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The Escape of the Bat
MORNING, when the time was right, Andy woke her with an armload of rolls
and said, “My darling, it’s time. Today is the day. Hurry.
We have to go while it’s still dark.”
Rosetta gathered the few belongings she had with
her, and in a moment she was ready to go. They were led out of the
cellar and through a walled garden at the back of the hotel. They
moved quickly but didn’t run. Rosetta ate a roll as she hurried through
the garden. Her hands shook. It was a cold morning.
At the back of the garden was a shed that was built
against the wall. They clambered to the top of this shed, and from
the roof of the shed to the top of the wall. They dropped to the
other side, and Rosetta lost the rolls. She groped around on the
ground in the dark, feeling for them, but Andy put his hand on her shoulder
and said, “Don’t worry about them—forget them,” and he pulled her to her
feet and tugged her along into a thicket of small trees.
They walked through the thicket in silence for a
hundred paces, Rosetta trying not to breathe, and then they emerged in
a field, where the long grass was reddening in the early light. Suddenly,
they were alone, and Rosetta realized that they were on the other side,
as if escaping had required nothing more than a walk in the woods.
They dashed across this field to another stand of trees, where night still
They stood there, gasping, clasping each other in
the chilly air, and a voice whispered to them from behind a dark trunk,
“It’s a relief to cross that border at last, isn’t it, my friends?”
Andy and Rosetta were terrified by this voice, because
they seemed to hear in it a tone at once sarcastic and accusatory, a tone
with a bitter bite in it, like the taste of a horse chestnut. The
unlucky child who tries one in the mistaken belief that it is the edible
chestnut will never forget that taste. Hearing the caustic tone in
the voice from the dark made Andy shudder and grimace with the memory of
it. He supposed that the unseen speaker with the horse-chestnut tone
had recognized them and followed them. Now, he supposed, they would
be made to pay for the Bat’s impudence. Letting them cross the border
must have been part of a cruel game.
The voice from the dark went on. “Of course,”
it said, “you’ve got a few more borders to cross before you breathe free
air, a long way to go—and you might not make it.”
“Listen here,” said Andy, “we’ve come through a
lot, you know.” He was trying not to seem to be pleading, though
From the darkness came a dismissive snort and then,
“We have all come through a lot.”
Andy stiffened and stood straight. He reached
into the darkness and grabbed what his hands found, the coat of the invisible
man with the insincere tone. Andy pulled the man toward him and tightened
his grip in a threatening manner. “I don’t know about you,” he said,
“but my wife and I have come through a lot, and as you said we still have
a long way to go, but if you think you’re going to take us away to some
prison or other, you won’t have an easy time of it, I promise you that.”
“You misunderstand me, sir,” said the man, the ice
in his voice melting. He was a small man with a round face, cherubic
cheeks, and a bashful manner. “I’m here to help you.”
“To help us?” asked Rosetta. Her suspicion
“From your tone of voice, I sense that you are suspicious,
madam,” said the little man.
“It was your tone of voice—” Rosetta complained.
“Mine?” asked the little man.
“Yes,” said Andy, “there was something bitter in
it, something threatening.”
“Something accusatory,” said Rosetta.
“No, no,” said the little man. “I grant you
there may have been an edge of bitterness, perhaps, or acidulous cynicism,
the gruffness of a veteran of life’s knocks and setbacks, but nothing threatening,
certainly nothing accusatory.”
“You’re sure?” Andy asked warily.
“Oh, yes. Be assured that I am here to help
you.” To Andy, he said, “In fact, I am a great admirer of your work.”
“Oh?” said Andy.
“Yes, yes. You are part of a grand tradition,
you know. Well, perhaps grand is not the word. You are
Andy tightened his grip.
“—that is, a clown—”
Andy twisted the man’s coat until he was choking.
“High praise! High praise!” the man squeaked.
“You have made a mockery of them. You have made them appear ridiculous.
They are ridiculous, of course, but they don’t always appear
ridiculous to those who can’t see beyond the handsome uniforms they give
themselves, their tidy grooming, their goose-step, their polished boots,
but in your depiction of them, you leave no doubt about it—we see
that they are ridiculous.”
Rosetta squeezed Andy’s hand, and Andy relaxed his
grip on the little man.
“You are the front line of resistance,” said the
man. “You are the father of revolt. Surely you have heard the
expression ‘Repression is the mother of metaphor’?”
“I’ve heard that,” said Rosetta.
“Thank you,” said the little man, with a courtly
nod toward Rosetta. “Well, if repression is the mother of metaphor,
contempt is the father of revolt.” To Andy, he said, “Before those
wall paintings appeared, we felt fear, and fear is the mother of—”
He hesitated. He put his hand to his brow.
“Capitulation?” suggested Rosetta.
“Submission?” offered Andy.
“Maybe. Maybe. I was going to say—oh,
what was I going to say? I know—acquiescence. But perhaps you’re
“No, no,” said Rosetta, sympathetic now. “Acquiescence,
that seems right.”
“If you insist,” said the man, with a shrug.
“Well, then, on the one hand, fear is the mother of acquiescence, but,
on the other hand, contempt begets ridicule, and ridicule begets resistance,
and resistance begets defiance, and defiance begets revolt. So you
see,” he said, venturing to look Andy in the eye, “you are the father
“The great-grandfather,” said Rosetta.
“Defiance is the father, resistance is the grandfather,
and ridicule the great-grandfather, according to your scheme of
things, and ridicule is where the Bat comes in, so the Bat is the great-grandfather
“Hush!” said the little man, looking around in alarm.
“Don’t say that again, ever.”
“That name. The name of the little creature
of the night. That little creature is dead, my friend. That’s
the way it must be. Listen to me.” He glanced around warily,
then continued. “You’ve come through a lot, as you said. I
know. Everyone who makes it across that border has come through a
lot—but you have still a lot to get through, I’m afraid. You have
other borders to cross. And you have to begin a new life elsewhere.
To do that you have to find a way to live elsewhere, to support
yourselves. And you have to find a way to hide,” he said, glancing
warily around him again, “from them.”
“Surely not when we’re—far away,” said Andy.
“Oh, yes, yes, even then. For you have offended
them, and I fear that they will come looking for you.”
Andy and Rosetta drew together, and Andy put a protective
arm across her shoulders.
“You must become someone else,” the small man continued,
“for your own safety, and for the safety of your unborn child—”
“How did you know?” asked Rosetta, and immediately
looked downward, blushing.
“There is a certain glow about you, madam, that
the ruddy morning light alone could never provide. You will have
to create for yourselves new identities unrecognizable to those who know
you. You will have to become people other than yourselves.
And you, sir,” he said to Andy, “will have to stop making those drawings.”