One of my favourite literary devices – and come on, I know you all have one – is pathetic fallacy. This is when inanimate objects, such as weather, are endowed with human emotions. It’s often used as a tool to foreshadow a foreboding event or to punctuate a murder with a thunderclap, for example.
Pathetic fallacy played a role in the first night of our recent vacation at a cottage. (I know I keep dwelling on this, but can you blame me? It was a vacation!)
We arrived after a long day of packing and lugging. We set up the beds, stowed the provisions and checked out the scenery. It took a long time for the kids to get to sleep, partly because of the newness of it all, but also because they were sleeping together in a double bed which, as you can imagine, led to much giggling and whispering and the occasional poke and kick.
It took the grown-ups a long while to get to sleep, too, being the first night in a new place. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case because I was reeeallly tired. Eventually, though, everyone slumbered – until about 4 a.m. – when the first of about a half million thunderstorms started to roll through. (I also like hyperbole, you might have noticed.)
I awoke to pounding rain.
Then Boychild came to.
Then lightning flashed.
Then Girlchild joined in and the kids started chit chatting again. The walls are thin.
There was scolding and shushing.
Then Boychild said, “I see a bat in the cottage.”
We paused. I was too tired to move. Oh, please let this be a dream.
Lightning flashed...thunder rumbled...pathetic fallacy....
“Oh,” I mumbled sleepily, “it’s probably just a big moth, Boychild. Don’t worry about it.”
More lightning. More thunder.
“No, it’s a bat,” he insisted. He knows from bats.
So Groom-boy and I rolled out of bed and stumbled to the main room, where the roof peaks and the ceiling is about 20-feet high and, sure enough, a waaaaay up there a little bat happily circled around.
Lightning flash! Boom!
Groom-boy and I stood there, gazing to the heavens (lightning...thunder...pounding rain) arms folded across our chests. I’m pleased to report there were no hysterics.
“What the heck do we do about this?” I mumbled.
I was so tired I felt a momentary panic – but not so much about the bat. It was more like: “Is this how the vacation is going to go? Is this some sort of karmic thing? Will I ever sleep again?”
In the end we decided there wasn’t really anything we could do at 4:30 in the morning during a thunderstorm, so we went back to bed, secured the curtains over the doors to the bedrooms and told the kids we’d deal with it in the morning. You know, in a few minutes.
Boychild called out, “Do bats bite?”
“No!” I said immediately. I was groggy and wanted it all to go away.
Then I hear Boychild whisper to Girlchild, “Well, if the bat comes in here, we’ll pick it up and take it out....”
Inner groan. Flash! Boom!
“Actually,” I call out, “you shouldn’t pick up a bat because then it would be scared that you are going to hurt it, since you are much bigger, and then it might bite you to defend itself.”
With my son there is absolutely no way I am going to get into a discussion about rabies at 4:30 in the morning. He would be a basket case and keep us up all night. Which would be…like…so totally different from the way the night was already going.
As it turns out, we could have held a workshop about bats and rabies because we were up for the rest of the night. The thunderstorms were relentless, the kids were chatty and I lay there with one eye open on bat alert. The bat was the quietest one in the building, though.
The next day the sun came out. Groom-boy eventually trapped the bat and released it to the wilds. The rest of the holiday was lovely and featured good sleeps at night with both eyes closed.
I much prefer the happy-sunny sort of pathetic fallacy.
Published in The Perth Courier, Sept. 9/10