I kept telling him there is nothing for me to do here while he’s out enjoying the world of work. The housekeeper does all the planning, I’m not welcome in the kitchen and the maid is sweet but she only speaks Spanish.
‘Ah need somethin for myself, somethin to look after, somethin to love. Some company.’ I said. I may have slammed the door on my way out.
The following weekend Ralphie took me to see the desert. It had been raining during the week and the cacti were flowering. It was kind of pretty. We stayed in a motel that night and he said there was a surprise waiting for me back home. I couldn’t wait. I love surprises.
We walked into the back garden. The sprinklers were on and the grass sparkled with little rainbows. I looked at Ralphie but he just nodded towards the end of the plot. Then I saw it, a wire-mesh enclosure surrounding a small open hut. What on earth? Ralphie went into the hut and returned carrying a cat basket.
‘Is that a cat in there? You know Ah can’t stand cats.’
Ralphie handed me the basket saying, ‘You wanted something to look after so that’s whatcha got.’
The basket was real light. I held it by the top handle, turned the little peg that released the door and looked inside. At first I couldn’t see a thing so I stuck my head in the doorway and nearly dropped the basket. Right at the back hanging upsides down were two furry animals clinging tightly to the bars by their feet.
‘Bats,’ I screamed, ‘how could ya!’
‘You said you wanted something to love. By the way they’re vampire bats and they’re gonna need to be fed after sundown. You’ll find the food in the fridge for now but you’ll have to get fresh supplies from the slaughterhouse tomorrow. And there’s no need to look at me like that. I bought you that neat Chevy, candy-pink like you asked, and you never frigging use it. Oh, and here’s a book tells you what to do.’
Now, I am not stupid even though I may look like a dumb blond. I figured this was some kind of test he had planned. I would show him. I read the little book on raising vampire bats. It was good on the practicalities but when it actually came to picking up the critters I was petrified. My heart hammered in my chest at the thought. You had to pick them up by pinching in firmly at the base of the wings and they flapped. You’re supposed to wear gloves but I felt they were too clumsy and I worried I might damage the bats’ fragile bones. Holding them gave me a chance to study them up close. Their eyes are large, round and black, appealing in a way, but their faces are weird with huge pointed ears and flaps like crumpled dead leaves where you would expect the nose to be. The teeth are small. I had imagined them to be like the vampires’ teeth in the movies.
That first night I put the Twins (I couldn’t tell them apart so I called them the Twins) right beside the dish of blood on the dirt. I could not bear to watch them drink. The idea was too gross so I left. When I returned ten minutes later the dish was empty and the two bats had bellies on them so fat they could scarce move.
You may not believe this but after a while I got used to my strange pets. They were almost cute and their fur coats were silky soft. I came to look forward to our nocturnal meetings. I would take a torch with a red light so as not to disturb them while I watched. As soon as I opened the gate to the enclosure they would flutter out of the roost box and drop to the ground. Then there would be a race to the dish, each bat thrusting forward on its thumbs like a wheelchair-user sprinting. Sometimes they were so eager they would hop like a frog. Eventually I got used to the lapping noise they make as their long pointed tongues dip in and out of the blood.
Now I don’t even mind going to the slaughterhouse. The foreman and I have become buddies and I time my visit with his coffee break. We sit outside on a couple of plastic seats. He has a cigarette and I watch the blue-grey smoke drift up into the air. I like the smell of tobacco. It hides the rusty smell of blood. I go for new supplies more often than I need.
Tonight when I went to fix the meal for the Twins I noticed something was wrong. The blood looked too dark and it was turning to jelly. I could not understand it. Maybe I’d made up the citrate wrong. You see, citrate stops the blood from clotting. Maybe the dish wasn't clean. I tried again but the results were just the same. I took the dish down to the enclosure and when the Twins ran to it I scooped them up and took them to the house, talking to them all the way to keep them calm.
Upstairs in our bedroom Ralphie was asleep, snoring as usual. Gently, I placed the Twins on the round hump of his shoulder and crept away. Ralphie wouldn’t feel a thing. Vampire bats have razor sharp teeth.
You can tell Leonie if you liked her story here.