Mrs. Tar’s Hat with a Bat

Exciting, funny, and just a little odd—it’s all good! Jerry

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We heard the elevator coming down and both rushed to open the doors. It was about the time Mrs. Tar went for her lunch and my brother and I both wanted to get the tip. She always tipped well for everything we did. When I would bring her a pack of cigarettes she would often tip me 25¢, which was more than the price of the pack. Of course, as a convenience, I would open them for her during my delivery and remove one or two. Mrs. Tar was a retired resident at the hotel and didn’t go out much except for some of her meals and occasionally she liked to sit in the lobby in one of big high back chairs and smoke and sleep.

I managed to beat my brother to the elevator and opened up the doors, the outer sliding door and an accordion-like inner door. Jack, the ‘could do everything’ hotel’s handy man taught me how to handle the doors so that it looked like it was a lot of work, which would normally earn me a small tip from a hotel guest.

Sure enough it was Mrs. Tar and she was all dressed up for her lunch at her favorite restaurant down the street from the hotel. She looked nice, as usual, in her dress and scarf, which always looked like something from Victorian times. Mrs. Tar always wore a hat with ribbons and some mesh type netting. She was a widow so she mostly wore dark clothes.

As I was holding the door for her I said “hello, how are you today?” and she smiled back at me as she always did. As she slowly walked by I noticed that her hat was larger than usual and it was sitting on her head slightly lop-sided. As I looked more directly at the hat, sure enough, there was, a big black bat in her hat. I thought, oh no, what to do?

She slowly walked the short distance from the elevator to the main entrance lobby doors of the hotel. As usual, I rushed around her to open one side of the swinging doors. I used the technique that Jack had taught me of pushing one of the doors open with one hand and arm allowing the guest to walk past.

As Mrs. Tar passed by the bat in her hat was only about a foot from my face and I could see the two little beady eyes looking right at me. Oddly, my first thought was that the bat looked like it belonged on her hat, kind of like a bird in a nest decoration. My next thought was that as soon as Mrs. Tar steps outside into the sun the bat would take off and that would be that.

My brother and I were not scared of bats at all. We were the official bat catchers of the hotel. When bats showed up in guest rooms, hallways, the lobby or anywhere in the hotel, the clerks and maids would call us to catch them. And it wasn’t uncommon to have bats in the elevator because they would hang out in the dark elevator shaft which gave them easy access to the elevator’s riding carriage.

We made up all kinds of devices to catch bats such as, long polls with cloth bags attached to the end. They look something like butterfly catching nets. Once you bagged a bat you quickly had to twist the poll to get the bag to bunch up so that the bat didn’t fly out. And to release the bat we usually would go on the roof of the hotel and untwist and shake the poll like crazy. We never killed any bats. It was fun to catch them and we always thought that we might limit the bat population and we did not want to do that because catching bats was way too much fun.

I watched Mrs. Tar as she slowly walked down the sidewalk, thinking any second now the bat would take flight. But no, the bat just stayed in her hat. It was bright and sunny and bats don’t like light, so I thought that bat is surely going to fly away. As I watched her walk down the sidewalk there was no movement on or from her hat. Did the bat move under her hat some way and was now on her head or maybe it was just got under the mesh, possibly stuck, on her hat? Then I thought if the bat did try to fly away maybe it would take her hat with it.

I don’t think I ever saw Mrs. Tar without a nice big hat. She even wore a hat in her room where she would sit and smoke cigarettes and look out her window on the main street. Then I thought maybe the bat had been in her hat for a long time. Kind of like a companion pet just taking in Mrs. Tar’s secondhand smoke and watching people and cars on the main street.

I knew I had to do something about that bat in Mrs. Tar’s hat. I quickly turned and ran back in the hotel’s front doors. My brother was standing there looking at me with a silly grin on his face. I said let’s go, she is on her way to the restaurant for lunch. We instantly ran for the back hall of the lobby where we kept our bat catching polls.

We knew our way around the hotel. I mean we knew every inch of that place, all three floors, every hotel room, every storage room, the basement, the roof, and all the secret places. There were several places to exit the hotel including ways to enter into adjacent stores in the same block of the hotel without leaving the building. You could also go from basement to basement the entire block.

I thought quickly about using the basement route to get to the restaurant, but carrying those big polls would be too difficult and take too much time, and we needed to take care of this situation fairly quickly. So instead of the basement route we headed out one of the back entrances into the alley and ran as fast as we could to get to where Mrs. Tar would be having lunch.

We must have looked a little silly running with those polls down the alley but people knew us around the hotel and so to them they probably thought it’s was just those two boys from the hotel goofing around.

We charged right through the back doors of the restaurant into the kitchen. The cooks and staff knew us so they weren’t particularly concerned. But I am sure the big polls with bags on the end looked a little funny.

We went to the swinging doors that lead into the dining area, and looked through the little square windows. We could see Mrs. Tar coming through the front doors of the restaurant and it looked like the bat was still in her hat. Oh no, I thought, this is going to be tricky.

She strolled over to her usual booth and sat down. Several of the staff and others in the restaurant acknowledged her, but no one seemed to notice the bat so I thought maybe it took off during her walk to the restaurant. But as she sat down I could see that the Mrs. Tar still had the bat in her hat.

My brother and I just kept looking hoping it would take off, but it just stayed there. The restaurant was kind of crowed for lunch, and some of the kitchen staff started looking out the little square door windows with us.

I figured we had a few choices. Just leave the bat there and maybe Mrs. Tar would just have a normal lunch, walk back to the hotel, and bat would, well, escape somewhere along the way, or just keep living in her hat. We could charge out and try to bag the bat off of her hat, but this didn’t seem like a good idea which might mean possibly putting the bag over Mrs. Tar’s entire head.

We just stared at her not know what to do. Then we saw the waitress headed in her direction to take her order. The waitress would be standing right over her so I knew she couldn’t miss the bat in Mrs. Tar’s hat. As the waitress approached the booth and took her little order tablet and pencil out of her pocket I know she would come face to face with the bat. And sure enough she did, and she let out the loudest scream I think I have ever heard and tossed her order tablet and pencil in the air and ran, yes, she ran. Everyone in the restaurant was startled and looked to see what was going on.

I could see the bat’s wings open a little and, bam it took off, straight up towards the very high ceiling. As I looked at Mrs. Tar I could tell she didn’t know what was going on. I could see the waitress was still upset and the most of the people in the restaurant weren’t quite sure what had happened. As for Mrs. Tar, she was probably wondering who’s going to take my order.