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A Batty Business in Boston

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This is a tale of flying critters. Of fear, bold acts and forgiveness. All of it in my kitchen.

What happened?

I was expecting guests. Two Canadians would be visiting me in Boston to see the Red Sox slam their hardest at Fenway Park.

I cleaned the house. I stocked the fridge. I was just planning a big breakfast for the 20-something Canadians when I heard a noise fluttering in the fan over my stove.

My stove fan has big spinning blades, which expel odors to the outdoors through a duct in the walls. Covering the fan blades is a round metal grill that looks like a bicycle wheel.

I'd heard a flutter up in those wheel-spokes a few years before. You could even see the mouse! But when I removed the grille, to my horror -- it wasn't a mouse. It was a bat. I let it go outdoors.

My handyman, by dint of eaves sleuthing and detective carpentry, discerned that a crevice in the woodwork had opened into a crack in the ductwork, etc., etc., allowing the bat to swoop like a flying warrior straight into my fan.

The carpenter closed the hole and put screens over the outdoor duct opening, and I never saw a bat again.

However, now I was looking straight at a bat, and it was much bigger than the bat I'd had before.

This one had wing span.

In fact, the bat's wing seemed to be stuck to the spokes.

I was in a quandary. The bat may have just made the biggest miscalculation of its life by taking a dive into my stove fan. But bats can carry rabies, so I didn't dare touch it. Anyway, I didn't know how to untangle a bat from bicycle spokes! Or, the bat could get tangled up with me as I tried to carry the whole combo -- bat, grill -- outdoors.

However, time was ticking. The Red Sox were playing. And tomorrow, the Canadians would get in their car and drive south. Sixteen Boston-brewed beers stood on the kitchen table. And I couldn't have a swooping bat spoiling the fun.

After a few hours, the bad looked dead. I donned rubber gloves, unscrewed the grill, and took it and the stuck bat, plus bucket, scrubber and soap, not to mention eye goggles, out to the back yard, to free the bat and my stove vent from each other.

The poor bat. It was just a critter in the wrong place. Isn't that what our whole environmental problem is about -- things in wrong places? Carbon taken from the ground, and pumped into the air. Sulfur in our rivers which used to be in volcanic deposits. All wreaking havoc. But while I was sorry for the creature, I was glad to put it back where it belonged.

I scrubbed every surface in my kitchen with bleach. Then, I just about jumped out of my skin. Smiling up at me on a banana peel in my compost pail was a second bat. Looking well-fed and dead.

I took the compost pail -- trying to shake off my bat creeps -- to the woods and flung it.

Then, I scrubbed the sink around the compost bin.

I was done!

The house was bat-free.

The Canadians could arrive!

But all did not proceed free of flutters. That night, as I was carrying the guest beddings up from the laundry, I noticed a large, strange brown leaf, lying on the floor next to my stove.

I had just scrubbed that floor sparkling clean, in honor of the Canadians, and there had been no leaf.

Also, this one was moving.

It was a bat! Bat No. 3.

It was 8:00. I called an extermination company that promised to banish pests from people's houses.

"Lady," said the man, "just go upstairs and go to bed. It'll cost $280 an hour for me to make a call, and by the time I get there, it'll have disappeared. Take two aspirin and phone us in the morning."

The next day, after inspecting the roof, eaves and attic, the exterminator opined that the bats must be flying into the attic, then through the walls, then through an unspecified route to the kitchen ceiling, then, dropping right into my stove. "We can fix it for $1,000," he offered.

"Huh?" I said.

After he left, I got out a ladder, and inspected the screen cover my carpenter had put over the stove vent hole outside the house.

How do you like that. Some creature, perhaps by batty clingings, had torn open a hole an inch wide, just big enough for a bat.

Or, three.

After the carpenter came and sealed up the hole, he downed one of the Fenway beers I had stocked for the Canadians.

Now, wouldn't it be an environmental marvel if we could so easily keep everything else from getting in the wrong place?