It’s the last week of October, and this is the first blog post I’ve written this month.
If you’ve been worried about me and wondering why I haven’t been bombarding your inbox with creepy stories, strange decorations, and a general, 24/7, over-caffeinated zeal for all things Halloween, thank you for your concern, but fear not. I’m alive and well and currently sitting in a room with not one, not two, but THREE skeletons. And one dog. And a gnat that keeps landing on my face and driving me crazy.
I realize it’s not normal for me to take my favorite month off from blogging, but really, nothing about this October has been normal.
It all started when our hardwood floors exploded. Not exploded exactly. They… grew. Actually, it was more like they swelled up, but I hate the word “swell” (*shudder*) so I’ll use expanded. But that doesn’t sound right either. Let’s put it this way: Over the course of four days, the terrain of our beautiful hardwood floors metamorphosed into hills and valleys and mountain ranges that made it look like the monsters from Tremors were living under our living room. So that was fun. Then a parade of well-meaning professionals came to our house, measured things, scratched their heads, measured more things, and said, “That’s not normal.”
We are still in process of figuring out exactly what kind of monster is haunting our house.
Then there’s the rain. I live in Austin, Texas. In case you’re unfamiliar, we’re known for our music, our tacos, and our dry spells. There are restaurants here that serve 100¢ margaritas when the temperature hits 100 degrees, and they often do a pretty good business even in September. Fall usually arrives in late October with the first real cool spell blowing in around Halloween.
But this year… it’s been raining. A LOT. And on October 15th, the temperature dropped into the forties and stayed there for a couple of days. And then it rained some more. It’s still raining. In fact, it’s rained so much that the water treatment plants can’t keep up, and we’re now having to boil our drinking water to get the demons out.
I’m telling you, this October is weird.
With my house randomly redecorating itself and the sky always dripping a strange wet substance, it took me a while to get into the spirit of Halloween. But finally, it got into me. I decided if October was going to be weird, I was going to be weirder.
So one night, when it stopped raining for a few hours, I went out into the front yard and started setting up a cemetery (because there’s nothing creepier than seeing your neighbor hammering tombstone stakes in the dark).
It turned out pretty well. Except for these folks…
Once the yard was sufficiently creepy, I decided I couldn’t let my ruined hardwood floors ruin my Halloween indoors*, so we got a new roommate, and he livened things up a lot.
Now I’m ready for my favorite holiday, and I have the empty candy wrappers in my trash can to prove it. The yard is decorated, the house is decorated, and my costume is coming together. There’s only one thing left to do: decorate my blog.
Expect a few treats headed your way over the next week. Better late than never.
* I swear I did not realize that rhymed until after I wrote it.
Author’s Note: Before I begin, I would like to say that I have nothing but love and respect for the participants in this adventure. They are all kind-hearted, intelligent people, despite how they may appear in this story. You’ll have to trust me on this.
Author’s Note, Part 2: The following story really creates more questions than answers. There’s nothing I can do about that, but I apologize for it in advance.
The Tale of the Christmas Bat
This year, Hubby and I traveled to Maryland to visit his family for Christmas. We arrived at 11pm on the 22nd, hung out with his mom and brother for a bit, then went to bed. At that point, everything in his mom’s beautiful, two-story home seemed perfectly normal.
The next morning, Hubby got up before I did and went downstairs for breakfast, where his mom greeted him by saying, “I lost your bat.”
The following conversation ensued:
Hubby’s Mom: “I lost your bat.”
Hubby’s Mom: “I lost your bat!”
Hubby: “Um… what?”
Hubby’s Mom: “I lost your bat. I poked it with a yard stick and it fell on the floor clicking and hissing but then I lost it.”
Hubby: “You poked… wait, something fell… wait, what?”
Hubby’s Mom: “I LOST YOUR BAT. I took it up to your bathroom to get you back but it flew back down here and I lost it.”
Hubby’s Mom: “I lost your bat.”
Hubby: “Uh, Mom? I think you have a bat in your house.”
Hubby’s Mom: …
Hubby: “Mom! You have a BAT in your HOUSE!”
Hubby’s Mom: …
If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Allow me to back up.
When Hubby’s Mom got up on the 23rd, she saw her cat staring at a bat stuck to the top of her kitchen cabinet, and she automatically jumped to the conclusion that her sons were playing a joke on her. She poked the bat with a yard stick, and it fell on the floor, where it hissed and opened and closed its claws. She still thought it was a toy, so she picked it up with an oven mitt, carried it upstairs, and put it on the toilet in our bathroom. A few minutes later, the bat flew out of the bathroom, flapped its way back downstairs, and made a couple of loops around the dining room before disappearing from sight, and Hubby’s Mom still thought it was a toy.
The woman is no dummy, I assure you. But she can be a bit stubborn. Another Christmas, she gave me an adorable penguin necklace and said, “I got it for you because I know how much you love the movie Happy Feet.” When I confessed that I’d never actually seen Happy Feet, she tried to convince me that I had and that Hubby told her I loved it, until finally Hubby’s Brother chimed in that it was actually his ex-girlfriend who loved the movie, at which point there was an awkward silence, and I said, “Um, well, I love the necklace. Thanks.” Anyway, you can see why it was difficult for Hubby’s Mom to accept the fact that she had a real live bat in her house, especially after she had CARRIED IT AROUND.
By this time, the arguing, screaming, and hysterical laughing had woken both me and Hubby’s Brother, and we joined in the HUNT FOR THE BAT.
Hubby’s Mom’s house is two stories, plus a basement. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two living areas, a dining room, a kitchen, and a sunroom. And a bat. Somewhere. Now that she knew the thing was real, Hubby’s Mom was freaking out about it. She wanted that thing OUT OF HER HOUSE before the rest of the family showed up for Christmas Eve.
While we looked high and low, poking around in every nook and cranny, the conversation went something like this:
Hubby’s Mom: “I CANNOT HAVE A BAT IN MY HOUSE AT CHRISTMAS!”
Hubby’s Brother: “Why didn’t you just throw it outside when you picked it up?”
Hubby’s Mom: “Because I thought it was fake! I thought you all were playing a joke on me!”
Hubby: “Why would you think we would put a fake bat on your kitchen cabinet?”
Hubby’s Mom: “Remember ten years ago and when you and your brother snuck downstairs on Christmas Eve and put that giant nutcracker by the Christmas tree?”
Hubby’s Brother: “THAT’S NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL!”
There was no sign of the bat, which, based on Hubby’s Mom’s description and my Google searches, we concluded was probably a Little Brown Bat. While we all stood around in various states of bafflement (Hubby & Hubby’s Brother), frustration (Hubby’s Mom), and amusement (me) wondering where the bat could be, Hubby’s Mom’s cat calmly walked into the dining room, jumped onto a low wall separating the dining room from the entryway, stood on his hind legs, and stretched his front paws up a decorative column.
Hmm…, we all thought.
A ladder and a flashlight later, and yep, the cat was right. One corner of the hollow column had a hole in it, and the bat was nestled cozily inside.
Now we knew where the bat was, but still didn’t know how to safely escort it from the premises.
Asking it nicely.
Banging on the column.
Bribing it with (false) promises of bags of mosquitoes.
Taping a garbage bag around the hole and waiting for it to fly out into the bag and get stuck there.
Twenty-four hours later, on Christmas Eve, we still had a bat, only now there were five more people in the house to stare it and wonder aloud why it had come and when it might leave. Eventually we read online that the bat might be finding a place to hibernate, and Hubby’s Mom was having none of that. She couldn’t deal with the bat for one more day, much less until spring, so decisions were made, plans were formed, and coat hangers were bent into non-pokey, bat-removing shapes.
Hubby, who had the longest arms of anyone present, climbed up on the ladder, removed the plastic bag, reached into the hole with the coat hanger, and gently nudged the bat. The bat did not move. However, it did squeak, hiss, and bite the coat hanger. Hubby nudged it less gently. There was more hissing and biting and squeaking (but this time the squeaking was from me). Finally, after four attempts, the bat became fed up with Hubby’s poking and decided to leave. He/She flew out of the hole, around the dining room, and into the family room where it landed on the wall above the fire place. We moved the ladder, and Hubby climbed up. Wearing two oven mitts, he grabbed the bat with a towel, carried it outside, and set it free, to much applause from the rest of us (and probably a few curses from the bat). Then we all washed our hands for several minutes.
(P.S. I told you it would leave you with questions. You were warned.)
(P.P.S. Could anyone point me in the direction of a really realistic remote-controlled bat? Asking for a friend…)
Things I am thankful for this holiday season:
I am thankful that Hubby’s Mom’s cats are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations.
I am thankful that Hubby’s Mom used an oven mitt to pick up the bat even when she thought the bat was a toy.
I am thankful that Hubby’s Mom did not decide to get us back for our “clever prank” by throwing the “toy bat” on us while we were sleeping.
I am thankful that everyone survived the visit from the Christmas bat, including the Christmas bat.
I am thankful that, this Christmas, my husband’s family actually seemed weirder than mine.
********** DISCLAIMER **********
NEVER TOUCH A BAT! Many bats carry rabies, which is a horrible, fatal disease and a terrible Christmas gift. If you find a bat in your house, you should definitely call a professional to deal with it rather than setting up homemade traps and ruining oven mitts. We Juettners were lucky and stayed out of harm’s way, but I do not condone our methods. Please don’t be like us. Stay safe. Also, I’m typing this added disclaimer on my phone, so any typos are most likely the result of clumsy thumbs and not early onset rabies, so please don’t worry.
One year ago today, my shortest and weirdest horror story was published at MicroHorror. Though I can’t explain why, I’m actually quite fond of it. Here is “The Tomato-Elevator.”
The tomato-elevator had accidentally produced a squash, again. The director would be displeased.
The workers sought to find the hiccup in the mechanism, but due to the make-up of the machine, it was impossible to see what went on between the thirteenth rung and the fourteenth without dismantling the apparatus completely. And that was forbidden by the warning label. All they could know for sure was that at rung thirteen, they had a slightly bruised, despondent tomato, and at rung fourteen they had an extremely confident squash.
“Why does this keep happening?” asked Bill, who had only been elevating tomatoes for three weeks.
No one responded, but eyes looked at eyes looked at eyes and none of the eyes were Bill’s.
The eyes all said the same thing. There had never been a squash before Bill arrived.
The director was on her way. Decisions had to be made.
“What if…” Bill licked his lips with the effort of thinking, “…what if we made a squash-demoter? You think? You think maybe at rung thirteen it might…”
The eyes looked at the floor looked at the shoes. The eyes did not acknowledge that this was a good idea.
“Fellas?” Bill inquired at bowed heads, hunched shoulders. “Fellas…”
Arms reached, hands grabbed, fingers gripped. Mouth was covered, limbs were restrained, necessary adjustments were made.
Parts were removed.
By the time the director arrived, the machine had been loaded, the mess cleaned up. The workers wore expressions of complacent boredom which clashed with the beads of sweat forming on white foreheads.
Checkmarks on clipboards, satisfied nods to the symphonic whir of machinery, bland admonishments about time and productivity. The director’s stay lasted only forty-seven seconds. She had left the room before the large, dark, misshapen tomato entered the elevation chamber.
When Bill’s heart went from the thirteenth rung to the fourteenth, it turned into a squash.