s eighty acres of timber. As the dusk thickened the bats began to appear in droves, weaving and dipping in the purple sky above us. We cheered them on in their quest to hunt the mosquitoes that had been biting us since we had moved away from the barbeque. Soon it grew too dark to see them and we watched the stars begin to emerge onto the backdrop of the darkening sky. Without any ambient light there seemed to be an unlimited amount of stars; there was even a trace of the tail end of the hazy Milky Way. We guessed at constellations which none of us really knew except the easy ones like the Big and Small Dippers. Of course Venus is always easy to spot in the high summer, glinting in the southern sky so we were able to name it. Mostly though we just marveled at the immensity of the space stretched out around us. The air started to chill as it grew later and the crickets’ song grew louder as the darkness set completely. Our friends began to think about the long drive home, they had kittens to feed, which reminded them they meant to buy some prints before they left. I was printmaking at the time and had set aside some for them. I got up to fetch them from the cats’ room where I kept them. The house was pitch black but we’d lived there long enough for me to know it so I easily found my way to the back bedroom. When I opened the door I could feel the cool air coming in through the open window. I turned the light on without glancing at the switch and walked over to the desk where I had set the prints. That’s when I felt the first bat fly past me toward the window. I leapt back and looked up to find another clinging to the far wall. I dropped the prints and ran out of the house. “Bats!” I cried when ran out the door. Without pause everyone leapt up and ran past me into the house. I paused to catch my breath before slowly retracing my steps. Everyone was standing in the middle of the bedroom looking at the bat on the wall. This was in the days before the smart phone so no one was distancing themselves from the experience by taking pictures of it, we just all stood there and watched the little brown bat until it finally loosed itself from its perch and flew out the window into the black night.
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