The night of the great batfishing incident we were thirteen and rough fun loving country boys, Willy Lee and me.
Willy Lee lived down the road across the creek with his much older mother and father; a child of careless love when his parents were in their fifties. Supervision and discipline of Willy Lee was light to say the least. He had a pack a day cigarette habit before he was ten years old. He was my best buddy.
Our summers, those hot and lazy days of long ago, were spent in the pursuit of game and fish. In the heat of the day there were wild games of 'gator' in our swimming hole. Nights we'd camp in our palmetto huts and spend the night at poker by campfire and candle while the music of owls and the flickered dance of fireflies flowed over the tannin water of the creek.
"Got me an idea, " said Willy Lee one night.
"Let's go batfishing."
And that was that. So, one night I climbed from bed and out my window and we met at old man Logan's watermelon patch. Ten acres of sweet delight.
We took our canepoles, long and light pieces of bamboo, and tied short lengths of line to the tips with a bit of our mother's yarn and added a split lead sinker for weight. We fluffed the yarn to better snag the bat's wicked sharp needle like teeth.
Me, "Pack of smokes I get ten."
Willy Lee was dressed in his standard old worn and ragged Sears Roebuck overalls. Shirtless, and barefoot. He was a heavy kid yet light on his feet and before I had a chance to rig my pole I heard the whir of his line cut the night air. He twirled the tip in an arc of long and graceful moves and within seconds the bats honed in on his artificial insect and he'd jerk.
We'd play the 'hooked' bats like fish and then pull them in and jerk the lines until the bats dropped to the ground to scurry away in the darkness.
I remember the moonlight accompanied by the fresh scent of watermelons and cricket screams and warm summer breezes. Not a care in the world, young and healthy.
Willy Lee yelled, "Hey, watch this."
I glanced over to see him jerk, straight back, instead of his usual side spin. The bat hit him square in his shirtless chest.
Two things happened in rapid sequence, as I recall. First, Willy Lee screamed, "Oh, God, Stephen, he's biting me." The second, I fell and laughed so hard I had a tears streaming down my face.
Willy Lee danced. He shook and slapped his overalls and continued to scream. The bat sought cover by climbing inside Willy Lee's pants. It went down, deep. It, was happy.
Finally I yelled, "Stand still you fool he's gonna bite your equipment off." Willy Lee stood still.
Between deep breaths he asked, "Well, help me man, what are we gonna do?" Or, words to that effect. I replied I wasn't sure what we could do, and said, "Just stand still, man, let me think."
The owls and crickets, and it seemed to me, even the wind sat still and silent. Willy Lee wailed. Then I said, "Willy Lee, you know man, bat's have rabies."
He screamed, "Sonsabitchesmother*&^@#!$#," like that.
I was known to be a bit mean at times.
Rubbed it in a smidgen more with, "If that sucker bites your tallywacker - well, sure as shooting it's gonna rot off."
"No way, man, help me."
Using my higher power of thought and with general consideration for the inflicted, I asked, "Want me to shoot it?" I pulled my .22 revolver and took careful aim in the general area of his crouch.
Me, "Willy Lee?"
He'd closed his eyes, tears or sweat dripped from his face, then, "Stephen."
"What is it, man."
"Oh, man, oh, man it hurts, man, please Mother Mary make it go away."
Forty odd years later and I still recall when it quit being funny for me.
"What is it, Willy Lee."
"Its hanging on, man."
I do remember the lightning out over the Gulf, how it colored the world in shades of blue and green and how the rumble of thunder was lost in the distance. I remember the fear of a thirteen year old boy with a bat dug deep in his pants.
"Where is the bat, Willy Lee?" I stood with my handgun, ready and willing.
"Oh, man, Stephen. Its down there."
"I know that, but where?"
"Its hanging from my Johnson." I took aim. Hey, this is serious business now.
Willy Lee lost it. He screamed, "Don't you dare shoot me, you butthole."
"Stand still," I screamed, "I'm a good shot, besides man, if that thing bites you on your Johnson, it'll rot off for sure."
Me again, "Just point to it, show me where its located. Then, spread your legs wide."
"Ain't no way, man. Please, reach in and grab this creature, please man, help me."
There comes a time in every person's life when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt who your friends are, this was such an occasion.
"Not gonna happen, man. I will not put my hands down the front of your pants. Bye." I turned to walk away, holstered my gun. Fed up with the tears and mosquitoes and screams of fear. There is a limit, and my hand down another kids pants, even my best friends, was it.
Behind me I hear a very soft, "Stephen."
"Please man, kill it." Change of plans. I turn and bend and take my canepole in hand, reverse it to the butt, the thicker larger section, and in one smooth (I like to think) movement, drove it directly into Willy Lee's crouch.
Screams filled the night and the lightning flashed as the thunderstorm moved inland and I ran.
Willy Lee walked funny for a few days, but he remained my friend. I never asked him what became of the bat.