By Ronnell Kay Gibson
Alvina Hutcherton lifted her nose to the sky, spread her fragile, black wings, and reveled in the crisp, night air. She hadn’t been able to fly in years. Old age was a downer, even for a bat. But every night, Nurse Shelly would put on her black sunhat, perch Alvina on top of it, and they would go for an evening stroll around the grounds of the Clearwater Home for Retired Bats. Sometimes Shelly would sing Oldies songs. Sometimes she would rant about her no-good I’m-gonna-dump-him-to-the-curb-one-day-soon boyfriend. And sometimes, like tonight, she was silent, and they would simply enjoying the night sounds. Those were the times Alvina enjoyed most.
Back inside, Nurse Shelly slid Alvina back into her hammock and reached for one of her roommates. “Colonel Brewster, your turn.”
Brewster dug his talons around the legs of his perch.
Shelly tugged. “C’mon Colonel, you need some fresh air.”
Alvina stifled a chuckle as the nurse wrestled with the elderly bat. Finally, Brewster let go. Shelly placed him atop her hat, and off they went.
Henrietta, Alvina’s best friend and resident gossip, waddled over. “Did you hear the news? Nurse Shelly didn’t get the promotion.”
Alvina’s heart sighed. “Poor girl.” Nurses like Shelly were rare. One of the few that treated them with respect. “She would’ve made a wonderful manager.”
Henrietta’s beau, Jamison Albertson the Sixth, chimed in. “We were all rootin’ for her. Winifred over in Colony 3 said she was in the runnin’, but instead they hired some hoity-toity from the city.”
“City folks with their big city attitudes,” grumbled Henrietta. They never lasted long at Clearwater. Cleaning up after bats’ incontinence wasn’t exactly glamorous.
When Nurse Shelly returned with the Colonel, someone new strutted in behind them. “Gang, this is your new resident manager, Dolores Mallory.”
Alvina disliked Dolores immediately. Not because of the woman’s pointed nose, her pursed lips, or her hunched posture; it was her dark eyes. Having lived for so long made Alvina an expert on humans with black eyes. It never ended well.
Shelly returned the Colonel to his post, her usual cheery voice now formal and almost shaky. “Be on your best behavior.”
Dolores crossed her arms. “You actually talk to them? They’re a bunch of bats.”
“Yes, but each with a distinct personality. Sweet, funny, sometimes cantankerous…” Shelly smiled at the Colonel. “You’ll realize once you get to know them.”
Dolores scoffed. “Not likely.”
Yup, another hoity-toity all right.
Nurse Shelly pinched her lips.
As the nurse gave Dolores a tour, Alvina tiptoed behind. They visited the kitchen, the rec room, and each of the six different colonies.
“They all sleep together?” Dolores asked. “That’s so unhygienic.”
Alvina started cursing. She knew the new nurse couldn’t understand her, but Shelly put a finger to her lips mouthing, shhh.
“They’re a family. They want to spend their golden years together.”
Dolores frowned. She pointed to a sign on the wall. “What is this? ‘Do not take bats outside on nights with a purple moon’?”
“Um… The bats get very… agitated.”
“Purple moon? Ridiculous.” Dolores shook her head. “Regardless, you won’t be walking them anymore. Purple moon or not. And that’s just the beginning of the changes around here.”
Yup, this is going to end badly.
Three weeks into Dolores’ wicked reign, she was true to her promise. They weren’t allowed outside and dry, tasteless seeds replaced their usual variety of fruits. But the worst was when the witch separated Alvina’s family. She even forced the lovebats Henrietta and Jamison apart.
The colony had just assembled in the rec room when Nurse Shelly arrived for her evening shift, a small plastic container in hand. “Good morning, gang. I brought a treat today.” Shelly popped the cover, and Alvina’s mouth started to water. Fresh peaches. Finally, something they could sink their fangs into.
“Shh, don’t tell anyone.” Shelly put the dish down, and they all converged.
Just then, Dolores walked in. “What are you feeding them?”
Nurse Shelly spun, her cheeks pink. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Mallory. Just giving them a little fruit.”
“That’s insubordination. Again. I warned you the last time you defied my orders. You’re fired.”
Shelly rushed to her side. “Please, no. They don’t have anyone else to care for them.”
“They are bats. And until you start seeing them as the useless, disgusting creatures they are, you don’t belong here.”
Alvina squawked. No, Dolores, you don’t belong here.
“I want you gone by the time I return from my rounds.” With that, she dumped the container of peaches in the trash.
Alvina’s eyes misted. Nurse Shelly didn’t deserve this. Being fired for being too kind. It just wasn’t fair. But what could she do?
Shelly stroked Alvina’s head. “Despite what Nurse Meanie says, you are amazing creatures.” She brushed away a tear. “I’ll miss you.”
She grabbed her “Save the Rainforest” mug off the counter and stuffed it in her purse. As she passed the window, Alvina started shouting.
Nurse Shelly turned back. “What is it, girl?”
Alvina jumped onto the counter and hobbled over to the window, flapping her wings as best she could.
Shelly stared at Alvina, then back at the window. Her eyes widened and a smirk erupted across her face. Though the shades were drawn, a slice of moonlight peeked through a crack. Purple moonlight.
“You’re right, Alvina. It’s way too stuffy in here.” She pulled up the shades, unlocked the window, and cranked it open.
A cool breeze sailed in, ruffling the hairs in Alvina’s ears. The night air was more exhilarating than the peaches.
Shelly put her mug back on the counter and winked. “I’ll see you all tomorrow evening.”
As soon as the nurse left, Alvina and the flock stood in front of the window, the purple moonlight warming their skin.
One by one, their bodies transformed into human-like shapes and their fur fell away. But their fangs stayed just the same.
This wouldn’t end badly after all. At least not for Nurse Shelly.