Aug 25 2010

Impaled Bat

Melissa Crytzer Fry

The phrase “blind as a bat” is apropos for this crazy photo I captured near our cattle gate. The saying is actually a misnomer, since nearly all bats have relatively good eyesight.  Even with eyes, they rely primarily on their sonar system (echolocation) to navigate in the dark (and catch their dinner). Their movements are so precise, they’re said to be able to avoid objects no wider than a piece of thread.

As such, I can’t quite explain how this happened:

This bat was discovered near our cattle gate, impaled by a nasty cholla “pencil” cactus. I can only imagine how the poor guy struggled to free himself before succumbing. Click to enlarge.

For Writers: Does your novel suspend disbelief in any way or defy conventional wisdom, like my bat photo? What would happen if you put a character in an uncharacteristic setting? Gave him or her an unexpected outcome? Keeping a reader engaged and surprised can help add suspense, but there is a fine line (piece of thread?) to heed.  Oftentimes reality (“it really happened”) is too difficult for a reader to digest.

Per Janet Burroway in Writing Fiction: “Young writers, offended by being told that a piece is unconvincing, often defend themselves by declaring that it really happened.” But credibility in words, she says, has almost nothing to do with fact.

Lesson learned? Sometimes reality is too absurd, too fantastical to translate to good fiction. But other times … other times you just may get away with manipulating a reader’s sense of reality by using the truth. Impaled bats included.

5 Responses to “Impaled Bat”

  • avatar Bryan Says:

    That’s weird. Was it still alive?



    Melissa Reply:

    No, unfortunately, when I discovered it, he was dead. Very odd…


  • avatar mary m Says:

    Here’s what happened on my screen porch a couple of years ago:

    It happens at night
    full moon sluicing the silver
    from sepia shade
    Of cacti and brush.

    Lesser Long-Nosed Bat
    Swooping my home
    to the nectar
    I’ve hung for hummers
    Outside the screen porch

    At first light I find her,
    wings spread horizont’ly,
    The fetus-like body
    against window screening
    That divides our two worlds.

    Acts I can’t fathom,
    a cause I don’t know
    Death’s come for this bat
    without leaving trace,
    While I slept, as it
    Happens, inches away.

    In old religions
    a creature would come
    to draw attention:
    Blood-sucking and blind
    At my porch’s edge,
    what’s the meaning here?

    These little winged mammals
    incite our repugnance,
    yet this one sips sweetness,
    and she pollinates plants–
    our belove’d saguaros.

    Her lifeless form shocks me,
    I awake from slumber,
    Understand what I take
    when I suck the lifebood–
    water from arid land.



    Melissa Reply:

    Oh, Mary… this is beautiful and sad … and similar to my experience. Thank you so much for sharing your poetry about this moving experience! I especially enjoy your description of bats “inciting our repugnance,” but being so vital to our desert ecosystem.


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