Saturday 26 June 2021

'A Linguistic Theory of Bats' by Hannah Storm

We are in the college bar, drinking snakebite and black, you watching another match on TV, jumping and jeering like it’s a matter of life or death. I’m trying to tell you my theory about the word for bat in different European languages and you think I’m talking about something to do with the game that has gone on all day, and I say not cricket bat: I’m talking about the flying kind and I reckon the words we use for these animals says something about our cultures. So, for instance, the French word is chauve-souris which translates as bald mouse, but before I can explain what this says about Gallic sensibilities, you say it’s my turn to buy a round and anyway you can’t concentrate with me rabbiting on. So, I leave you with the Italian pipistrelle, which is more romantic than its root word vesper, as in night, not Vespa as in I wish I could ride off into the sunset with someone who listens and loves me. And I head for the bar, thinking of the German fledermaus, or flying mouse, and how I should just take a leaf from this literal language and tell you we are kaput, when someone brushes my arm and says something which sounds like you could do better. He speaks so softly I have to lean in to listen, and I figure he looks and sounds Latino so I ask him if he knows what bat is in Spanish and flap my arms just in case. He smiles, all teeth and I imagine him sucking my blood, bringing me back to life. He mouths mur-c-i-e-l-a-go. It’s the only Spanish word with every vowel, I say. And I know the fact it means blind mouse doesn’t matter, because I can finally see.



First published by Restore to Factory Settings: Bath Flash Fiction Anthology Five (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2020).

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