Rachel Adams

The tree was empty of bats. They weren’t in the bat tree. We came home and the bats were in the archway at the foot of the stairs, hanging in clusters like dead leaves. We watched them from the couch, worried that the loud noises of the tv cowboys and indians would induce them to tangle themselves in our hair and spaghetti carbonara. I wanted them to fall like dead leaves. I wanted to step on them and feel the fur and meat encase the bony crunch.

The city was so old we could sneeze and blow it away. When you’re young an old city can hurt like a held-down tickling. We wanted to see it crumble. We teased our noses with feathers and sniffed pepper but we still couldn’t sneeze at it. We climbed the bat tree instead. We climbed the bat tree and painted ourselves with guano. Our mouths were o’s and we patted them with our flat palms like a drum and bowed towards the ground. Our fingers were six shooters.

We watched the city turn into something too big to watch anymore, and still we kept watching and it made us lustful. We did bong hits off chimneystacks and rubbed our genitals on pigeons. We had a showdown. We took ten steps and turned around. “What have you done?” we screamed. “What is the most terrible thing you will ever do?” And we thought about it but not for too long, and then we did the terrible things in the streets. Our moans and shrieks trembled the city. “I’m sure the bats are gone now,” we said, so we went home.

They weren’t. The bats had fashioned themselves into a dark chandelier. When we turned on the living room light they began to sizzle. Their paper wings began to curl. We cried but didn’t turn the light off. By the end of it they were all dust on the floor. The guano was gone from our bodies by now so we rubbed the dust on our faces. “Forgive us,” we said. We didn’t want to sneeze anymore. We clothes-pinned our noses. The bat dust went into freezer bags and we sprinkled some on the threshold and thought it would protect us.

When it came time to mention the terrible things we did, we curled around each other and wrote them with our fingers on each other’s backs. You were always wrong and the things you guessed were the worst thing you did to me. Then you wrote things on my back and I understood and I guessed wrong too. We slept with knives under our pillows after that.

One day we left the house. We wore sackcloths and didn’t comb our hair and told ourselves calmly that we knew better now. When we opened the door, the wind blew across the desert and we could tell from the piles of dust where our favorite cafe had been, where the cathedral. Even the cobblestones were a certain color of dust. It was too late. The bat tree was gone. We couldn’t gather all of the ash. It wasn’t our fault. It wasn’t our fault.

Rachel Adams has begun to notice animals creeping into all of her stories. She has no intention of building a large retaining wall to keep them out. She does not think they are trying to steal her job but she may be wrong. Sometimes she writes things here.

Artwork by Peter Schwartz.

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