[ Yueqing ]
There are some strange customs in China, and I’m not talking about deep-fried centipedes. Or soup-slurping competitions. No. Rather, in open defiance of logic and good taste, many Chinese homes display a curious fixture on their walls. This high-tech, low-brow device is a combination clock, calendar, MP3-player, night-light and infinitely scrolling, kitschy painting of nationalistic folk scenes and beautiful natural landmarks. Big Brother meets Everything Must Go (Digital) Starving Artists’ Sale. Don’t ask me why, but it’s a thing. I’ve seen many.
In Frank’s house, said device looms over the corridor between the kitchen and the office where I’ve set up shop; I pass it fifteen or twenty times each day on my way to fetch tea or snacks. For the past two days there was a large black lump of irregularly shaped dryer lint beneath it. Though I’ve tried to make myself useful around the apartment cleaning-wise, I took a pass on this one, leaving it—in true passive-aggressive roommate fashion—for Frank to deal with.
Primary takeaways from the foregoing: black linty lump. Two days. Stationary.
Imagine my surprise this afternoon, then—as I sit working diligently before my laptop—when Frank gives a loud yelp, gingerly shoving this lint towards me on the slick tile floor with his toe. He’s unwilling to touch it. Every time he gives it a nudge, it convulses. He does this repeatedly while mumbling to me in a stream of rapid ChinEnglish I can’t quite decode. (This is a game we’ve gotten quite good at, normally.) I bend down to take a closer look and see a tiny black bat, its torso far smaller than my thumb.
At first glance, this tiny Nosferatu appears in its last throes—reflexively opening and closing its wee maw and twitching its wings, but otherwise not moving. Nothing deliberate. Frank thinks we should put it out of its misery, but I am curious. As far as I can recall, I’ve never held a bat before. And why not try to save it?
I fetch a winter mitten from my backpack, scoop up the little beast in my left palm. It doesn’t move. I certainly have no insects to feed it (if that’s even what this sort of bat eats), but I imagine it needs hydration more than anything else after two days. I soak a cotton swab with water, and squeeze a few drops into its tiny (but impressively toothy) mouth. It convulses a bit—startled, or just reflex? I put more water on the swab, and press it lightly against little Nossy’s bat-lips. He suddenly bites down on the thing for all he’s worth, gulping water.
This goes on for about five minutes—bat suckling H2O from a Q-tip while Frank rummages for a box. (I had suggested we build a Bat Cave—a place to keep him while he recuperates, and while I do some online research.)
This Bat Cave was not to be. No domicile, however temporary, to house little Batstian Bale or shelter Bat Affleck. Nada. Before Frank can get things sorted, the little (blood)sucker is hanging upside down from my mittened palm, stretching his wings in full Dracula mode, eyeballing me. Absolutely cinematic poseur, this bat, only in miniature. (“Vat are yew lewkeeng at, humain? I veel drink your blood and feast upon your soul!”) He vogues this vampiric move twice, still sluggish, then…poof! He’s flying around the room, dive-bombing my head as I rush around closing doors—closet, bathroom, living room—to corral him outdoors to freedom and his little bat-family. Frank opens the window screens (incessantly crying out “Oh! OH! Ohhhh! OH!” while dodging the jittery Nosferatu’s dives) and we manage to send our revived echolocator out into the afternoon breeze—alive, graceful, and well.
Take care, Nossy. I wish you well. Don’t forget to pick up that loaf of bread or the carton of fruit flies on your way home to the Missus.
—jim gordon/johnathan harker, The Batglobalist