the house next door’s attic morphed into a bat haven.

At the brink of dark, neighbors converged in our front yard, sat in lawn chairs, the kind with woven straps, talked, waited for furred bodies to swoop out the vent. I don’t recall final tallies but remember the soft whir of wings when everyone quieted. Or do I only imagine that sound, how anything dark and woolly that flew or scurried terrified me?   

The seat of those braided chairs crosshatched marks on my legs, and I hated their hot rosin stench.  

A few years later, that same neighbor’s house caught fire when the children spilled detergent near the furnace. Miraculously, no one was burned, but the house suffered major damage. Firetrucks arrived as people gathered in our front yard, then moved across the street to witness the blaze. I overheard adults predict our home would catch, the structures so close.  

The acrid burnt smell lasted months, more intense on windy days. The family left while their home was restored—six months—long as I obsessed over how to flee if a fire skittered upstairs to our dorm-room.  

As I tried to fall asleep, I brooded my hatched plan: snatch flat sheet from bed, tie one corner on window crank, throw remainder out window, climb chair, ease out clutching cotton, lower to safety. I’m oldest. If it worked, my three sisters could follow. I’d coach, clasp them when they came within reach.  

I still dream escapes out windows of tall buildings—chased by flames or assassins. So far, I’ve reached ground, pivoted, propelled into flight.