I like to think that we all have a greater calling. That moment in all our lives where we have to stop, take a step back and realize, “This is the moment I was born for”. Discovering that moment, that grandiose culmination of every life decision up until that point, is earth-shattering and will never be forgotten. You may be asking yourselves, but Mitch, how do you know so much about destiny?
Well, dear reader, it’s because I’ve discovered mine.
A few short weeks ago, I was home alone, doing what I always do.
Wandering up from the basement to do a little mid-afternoon foraging, I couldn’t help but notice something strange was going on. Most notably, the kitchen was full of animal screams pouring in from the backyard. I wandered around back to discover my cat, Ned. He appeared to be prodding at an animal that he had cornered, and looked up at me for congratulations. Figuring that it was a mouse or some other woodland creature that I have no real love for, I was ready to begin celebrating over his rekindled murder lust. It had been far too long since he’d had the taste of blood on his palate.
Unfortunately, when I got a better look at what he had brought down, my heart sank. I found myself looking down, not at an expendable mouse or rat or baby bunny, but at a bat with a broken wing, clearly in a lot of pain, screeching its little head off. I was frozen in place. I had no idea what to do. I like bats, and I didn’t particularly like the idea of letting one die. Bats eat mosquitoes and stuff, and I hate those goddamn things.
Running through every possible solution in my cough syrup-addled brain, I could think of no possible way to save this poor creature. I gave Ned a glance out of the corner of my eye, and told him to “make it as quick and painless” as he could. Then I swallowed hard and turned on my heel, making sure not to look back.
When I reached the back door, I discovered that Ned had followed me. Turns out he’s just as much of a coward as I, and couldn’t bring himself to “get anywhere near that little leathery toothy bird thing”. His words, not mine. After trying with no avail to find someone who knew even the slightest thing about bats, I decided that the poor bastard had suffered long enough. To prolong its pain would just be cruel and selfish, so I swallowed my pride and went to find the heaviest rock I could.
Moments later, there I was: standing over this broken little creature, stone in hand, like some sort of drunken angel of mercy. I was ready to bring that rock down like I was trying to open a can of soup on a camping trip, when my phone went off. It was my mother, telling me of an animal rescue clinic the next town over that might be able to help. Setting down the rock and grabbing the phone, I called them immediately.
The person on the other end of the line had a number of questions for me, but there was no time for that shit. A life was on the line.
“Thank you for calling the Sandy Pines Wildlife-”
“How do you make a splint?”
“Wait, fuck that- How do you set a bone? I’ve got a bat here with a broken wing, and zero field experience.”
“Well, sir, we can take the bat off your hands for you.”
“Perfect! Good! Then send the medic.”
“Sir, we can’t actually come and get the bat.”
“What the hell are you talking about? Dammit, man, this bat needs special treatment!”
“My name’s Diane.”
“There’s no time for details! If you don’t hurry, this bat will be dead! Then who will eat those mosquitoes, huh? Is it going to be you? Because it sure as hell isn’t going to be me!”
“Sir, we can’t come and get the animal. However, if you’d be willing to drive it to us, we’d be more than happy to take care of it.”
After jotting down the address and gingerly lifting the bat into a shoebox full of towels, I was on the road. The wildlife centre was over half an hour away, and I only had a vague idea of where it even was. You know that scene at the beginning of Reservoir Dogs, where Mister Orange is bleeding out in the backseat and Mister White is trying to keep him calm? Yeah, that, but for forty minutes. And the guy bleeding out weighed three ounces and could fly.
After a long, arduous journey, my wounded companion and I finally arrived at the wildlife centre. The people working there wanted to just straight take him off my hands, but I wouldn’t allow that. I had grown attached to the little fella, and wanted to make damn sure that he was looked after proper-like.
“I want to see your medical wing immediately.”
“Sir, this is family-run operation. We have a barn we can show you.”
“Fine, fine. Where’s your aviary? I want to make sure Reggie has enough space to exercise.”
“The bat. Keep up, man.”
After a brief tour of their facilities (read: barn and country house), I filled out a few forms about where and when and how I came upon poor Reggie, handed him over to the experts and bid him a fond farewell. Driving home, it dawned on me that, had I not found him, Reggie would have died an excruciatingly painful death. Whether by the sun or the cruel paws of some neighbourhood terror (though, it probably wouldn’t be my useless-as-hell cat), he would have lost his shot. But I was there, and I saved him. Why me, though?
Because I can take it. Because I’m not a hero. I am a silent guardian. A watchful protector.