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(A short story of 4365 words)

The DNA of Bats


by Jane Rogers

The closeness between her brilliant, beautiful mother and her talented, intelligent daughter re-enforces a woman's sense of her own inferiority. Add to this her lifelong horror of bats, and things go from bad to worse.

I have been a failure all my life. Ask my mother. Well, you could have asked her, if she hadn’t died last month. Ask my daughter. My lovely, beautiful, clever daughter Anya, who has inherited my mother’s house. Just ask her.

My mother was Lucy Gilmour. You may have heard of her. She was a costume designer; she was responsible for some of the most gorgeously colourful creations to be seen onstage in the last forty years. Swans, firebirds, trolls, princesses, vampires and chimney sweeps, mythical beasts and twinkling stars, my mother costumed them all. I am not artistic. My mother, being kind and forbearing, never articulated her disappointment to me – but disappointed she surely was, to have spawned such an ugly duck. She must have hoped for hidden depths. But I have hidden shallows.

I was conscious of disappointing her as a child; half conscious, a tang that tainted my days. Over the bat, for example; the bat we saw on holiday. My first bat. We were in Ireland, at the sort of self catering place my parents always took, remote and draughty, picturesque. While my father brought in the bags, I ran up to the bathroom. But there was something in the sink. Something deformed. It lay splatted there, violently black against the white porcelain. I cried out and my mother came running.

‘A bat! Oh sweetheart, it’s a beautiful little bat, look at its ears, they’re almost translucent. The fragile bones in those wings – how marvellous to see one up close like this.’
My father pronounced it dead. He wanted to wrap it in newspaper and put it in the bin. But my mother needed to sketch it...

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