By Lucy Young
By @S F Brooke
Devon waved at Jamie as she climbed out of her green Jeep. He had his volunteer shirt on, a happy-looking bat waving its wing, on a black background with the name of the sanctuary in bright green. He held a matching one in his hand.
Jamie ran over to him her diabetes backpack a small black one with multi-colored stars pouncing on her back as she walked over to him. “Hi! I changed my backpack out so I could match the t-shirt.”
Devon laughed and kissed her cheek. “It looks great.” He handed the t-shirt to her and in exchange got her backpack placed in his hand.
Jamie threw the t-shirt over her already existing white one and pulled her curly black hair into a ponytail. “Okay, so where are we going?”
Devon grabbed her hand and together they walked into the main sanctuary building walking into the volunteer entrance. “So today is Bring Your Friend to Work Day and-”
“No, it’s not. It’s a normal Tuesday.” His friend, Milo said as he popped his head into the hall they were walking in, from a habitat room housing a different species of bats than the ones Devon were going to show Jamie.
Devon flicked Milo’s forehead and laughed. “Okay, so it not, so what?”
Milo smirked and made kissy faces at the pair of them. Devon grabbed Jamie’s hand as she blushed and pulled her into the viewing room for his colony of bats.
“Okay, so here are my babies.”
“Oh, they’re beautiful!” Jamie gushed
Devon smiled, “Thank you.”
Jamie stared at the one-way glass, the habitat darker to accommodate a more natural environment for the bats. Real foliage and plants were placed in as well, little bat hammocks, water drips, fruit holders, pieces of fruit hanging from a string, and toys were clipped onto the top of the mesh cages. They weren’t cages so much as full-on Bat hotels. The environments were easily fourteen feet tall and twenty feet long on each side. The bats were sleeping for the moment, Jamie staring at them as they slept.
“They look comfortable.” She said at last.
“They do, don’t they?” Devon acknowledged as he stared at the little friends that he’d been taking care of for three years. “I feel a tad bit stalker-ish watching them sleep like this.” Devon laughed.
“What kind of bats are they?” Jamie questioned.
“These guys are Egyptian fruit bats. They’re one of four species that we’re rehabilitating here. I’ll tell you their stories when you meet them.” He glanced at his watch for effect. “In about four minutes.”
“Really?” Jamie said excitedly but also with a tiny bit of tension in her words. She was excited to see the bat, however, the idea of being so close intimidated her quite a bit.
“Yeah, I need to check their water levels and refill their fruit bowls,” Devon explained.
Jamie smiled so wide it seemed to stretch ear to ear. “Awesome.”
“Come on, help me cut up some apples, grapes, and figs. They like sweet fruit.” Devon brought her over to a small counter and pulled out some fruit from the small fridge in the corner. He handed her some grapes to pluck from the vine as he started cutting up an apple.
Jamie put the grapes in a little bowl and went back to staring at the bats. They finally started waking and fluttering their wings.
Devon came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her shoulders. “This is why I invited you to come later in the evening, the bats become active around five in the evening. Let’s give them a little time to wake up and I’ll introduce you.” They stayed wrapped together for a few more moments watching the tiny flying mammals wake up. Soon enough they started flying around and making small noises looking for food.
“Can we go in now?” Jamie asked.
“Yep.” He left her and grabbed the fruit and water containers from the counter. Handing her a few, he opened the first door. “Make sure it closes before we open this one.” It did with a buzz and Devon opened the second one. “The reason for that is we’ve had a few escapees.” He joked with a smile.
Jamie laughed as Devon explained a little of what to do when they were inside. “Okay, so we have to talk a bit softer in here because they have sensitive ears.”
Jamie nodded in understanding, mining that she was zipping her lips shut.
Together they walked into the bats’ area and the minute they did they were attracted to Devon like moths to a flame. Suddenly he was swarmed by ten different sized bats.
Jamie took a step back from the commotion her eyes wide. Devon just laughed in delight. “Hi, guys!” He told the bats.
The bats were hanging from multiple places on Devon’s t-shirt. There were two on his head, a few from his shoulders and one was upside down hanging from his sleeve. They were eager to get fed. “Hey now, hold on a minute,” Devon said as he moved his bat covered self and placed the fruit in the bowls, and refilled the water drips. The bats moved from him to the bowls as soon as he was finished. He steps back and ruffled his short brown hair. “I’m still not sure why they attack me like that, I think they just like me. We try not to touch them so much because one day we want to return them to the wild. But they like doing that.”
“Is it only you who they do it to?” Jamie asked finding her voice after her first scare.
Devon nodded, “They like hanging on to my t-shirt and my hair. It’s really funny the first time it happens with someone else in the room.” He smiled at her. “You know I saw that right?” He teased, joking about her scare.
Jamie smiled and shoved him. “Shut up.”
Devon laughed, before calming and pointing to one of the bats that was eating. He started speaking, “About three years ago we only had Abuela. That’s her eating on her hammock. She’s like the grandma to most of the others, hence her name. Then I took over this section of the bats and they became my colony. Each colony has a few caretakers. My friend Milo, he’s the one that you met in the hall, takes care of these guys with me and also his Free-tails. Anyway, Abuela came to us because the zoo that was holding her decided they didn’t want old bats anymore and sold her to us. She’s was raised in captivity for most of her life.”
Jamie and Devon looked at the older bat, her gray fur indicating her age, completely chill in her hammock munching on a piece of apple. “She’s so pretty.”
“You bet, and her fur is so soft.”
“You’ve held her?” Jamie asked.
“Not really, she’s brushed by my hand when I refill their food and water. She’s shyer than others.”
The two of them watched as most of the bats finished eating and flew to hang on the ceiling.
Jamie pointed to two bats that were hanging closely together, both of their fur dark and their eyes bright. “Who are those guys?”
Devon chuckled gleefully and rubbed his hands together. “Here is the fun part. Since these guys are under my care, I got to name them. Each one, except for Abuela is named after a fictional character. The two that you just pointed to are Sherlock and Mycroft, brothers that were retired to us after they were used for research. Not too friendly research if you get my meaning.” He looked at Jamie, who nodded and he continued. “They were able to heal from their injuries with a little help for us and they’ve been doing great since then.”
Jamie smiled up at them. “I’m glad. Tell me more.”
Devon opened his mouth to continue when a little bat no bigger than his hand came flying towards them. Jamie closed her eyes and braced herself, but it never hit her. When she opened them, Devon had the little bat clinging to the front of his shirt with its claws.
“Hey, Lucy, what’s up?” Devon asked the little bat. He looked at Jamie, “Totally saw that.”
“Oh shut it, I’m not used to them like you are.” She got down to eye level of the small brownish tan bat and looked into its eyes. “Who is this?”
Devon was trying to gently take the little bat off his shirt, but another one came and joined it instead, “There you are, Susan. I was wondering how you let Lucy out of your sight.” Looking up at Jamie with a smile, it was perfectly timed as she snapped a picture with her phone.
“Oh, that’s perfect. That’s becoming my new screensaver.”
“Anyway, these guys are Lucy and Susan. They along with their two brothers were found in someone’s attic and were evicted using a broom. They naturally became the Pevensies siblings as there were four of them, two boys, Edmund and Peter,” He pointed to the bats that were playing with some of the small stuffed animals hanging from the ceiling. “And two girls, Lucy and Susan.” He said pointing to his chest where the two bats still stayed. “Although we’re not a hundred perfect sure that Lucy isn’t Susan’s pup instead of a sister. But she’s still little Lucy to us.”
Jamie couldn’t stop grinning at the look of her boyfriend having a pair of bats hanging onto his t-shirt. “Oh my gosh, you’re too cute.”
Devon blushed next to her as he continued to try and untangle the two bats. “Which one next?”
As Jamie looked around she noticed a solitary bat hanging in the back corner of the enclosure. “Why is he all alone?” She asked.
“That one is Marcus, I named him after Four’s dad in the Divergent series. Mainly because he’s a mean old grump. He’s mostly just chill unless you bother him. He came to us because the zoo that was keeping him closed down, so we took him in until he can be released. It shouldn’t be long now, he doesn’t seem to like other bats.”
“Oh, well at least he isn’t injured.”
Devon nodded. “True, he was just slightly malnourished and dehydrated, but other than that he’s ready for release.”
Jamie looked at Marcus for a moment longer before spotting the biggest bat that she’d ever seen in her life. His brown-tan fur, fluffed up and beautiful, was intriguing as she looked at his bright little eyes, Jamie could tell he was intelligent. “Who on earth is the big fella?” She asked.
“That gentle giant is John Henry. I loved the Disney short on it, and he just seemed to fit. We got him coming on for a torn wing. The big dude has massive wings and one of them was torn badly. His wing’s membrane was torn by a hawk attack, he’s been here for a few months and it’s healed nicely. He’s being released in a couple of days, close to the same time Marcus is going to be.”
“That’s awesome! Do you think I could come to that too?”
Devon nodded, finally freeing Susan and Lucy from himself, the two bats flew off. “You should be able to. But if not I’ll record it for you.”
Jamie nodded. “Thank you that would be ama-” She cut off with a small yelp as a bat landed on her shoulder.
Devon shushed her gently. “Relax, relax! It’s just Roo.”
Jamie looked over to see a small bat just a little larger than Lucy was, his big doe eyes look up at her as she looked down at him. “Hi.” She said softly. Roo looked at her, gave a small chirp, and took off. Jamie’s whole body visibly relaxed. “Oh gosh, I didn’t like that.” She shivered a little. “What’s his story?” She asked Devon.
Devon looked at the little bat for a while before answering. “Roo and his mom, Kanga came to us earlier this year. They were being kept as illegal pets. Kanga sadly died a few days after her rescue from being malnourished by her owner. They were being fed things that weren’t in their diet at all, along with the fact that at the time she was nursing Roo which took even more substance from her. Kanga held on as long as she could. Roo seems to be doing okay. Abuela seems to have taken him under her wing,” Devon smiled. “Excuse the pun. Abuela is making sure he’s eating and brings him more food than he eats at meals. He’s getting healthier, so that’s good.” He watched the bats interact with each other for a while before taking Jamie’s hand in his. “Thanks for coming. It’s been a lot of fun showing you these guys.”
Jamie nodded and squeezed his hand. “Thank you for inviting me. They’re amazing little creatures.”
Devon and Jamie held hands as they walked back towards the exit of the domain. They washed their hands and looked through the window for a while.
“Thank you for this Devon, it’s super cool to see this part of you. Excited about little animals and caring for them, and they seem to like you a lot too.” She smiled up at him.
He smiled back. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, it was fun to introduce them to you. I’m hoping that you’ll come back.”
Jamie nodded. “I think I will… if I get payment.” She said jokingly.
“Will a kiss do as a sufficient paycheck?”
Jamie playfully thought it over for a moment. “Yes, I think so.” Devon chuckled and leaned down to kiss her.
Just as their lips touched, Milo walked into the room. “Ha! Called it! Josh owns me five bucks.” He said as he grabbed some medication for a cabinet.
Devon and Jamie laughed. Devon placed a hand on Milo’s shoulders. “You made a bet?” He asked as he tightened his grip just slightly.
Milo’s smile grew wider. “Yep, and I just won another one. It was ten if you got mad.”
“I swear I’m gonna kill you guys,” Devon said.
Milo laughed and slipped under Devon’s arm. “Oh, and it wasn’t just me and Josh, Lindsey, and Kevin too. So I got twenty bucks!”
The spare banana that was thrown never did make its mark as Milo ran through the door. Jamie blushed but was laughing.
Devon went and picked up the banana and peeled it. Taking a bite he opened the door for Jamie, “Come on, let’s go get something to eat.” He took Jamie’s hand and walked down the hall.
Milo popped his head out once again. “Make that thirty.” He said and grinned cheekily. “It was more if you guys went on a date.”
“Milo!” Devon yelled and shoved his head back into his room. Jamie giggled as they continued out of the sanctuary. Devon laughed too as he once again took Jamie’s hand, finishing his banana as he went. He made sure to leave the peel in Milo’s enclosure room.