The Perils of Assuming That the Flying Rodent on Your Porch Is Dead

by Matthew J.X. Malady

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, ESPN the Magazine Senior Editor Megan Greenwell tells us more about being attacked by a bat that seemed to be dead but was really alive like crazy.

Always nice to have someone waiting for you to come home at night. My someone is a bat who plays dead on my stairs, then flies at my face.

— Megan Greenwell (@megreenwell) August 28, 2014

Megan! So what happened here?

I live in Hartford, Connecticut, in a huge house built in 1920 and since subdivided into three apartments. It’s easily the most beautiful, charming apartment I’ve ever occupied, but there are occasional reminders that the place is old. Such as: I have to prop up one leg of every single thing I own, because the floors are quite slanted. Also: my heating bills are out of control, and last winter my furnace broke on a day when the high temperature was twenty degrees.

The latest reminder came when I returned home one night after taking a walk around our neighborhood with my friend and his dog. I began walking up the back stairs to my second-floor apartment, then stopped when I noticed a bat lying peacefully on the third step. Until this moment in my life, I had never seen a bat, but I didn’t have too much trouble identifying it: black, surprisingly furry, and pretty disgusting/terrifying/generally horrifying-looking even when ostensibly dead.

A dead bat on my stairs seemed like a problem, but not the kind of problem that I needed to deal with right then. So I decided to step over his creepy lifeless body (yes, I assume all horrifying creatures are men, because misandry), go up to my apartment, and either a) figure out a bat disposal system, or b) assume that my neighbors would leave the house earlier than I did the next morning and thus feel compelled to deal with it. (Let’s be honest: I was always going to choose b.)

As I began to step over the bat, I realized that he was not, in fact, dead. I realized this in the most dramatic way possible: The evil thing rose up, then frantically flew straight at my face. The next few seconds are essentially a blur, though I do remember some shrieking and sprinting. The most salient detail is: The bat did not bite me, so no rabies here.

Two weeks later, the bat and I repeated the same scene! This time I knew better than to assume he was dead, but for some reason I decided to try to step over him anyway, instead of just going around to the front stairs. Same shrieking, same sprinting, still rabies-free.

That seems like an especially mean trick, even for a bat.

It was later pointed out to me that assuming the bat was dead was an insane thing to do. I had been out of the house less than an hour, and a bat choosing my stairs as a very short-term hospice was much less likely than him just stopping there to chill out for a second. But I had never seen a bat before! How was I expected to know its creepy bat lifestyle?

My ex-boyfriend’s mother has a paralyzing fear of bats, which I always thought was weird; like being afraid of frogs or something. I owe her an apology for my silent judgment — she is absolutely right that they are the most horrifying creatures on earth.

Lesson learned (if any)?

Beyond the fact that bats are immortal? The most important lesson I learned is that your friends will not help you in dire situations. After my first bat run-in, I texted the friend I had just been with, in appropriately terrified all-caps. He grew up in the middle of the woods in western Pennsylvania, so I figured he’d have useful advice or, like, a special bat-killing device. (I later found out that he has experience killing bats with both a broom and a shoe.) He wrote back instantly, but not with an offer of help — instead, to confirm that a bat flying in my face was horrific. That’s it.

Just one more thing.

Once, a stranger emailed me to say he really enjoyed my Twitter feed but that I should not make “forever alone” jokes because they make me seem pathetic and desperate. I blocked him on Twitter, but now I think gleefully about how pathetic and desperate he is whenever I make a particularly good one. That said, I am taking applications for a combined boyfriend/bat-catcher position.

Matthew J.X. Malady is a writer and editor who was in New York but is now in Berkeley.