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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

A CLUTTERED BELFRY
8/13/2011 5:23:47 AM

















My son was born August 9, 1952 and in any other culture that
would make me an old man.  In
today’s epoch, however, Life Begins at Eighty (no apologies to Emlyn Williams
are offered nor will be tendered.)



At the time of Bobby’s birth, I lived on the frozen tundra
of Western New York, in a state of abject poverty.  Billeted in a second-floor rented flat in a
desolate house situated in a deteriorating neighborhood, my first-born arrived
during an unbearable heat wave that rivaled the worst of 2011 — except in 1952
the only air-conditioning I knew of was at the Palace Theater downtown.



The baby was afflicted with a prenatal atalectisus, the
result of inadvertently sniffing ether during a Caesarian delivery, and the
o.b. sent me home bearing the cross of 
“I doubt the boy will make it till morning.  His lungs are stuck together like with Super
Glue.  I’ll call you if there’s any
change, but it looks hopeless.”



A disheartened but dutiful parent with nothing better to do,
I kept my 5:30 to 9 schedule at Western Auto (a part time gig to augment my
pitiful salary as a staff announcer at WRNY.) 
I was home by ten that night in time for a tepid shower, a cold Standard
Ale, and Gillette’s Friday Night Fights with Don Dumfy on my 14” second-hand
Emerson b&w TV (with rabbit ears festooned with tin foil that barely
brought in a picture.)



I remember sitting on an old hassock with a wet towel
beneath me while watching some blond Irish kid get pummeled by a swarthy Latino
monster, more sweat pouring off me than either pugilist, when I heard someone
mucking about in the kitchen, just down the narrow dark hallway.



Jesus!  All I
need!  A goddamn burglar, tonight of all
nights!

Naked, perspiring heavily, I
made my way in the dark to the kitchen door. 
Intent on catching the intruder in the act, I reached around the jam and
snapped on the overhear fluorescent. 



The small room was empty and very quiet.  But there, hanging precariously against the
white metal cabinet, was — a filthy black bat!



EEEEEOOOOOOWWWWWWW! 
I screamed simultaneously with the bat’s sudden lift-off.  As frightened as I, he quickly flew past me
and down the hallway toward the living room. 
I was right behind him, though, and en route I grabbed a broom that was
within arm’s reach against a nearby wall.



Back in the living room I planted myself firmly atop the
abandoned hassock while the bat circled me hungrily, wings slapping
aggressively as he ricocheted from wall to wall, counter-clockwise.  I spun about — a Grecian god in naked
determination — as I pursued the varmit with the broom, often just inches
behind him.



It suddenly occurred to me that if he continued spinning
about counter-clockwise, all I had to do was reverse my attack and meet him
head-on with a clockwise ploy.  Good
thinking!



It worked!  In just
one turn, my trusty broom struck the rodent full force, and he flopped to the
floor, shrieking in pain, a defeated beast with a shattered wing.  Cautiously, so as not to injure him further,
I scooped him up with a handy dustpan and tossed him unceremoniously out the
unscreened open window into the scraggly yard below.



Alone again, my infant son still gasping for breath in a
hospital blocks away, I lost interest in the Friday Night Fights.  Dousing the lights, my heart still pounding
in my chest, I retreated down the corridor and dropped into bed.  The single window was open; the temperature
had to be over 100.  I was drenched,
distraught, demoralized — totally done in.



It seems I had lain there less than an hour when I was aware
that this time for certain someone, a dauntless burglar for sure, was in the
flat — and about to discover me in a pool of sweat on the rumpled sheets.



There he was again! 
Banging about!  This time in the
bedroom!  Perhaps he didn’t know I was
there!  Perhaps he thought I was still at
the hospital!  Perhaps he thought he had
all the time in the world!  Ah, what
fools these meddlers be!



Directly overhead, nailed to the wall just above the bed,
was a reading lamp.  To activate its 60w
bulb there was a push-button switch dead center in the base of the lamp.  I had only to reach up and hit that switch
with my index finger — and the culprit would be caught dead to rights!



But I knew I had only one
chance, one opportunity to hit that switch on the first try.  If I missed, there’d be no groping about for
a second chance.  I’d be a dead man, shot
or stabbed or worse — a dead man sweating!



I closed my eyes and, holding my breath, I silently counted
to ten.  At 9 and 3/4, my arm shot up and
I plunged my finger against the lamp’s base. 
Eureka!  I hit the switch
and the room was flooded with light!



I had successfully illuminated the sad room just as the wet,
clammy villain dropped his heavy hand on my chest, just below my throat!  My eyes flew open like window blinds unfurling
from broken springs — and there I was, staring into the crazed, beady eyes of
another filthy, verminized and deadly bat! — searching, I’m sure, for
his departed brother!



The phone rang as I screamed AAAWWWOOORRRGGGRRR! and
swiped the miserable beast away from me. 
My hands trembling, barely able to cradle the phone, my throat a parched
dustbin of unspeakable terror, I heard the o.b. say, “I know it’s late, but you
I figured you deserve a good night’s sleep. 
The boy’s lungs popped open about an hour ago.  He’s gonna be okay.”



Bats, I have learned, can be very dangerous — except in the
hands of 59-year old boys who are too old to play organized baseball.






Copyright©2011
by Robert A. Mills





Comments (1)

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