Saturday, July 7, 2012


No Bats Were Injured in the Making of this Memory

Dusk in the middle of July approaches in a tide of liquid darkness that gradually flows from the ground upward, a pink and silver-blue river of light meandering between the shores of street-separated treetops. Fireflies rise from the grass to greet the night, and silhouetted bats fly like demented sparrows against the fading backdrop above.

Tired and fueled by a desire to breech the day/night divide, kids desperately attempt to prolong the end of day, hoping to extend their marathon of fun just a little bit longer. I did it. My kids did it. So it was on a typical summer night, wrapped in a blanket of darkness and musty warmth that limited our view of the shrinking world outside of the garage light that I proposed, “Hey, you want to see
something cool?”

Of course they did.

From the depths of a bucket in the garage I produced a tennis ball.

Tennis in the dark? Well that’s different, they thought.

But no racket? How can we even see to play catch?

I walked with ball in hand to the center of our street. Checking for cars, I threw the fuzzy yellow orb at the ground a couple of times. It bounced back nicely, producing a satisfying “phlong” as it hit the concrete.

Looking to the sky, I spotted a couple of bats darting in and out of the tree-line, cruising up and down the street and from curb to curb fifty feet overhead. Timing my throw to coincide with the path of one bat’s flight, I leaned back until it felt as if my elbow would scrape the pockmarked surface of the street, launched a pitch skyward as hard as I could and grunted an exhalation as the ball rose to meet the bat, missing it completely. At the apex of its ascent, the ball froze for a fraction of a second, then began to fall, increasing speed toward terminal velocity as it raced back toward the thrower.

The missed bat echo-located a disruption nearby, changed course instantly and pursued the mysterious object, precisely matching trajectory. Speeding just inches behind the falling ball, it seemed about to snatch it from mid-air. As the ball rapidly approached me with the bat in hot pursuit, the kids began to shriek. It was clear that the bat was going to land in my hair or on my face. I stepped quickly aside and let the ball hit the ground, where it bounced as before, the bat hooking incredibly mid-flight in an impossible last-second turnabout just inches above the street. Experiencing g-forces no human could withstand, it flew back up to treetop height in seconds, continuing its quest for a real meal. The tennis ball was inedible.

“I wanna do it!,” both kids shouted simultaneously.

The sound of giggles and bouncing balls echoed down our darkening street on this and countless other summer nights. The agile little creatures never came near us, which made the game a bit less frightening but no less amazing.

I’m not sure how I discovered this unusual bat activity, but I’m glad to have passed it along, and wonder if my kids will someday extend their own children’s evening by a few minutes, sharing the excitement of this quirky little game that begins with the question, “Hey, you wanna see something cool?” It is my fondest wish that they also add, “Your grandpa taught me this.”

1 comment:

  1. I haven't seen bats outside where I currently live, but I so want to try this!