The bat saw it. Or rather felt it, the sonic vibrations cascading outward into the night to bounce back into his body. The sounds shimmered through his delicate bones and the thin membrane stretched across, his wings.
He watched the world with his whole body, perched on the branch. The world exhaled, and the branch quavered.
The man at the base of the tree jabbed the shovel point into the ground with his foot, pressing his entire weight onto it. Stepping off, the man pried up the shovel, and a pile of damp earth came away with it.
The bat watched, listened, felt, as the man did this over and over. He hummed an old Cole Porter tune. The man was tired, and so happy.
A breath shook the tree branch gently. The bat’s body sprang up and down, suspended elastic in the air. The single leaf on the branch shivered, the green cellulose worn ragged by bugs.
The bat felt the man smile, felt the man remember driving up and down the gravel backroads for the perfect place. The pickup truck skidded on the turns and kicked up clouds of sun-bleached grit. When the truck drifted from left to right, everything in the back shifted too. The duffle bag whumped against the side of the truck bed.
The man had found a good place, secluded and even, where he could pull into the trees. He’d come back that evening.
His wife had made meatloaf for dinner; the bat smelled the tangy-sweet meat on the man’s breath, the brown sugar and the ketchup. The man didn’t like meatloaf, but he had smiled at his young, pretty wife and taken a big bite. Mouth full, he said, “Tastes great, hon.” She laughed and poured him some milk.
He wouldn’t see her in the morning, he knew, so he took his time. He enjoyed the ache in his arms, his legs, the hot blisters forming on his palms only to snap open for new ones. The juice sizzled down his knuckles.
The sun was threatening to come up when he finished. He smiled at a job well done, got back in his truck, and headed home, hungry for breakfast.
The bat felt the man go, felt the emptiness he had left behind.
The bat lifted up his wings and let the wind pull him up into the air.
Jen Corrigan is a graduate instructor at the University of Northern Iowa and former editorial intern at the North American Review. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Heather; Apocrypha and Abstractions; The Gambler; Change Seven Magazine; Hypertext Magazine; Cease, Cows; and elsewhere. She has been shortlisted for the Mash Stories quarterly flash fiction competition. Visit her at jencorrigan.wordpress.com.