In this week’s blog post, meet Battie the bat. Battie is slightly unhinged, but he usually seems to have good intentions. I think this section of the novel gives a good impression of Battie’s personality, and how he interacts with Fiona.
Fiona had her chin in her palms. If she hadn’t been so exhausted, she would have been on the brink of tears. She sat alone on trunk of a downed tree. The chiming of the bells had grown quiet and distant, and now the wise words of the Night Bird played over and over and over again in her head. His advice shifted around her mind like pieces to a puzzle, but at the moment none of them seemed to be fitting into the right places. Fiona tapped her head in frustration; ‘the way out is in there somewhere,’ she thought. ‘It has to be.’
The woods were quiet, and Fiona noticed she could no longer hear the bells at all, even if she tried. She took a deep breath and scribbled patterns in the dirt with the tips of her shoes while she thought. She drew stick figures. There was one of a girl, with her arms raised playfully to the sky; and one of a man and a woman, who were looking on with pride. All of them had big, happy smiles on their faces. Fiona paused for a moment to look at the sketch people, but she didn’t recognize any of them. She gave the whole picture a once-over, then she kicked furiously at the dirt with her foot. She kicked and dug and scratched at the figures; she kicked until the smiles were crooked and the faces were smudged. Fiona stood up and looked at the defiled scene. ‘That’s, much better,’ she thought. ‘I can see us clearly now.’
All of Fiona’s theatrics had raised quite a bit of dust. It swirled in the air, little grey particles adrift in the dim light. Fiona’s throat began to tickle and her nose began to twitch.
“Achoooooo!” The sneeze was not Fiona’s.
Fiona looked upward, to where she heard the sound. As the dust cleared, she could clearly see the face of a bat on the branch directly overhead, only a few feet above where she sat. Fiona jumped up in surprise. When she stood, the bat’s nose was mere inches away from her own. Battie was dangling down from the branch by his feet, he was holding a four-leaf clover tight against his chest, and he appeared to be snoring.
“Battie?” whispered Fiona, staring directly at the bat’s closed eyelids. Their noses were practically touching. “Battie, how long have you been hanging there?” The snoring only got louder.
It was no use, the curious little creature was sound asleep; his body rose and fell peacefully with his breathing. Fiona took a look at the clover that the bat held to his chest. She moved in closer to analyze it. Four petals. The bats eyes popped wide open.
“Oh dear!” squeaked Fiona as she fell backwards with a start.
Battie rubbed his eyes lazily. “Woo, You scared me.”
“I scared you? My goodness, Battie, what in the world are you doing here?”
Battie yawned. “Sleeping.”
“Sleeping? right here? How long have you been perched there?”
Battie stretched his wings and cleared his throat. “The whole time, I’m sure.”
“The whole time?”
“Yes, the whole time you were sitting there kicking dirt and throwing dust and scaring the living daylights out of bats.”
Fiona looked away, embarrassed. “But, how did you know? I thought you were asleep”
“I dreamt it.”
Fiona’s furled her eyebrows. “That does not make much sense.”
Fiona wasn’t sure how to answer this.
Battie continued. “I got you something special.”
Fiona’s face lit up. “Really? Were you expecting me?”
“Absolutely not!” exclaimed Battie, as if he were insulted by the question. “I never expect anything from anyone, that way I am never let down.”
“That’s not what I meant,” started Fiona. But then she thought better of trying to clarify.
Fiona smiled and took the green clover from Battie’s outstretched claw. “Thank you, Battie.”
“It’s yours because you’re unique.”
Fiona watched Battie swinging there, wrongside up from the low limb. She chuckled. “I think we’re both four leaf clovers.”
“We’re both funny-looking” agreed Battie.
“I meant that we are both special.”
Battie looked off into the woods. “I know that you’re looking for The Way. That’s why you were kicking dirt.”
Fiona nodded. “I tried to remember the words of the Night Bird. But it is all puzzles and mazes.”
“The solution is simple,” said Battie, rocking two-and-fro on the branch. “All will be set right if you can answer the impossible riddle.”
Fiona watched him in anticipation. She sat down to listen. Then she watched him some more. Several minutes went by.
“Well lets hear it!”
“But I don’t know any riddles.”
“But you just said—you just spoke of an impossible riddle.”
“Ahhhh,” said the bat, very knowingly, as if he had finally discovered some very elusive truth. “Ahhhh, Yes.”
Then the bat was inexplicably silent again, as if he had never spoken at all. Fiona prodded him. “So?”
“I don’t think I catch your meaning.”
“The riddle, what about the riddle?”
“Ahhh yes, the riddle. It’s impossible.”
“Right. But aren’t you going to tell it?”
“How can I? I don’t even know what it is.”
“Don’t know what which is? The answer or the riddle?” (This question threw the bat off, as he had never thought that there might be a difference between the nature of a riddle and the answering of one. In fact, it had never crossed his mind that riddles would even have answers. What’s more, Battie was quite sure that he did not even know what a riddle was.)
Battie hung upside down, his mind racing and looping as he grappled desperately with his unruly thoughts. Finally, after watching the bat languish in a confused silence for several minutes, Fiona broke in. “Nevermind, I can see you are becoming very bothered by all this. And I am too. I’ll find someone else who knows the riddle, if in fact this riddle exists at all. It is not your fault that you are hopeless, and perhaps a bit crazy after all.”
With this Fiona turned away from the sad looking bat, and was extraordinarily glad to be done with it (whatever ‘it’ may have been.)
As Fiona walked away, Battie started. “What reflexes like a cat, is nuttie as a bat, and sneaky like a woodland rat?”
Hearing the riddle, Fiona grimaced and stopped in her tracks. Though she felt guilty to admit it, she was very pleased to be finished with the unpleasant encounter with Battie. Now his sudden and unexpected recitation of riddle threatened to pull her back into the chaos. Still, if this riddle could offer a solution to her problems, Fiona knew she had to explore it.
“Did you say something?” asked Fiona.
“I believe I did,” said bat, still hanging by his feet, and now gazing vacantly into the distance.
“Would you mind repeating it?
The bat’s eyes crossed, and then they focused-in on Fiona. “I said ‘what is always on tap, never sleeps when you nap, and is partial to the head like your favorite cap?’”
“No, you most certainly did not.”
“Didn’t I?? Fine, well let me think on it again. I’m sure it will come to me.”
Fiona was frustrated, but she decided to give the bat a moment. ‘What harm could it do?’ she thought. ‘I have already endured this much.’
“Here it is: Who is nightly a loon, rarely a boon, but a dream on a drowsy Sunday noon?”
“You said who. Is it a who now, or a what?”
“Is that an answer or a question?”
“I am most uncertain.”
Fiona threw her arms up in exasperation. “But Battie, you are the one who is telling the riddle!”
“Nevermind! Just forget it, you Bat! And forget everything I said earlier as well. You are truly and completely out of your mind.”
Battie closed his eyes, and pulled himself closer to the branch. He gave a slight shudder, as if in cold resignation to what Fiona had said, and then gazed back into the distance.
Fiona sighed deeply, slightly regretful at what she had said, and turned again to leave. Battie’s voice froze her again. He spoke in the saddest of tones. “Fiona, I’ve no idea what it means, but I have this strange feeling that I am the riddle.”
Fiona walked off into the dark of the woods.