Friday, April 16, 2021

Bat Woman by Niall McKenna

 “Why are you upside down?”

“This is who I am Joan. Not a man, but a bat.”

“You’re an eejit Bruce, get down.”

“I will not. I will hang here until sundown, whereupon I will emerge to feast on gnats and flies. Now, please Joan, the light.”

Joan ignored him, as they knew she would. She no longer searched for him on a Saturday morning; he was always in the garage.

She never fetched the straw broom first though. She always gave him a chance to speak, for a fresh nugget of madness to drop from his scarlet face. This she would take to Susan and Ethel at Ground on the High Street. Over a dark wooden table, they would break his words apart like chocolate, and agree – Joan’s husband was mad.

What had she talked about before, she wondered, as she padded across the cold linoleum. Had there been anything, beyond the usual?

Didn’t matter. She was shielded from inquiry now by a black leathery wing and found purpose in its shadow.

Susan and Ethel called her Batwoman. She laughed.

Bruce shook. Even with his religious observance of toe curls, his muscles would soon give out. Every week, they gave out.

He clung on anyway, squeezing his eyelids tight against the strident light to make a darkness. This grey scrunch he made blue, filled it with squeaks and bombing untraceable flight.

When Joan returned, Bruce had already descended and was getting back into his pyjamas. She almost dropped the broom; gripped it tight.

“Silly really,” he said, wiping his eyes. “I couldn’t be a bat, could I? Too heavy.”

He went to move past her. The broom came up, bristles barbing his soft neck.

“If you’re not a bat,” said Joan, “then what the hell are you?”

© Niall McKenna

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