Sunday, March 15, 2009

Knitting a Bat

We don't seem to have many bats around here, but they're there. Watch for them at dusk. When the light's all grey, like the bats. It's hard to tell them from the swallows. They fly the same way. Zigzag. Dart. Flitting here, there, wherever the bugs are. They're after the same food, the bats and swallows. But swallows zoom, and bats never do. Bats fly like old sheets of newspaper, swirled around by dust devils. Bat devils.

The devil bat lives under overhangs. Red rock cliffs with the long streaks of black running down them. Carved river cliffs, the over-cliffs, where the sun bakes them all day, and they slow-cook you at night, all night.

The devil bat is named for its two little horns. Not to be confused with the antelope bat or the moose bat, with its spreading antlers to scoop birds and tumbleweeds out of the air.

The devil bat has a tail. The flat end looks like a spade from the two of spades, not as big as the one on the ace.

The devil bat has little hooves on its back legs, much like the antelope bat, the moose bat. The devil bat's wings feel like velvet, not at all like the leather you imagine. They're translucent. You can see the moon through them, when the moon is full and the bat flies between.

The devil bat looks enormous, but that's because you're really close to it. The devil bat fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.

While most bats sleep hanging by their feet, the devil bat sleeps curled up in a little ball with its nose tucked under one wing.

The devil bat has a sweet disposition that belies its name. It eats mostly nectar licked from the inside of cactus flowers.

When necessary it will eat a cow. But it eats every part and thanks the cow afterwards.

The bat was the first animal Grandmother knitted. This was after she created the world, the planets. There's always something else at the start of what Grandmother does. The world, the planets began as oatmeal, bubbling in a pot over the fire. But Grandmother got distracted, was thinking of something else, and she forgot to stir the oatmeal, so it got lumps in it, and there are your earth and planets.

This time Grandmother was knitting. At night, by the fire, she thought, It's about time to knit me some animals. She had red yarn, was going to knit a squirrel, but somehow she was thinking about something else, was watching the flames dance and jump, watching the sparks fly up and out over the yard, and so she kept knitting where she shouldn't, about when she was at the front legs, and they ended up all wide, all joined to the body like wings. But she had the face all done, the squirrel face, because you always start knitting animals at the nose. So Grandmother sighed, finished off the legs at the other end, and there was a bat. You don't pull out stitches when you're knitting an animal, see?

The little bat hung from Grandmother's finger, tiny claws hooked in her skin like little burrs. It weighed no more than a pinecone. It wrapped itself up in its wings, then licked the end of its nose.

"People will say you hang upside-down," Grandmother said. "But you don't. You hang the way a bat hangs, head down, but for a bat that's upside-up."

"Whatever." The bat rolled its eyes. It had taken to saying things like "shuh," and "yuhr." Picked them up from its friends, because Grandmother certainly didn't talk like that.

"How would you hang, anyway? I've got no hands to hang from, and I wouldn't be able to talk if I hung from my teeth. Shuh. Yuhr."

"I should have made your legs longer. Then you could stand on them. But I was running out of yarn."


Grandmother held her finger up to the hook on the ceiling. The bat shuffled sideways along her finger until it reached the hook. It swung there a few times, adjusting itself, fast back and forth because it was a small bat. It curled into a ball under its wings and started snoring.

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