It all started with Daryl Hannah. When she’s not making mediocre movies she spends a lot of time up in the Greensprings, about a half hour from Ashland, with a good friend of hers who has a bunch of acreage (acreage is key, as Daryl is an alleged nudist). So she liked the area and wanted a house in Ashland. Ours happened to be up for sale at the time so she made an offer, above asking price, based on photos alone because that’s what celebrities do. Her lawyer, however, would not release the funds until she had been inside. Our house was not really that nude friendly, although if I looked like Daryl Hannah I’d be naked as much as possible too and would have made the house more so, but she was interested nonetheless and needed to see the inside.
If she had shown up for every appointment she'd scheduled this would have been her fifth visit but she had overslept for the previous four showings. Apparently, in addition to being a nudist, she is an insomniac. When she actually falls asleep no one wants to wake her up, not even for appointments.
I don’t know about you, but when a celebrity comes to look at my house I clean. Deeply. Freakishly. I even clean items that are in the house but not really part of the house, like my shoes. And with every missed appointment my cleaning became more manic. This particular morning, for this particular showing, I was particularly compulsive. I had sent my husband out to drive the kids around the block indefinitely because I needed to be alone with my madness. I was a dervish, sweaty with focus and fear. At one point, I found myself on the carpet with needlepoint scissors, trimming a couple of fibers that seemed just a touch long.
Then, at last, came a moment of clarity: Daryl Hannah did not care about cleanliness. This was a woman who had a house in Colorado (surrounded by thousands of acres, for obvious reasons) that featured a bathroom covered in moss. She hired a local moss mister to keep her moss moist when she was not staying there. Anyone who enjoys living with sphagnum, I reasoned, would not mind if a couple carpet fibers were a touch long. This was a sleepless, moss-lovin’ nudist who would probably groove more on the vibe of the house than on the caustic smell of X-14 that I so loved.
I looked up from the carpet to the wall of black and white photos. There were about 30 of them in various sizes. Old photos, new photos, all special for one reason or another. I got up and walked over to my favorite, a five-by-six-inch photo of my Grandfather, Steve. He is standing alone at midday in the middle of a dirt road that cuts through rolling hills covered with brown grass. He is wearing a dark suit and tie and an overcoat and a hat. It is the kind of photo that could suggest a million possibilities. I happen to know, however, what he was doing. He and his older brother Fritz were driving a milk truck from Wisconsin to Nevada that contained both moonshine and a certain character named Baby Face Nelson. My Grandfather was an unwitting accomplice, he later said, anything untoward was always Fritz’s doing. I believed him because he had the biggest heart of anyone I ever knew.
This is where it gets weird, so bear with me. In an act of desperation I looked at this photo and thought of moss and peace and asked my dead grandfather to help me fill this house with love. And then, perhaps because I knew the provenance of the picture, I pulled a move that felt very Godfather, I leaned over and kissed the photograph.
And that was it. I put the scissors back in the sewing box, wound the vacuum cleaner cord in a figure eight between the two hooks and stopped cleaning. I walked from room to room trying to fill each one with love. I conjured family and friends who had been in these rooms, I invoked joy and peace. And then I went back downstairs and waited for Scott to pick me up so we could be out of the house when Daryl finally showed up. The sound of our car pulling up the driveway triggered the mania that had driven my cleaning, and I reflexively ran upstairs to do one last check.
As I reached the landing, I looked at the picture wall and saw that the photo of my grandfather was askew. I must have bumped it when I kissed it, I thought, so I walked over to re-hang it. The moment I lifted it off the nail an enormous bat flew out from behind the frame, right toward my face, and then fell to the floor.
My response was too ridiculous to recount. Let me just tell you that I’m easy to startle and have, in fact, been diagnosed with a condition called “Exaggerated Startle Reflex,” which is mostly found in people who have seen combat. No doctor has ever been able to find the genesis of mine, but that fact is not important right now. What’s important is that I have this condition and a bat came out from behind a photo that I had recently put my lips to. I’ll let you imagine the rest.
After I calmed myself down, I tried to get a grasp on the situation. The bat was flopping around on the ground, claws stuck in the very carpet fibers I was clipping earlier, making a ghastly electronic sound like some kind of demonic toy that was low on batteries. I grabbed a towel off the stack in the guest bathroom—one of the towels that I had refolded several times in anticipation of Daryl’s appraisal—and threw it over the struggling creature. Let it be known that I carry my own luggage and mow the lawn, but when it comes to bat removal, I revert directly to nineteenth century rules: this is man’s work.
By the time Scott got to the bat it was so freaked out that it was quaking and gasping for breath like an emphysemic; it had none of the fiendish Luciferian qualities that it presented to me. It looked like a quivering rat grafted onto impressive fourteen-inch wings. Scott bundled it in the towel, walked it outside, and shook it gently into our big photinia hedge. We heard some scurrying, and that was it.
Neither of us could figure out how it had gotten in, we had never had so much as a mouse in the house. A cricket’s appearance in the kitchen was talked about by our daughter for years, that’s how devoid of wildlife our house was. More impressive than its mysterious entry was the way it folded itself up enough to fit behind a five-by-six frame and why it chose that photo to fold up behind, the same photo I chose to pay homage to. There were so many larger frames inches away. Why a small one? Why that one?
This event sparked my own bout with insomnia. I would lay awake nights trying to reason it out. Could it really be as simple as the bat and I each making a random choice that day—a choice not ordinary to either of our lives—and colliding? Or could it be as complicated as Bell’s Theorem? Was this some kind of quantum entanglement, what Einstein called spooky action at a distance, whereby the bat was my photon twin and wherever in the universe I moved the bat moved too? In the end, the whole scene was bizarre, but perhaps not as bizarre as Daryl Hannah, the insomniac, oversleeping for her fifth appointment.
Someone else bought the house.
3 weeks ago