Home is Where You Hang Upside Down
by "The Enduring Man-Child"
All standard disclaimers apply.
Dale was alone in his room with the most beautiful girl in the world. At least that's how he had always felt about her, and he supposed objectively it was still true, but his mind was on someone else as she fussed over his Hawaiian shirt and bow tie.
"Come on, Gadget. I'm not goin' to an inaugural ball or anything!" he complained as she shook her head in disapproval and went back to the chest of drawers to look at the selection. There wasn't much, as all Dale's shirts had the same pattern and there were only two bow ties.
"Now, Dale, it's your first real date and you should take some pride in your appearance," she told him as she removed the black tie and replaced it with the red one. "There. That's better."
"I want the black one!" Dale said fractiously.
"When I put the black one on you you wanted the red one," she said. "Besides, the black one clashes."
"If no one's gonna see it, why wear it?" he asked.
Gadget stepped back to look at her handiwork: one chipmunk, one Hawaiian shirt, one red bow tie, and a red clover blossom as a boutonniere. "Perfect!" she said, admiring him.
"Well I don't feel perfect!" he said.
She noticed that he was shaking like a spilled bowl of Jello. "Nervous?" she asked.
"Why?" she asked him. "You're surely not afraid she's going to reject you? She chased you for a long time before you returned her feelings."
"It's not exactly that," he said, looking at her with an exasperated expression that showed he wished he could put it into words.
"Remember, Dale, she's lived here for two months now, and you've spent as much time with her as you could manage. I haven't seen you nervous around her in all that time."
Dale only looked at the floor.
"Come on," Gadget said, "it's almost time."
"Gadget?" he asked.
"I realize it's a moot point now, but . . . you know how Chip and I have competed for your attention ever since we first met you. I was just wondering . . . was I ever formally rejected by you at any point?" He had wanted to ask this question for a long time but could not bring himself to until another girl had come along to really mess up his already fragile emotional state.
"No. Never." She answered with great sincerity.
"I . . . I had to know."
"I know you did. I had to tell you."
He brightened considerably.
"And in case you're wondering," she continued, "I still like you very, very much," and she kissed him on the forehead.
The old mischievous Dale sparkle came into his eyes. "Too late, kiddo!" he said, "You waited too long and now the balloon's gonna take off without ya!"
She laughed and hugged him. "Barney Fife!" she said.
"Yep," he said, confidently.
"Now let's get you out there!" she said, at which point his entire nervous system collapsed all over again. Finally she managed to push him into the hall and then into the living room where the other Rangers waited in anticipation. Zipper gave a buzzed equivalent of the wolf whistle that was quite embarrassing, and Monterey simply said, "Lookin' good, mate!" Even Chip could only smile at him. "Lady killer!" he said to the perspiring Dale, whose nerves were still trying to convince him that he had thrust his finger into a live electrical socket.
Outside the familiar door to what was now her own home (where she had been first a guest, and then a patient, and finally what she termed an "Alfred") Foxglove's innards were wobbling like she was standing in line for the Final Judgment. She gulped audibly and thought Oh no, I shoulda gone to the bathroom; I REALLY shoulda gone to the bathroom; I just know I'm gonna go to the bathroom right there in front of everybody as soon as I lay eyes on him! She was so nervous she forgot that, being a bat, there was nothing wrong with her going to the bathroom right where she was. Instead she waited futilely for the world to come to an end, but the world that night was as cruel as always and showed her no pity. Typical, she thought.
Finally she decided that the only way to end the torture was to get it over with and knocked on the door. The door opened and Gadget greeted her with a smile. "G-good evening," Foxy said to her, "I am here for my appointment. Is the young gentleman whom I am to escort prepared?" Gadget swung the door wide. "He's all yours," she said, pointing to Dale.
Of course the instant they saw each other it was as if Dale and Foxglove had been replaced by Valentino and Theda Bara. All nerves suddenly calmed and a look of assurance came into both their faces. And at that point neither of them would have cared if the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir were watching, listening, and reading their thoughts into the bargain.
Foxy looked at Dale. "Hi-ya," she said.
Dale looked at her mischievously and exclaimed in a low voice, "Lu-ceeeeeeelle!"
Foxy blushed and turned aside. "Stop that!" she said, "I don't know what it means but I get the distinct impression that it's something naughty."
Gadget looked at her two friends with the greatest satisfaction. She took Dale by the paw and led him up to Foxy, and while placing his paw in her wing, said in a very good upper-south hillbilly dialect, "Now you be good to my little bubba here, caus'n he's a young an' innocent boy, y'hear? So don't you be a-usin' none o' yore feminine wiles on him--ye si-reen." The three other Rangers--the ones still cognizant of external reality--were astonished at this heretofore unknown talent of hers. She could really have been a voice artist for animated cartoons. They also enjoyed the irony of a girl whose figure was most probably condemned in the platform of the Republican party referring to anyone else as a "si-reen."
Gadget turned to Dale. "Now Jeter," she continued, "don't you be a-doin' nothin' that I wouldn' . . . " But she laughed so hard at this point that she could not continue with her moral guidelines.
Finally Foxy remembered that they had an extremely interested audience, and she turned to them and said, "Madam and Sirs, I thank you for this opportunity. I assure you that my intentions with regard to the young gentleman are purely honorable and that I will return him safely to you first thing in the morning." Whereupon the two managed to exit the room safely and successfully shut the door behind them, even though they never took their eyes off each other.
Monterey rubbed his chin and looked up at Zipper as Gadget continued to stare thoughtfully at the door. A supremely satisfied Chip approached her and put his arm around her.
Without shifting her gaze she finally spoke.
"Chip . . . why don't you invite TAMMY to come over for a visit?"
Once outside Dale removed the bow tie and presented the blossom to Foxglove who sniffed it admiringly. Then the two companions jumped into the Ranger Plane which had been made ready for their use. Dale felt great as he strapped himself into the pilot's seat; Gadget had insisted that they all learn how to operate it but he very rarely got the chance. Foxglove was full of admiration at the assured way he operated the controls, and as they took off the rush of the night air in her face (and the realization of how much weight she had put on through weeks of feasting and inactivity) led her to remark that it was high time that she resumed her nightly mission.
"What's that?" Dale asked her.
"You know," she said, "to consume . . . mass . . . quantities of nocturnal flying insects."
"And what, Dale?"
"And to CORRUPT the WORLD!" he said, in his best "voice of doom" approximation.
"I'm gonna corrupt you!" she told him.
"Not while I'm driving," he said, and they both laughed and blushed at the unexpected direction of their conversation.
Their first stop was the carnival that visited the city each August. As they stepped onto the ground Dale wondered aloud if Cassandra was around. Foxy was intrigued until she learned that this Cassandra was a fortune-telling Gypsy moth. In addition to feeling that it would be very uncomfortable to meet her favorite food socially, her experience with Winifred caused her to want absolutely nothing to do with fortune tellers or even to be in the same room with them--even if it was only a joke. She didn't even want to see card tricks performed.
Dale respected this and dropped the subject, and they made the rounds of the games of the carnival's small mammals' counterpart. Dale made several attempts to win a prize for Foxglove, unsuccessfully, and she returned the favor with the same results. They were both thankful that small mammals didn't use money. They would have gone broke.
Finally Foxglove saw something that seemed to beckon her irresistably, and she took off for it. "Where are you goin'?" Dale shouted after her, and he finally found her fluttering before the human-size glass house. "C'mon, Dale, let's go in!" she shouted and negotiated the entry. Dale wasn't too crazy about this but he followed her inside and immediately became too confused to move. But this attraction seemed specially made for Foxy's echolocation talents and she flew with ease up and down every passage, and then landed beside Dale so he would not be able to miss all the reflections of her that surrounded them. I hope this puts an end to THAT problem she thought.
Just then they heard a human voice outside. "Hey, there's a bat flying around in there!" it said. Someone--obviously the ticket taker--responded non-chalantly, "Yeah, happens all the time. They seem to like it. Don't worry, it'll get out all right." Foxglove was amazed. What do you know? she thought, No wonder I was drawn to this place. I guess I really do have instincts, after all! Then with a bit of an effort she grabbed Dale with her feet and managed to fly him back out right in front of the two startled humans. "Now that IS a new one!" the ticket taker said, scratching his forehead.
Their next stop was very special. It was the drive-in theater where they had first met. It was also the only drive-in left in the city and showed classic old "B" movies exclusively. The first feature was "Them," one of Dale's favorites. During the intermission he asked if she wanted anything from the snack bar, but she said, "Just a glass of water, please." After he left she put in some time with the moths and mosquitoes and after her repast rejoined her escort. Dale still treated food with great respect, and until he was finished neither Foxy nor the movie got much attention from him. Finally he looked up at her, his two eyes showing through a confused mass of catchup, cheese, and chocolate. With the most earnest look she had ever seen him with he gave her an old Arnold line from "Green Acres."
"Foxglove," he said, "this is madness!" She thought she would never recover from that one.
The second feature, "Earth vs. the Spider," obviously brought back painful memories for Foxglove, and as the sky in the east was beginning to lighten anyway Dale asked her, "Ready to go home now?"
"Yes," she said. The Ranger Plane slowly rose into the air. But suddenly she exclaimed, "Wait! Dale, will you take me to just one more place first? I'll tell you how to get there."
Dale was agreeable, and soon they were flying to a part of the city he hadn't spent much time in. This was not because it was a bad or dangerous neighborhood, but because it was in a residential area that was so quiet that the services of the Rescue Rangers were not needed there that often. Ahead of him lit by the lights he saw a tall and exotic spire approaching. He used Gadget's suction cup landing gear to attach his craft to the side of the building and Foxglove helped him out.
"Where are we?" he asked.
"St. Ner-ses Shnor-hal-i Ar-men-i-an Apostolic Church!" she recalled carefully. "Come on inside."
She could still spider-walk into the break in the glass, though with more difficulty than formerly, but Dale's entry proved to be much more problematic. Foxglove wanted him to come in but in no way wanted him to get cut by the glass, so she suggested he forget about it. But Dale was not to be frustrated in this, and by carefully working one part of his body in at a time he finally made it and sat down beside his happy host. The church was empty. The sun still came up early enough that they would be back home before matins.
"The sunlight will come through there," she said, pointing.
As they watched and waited for the display Dale appeared very thoughtful. "Foxy?" he said.
"There's something that's been bothering me lately, and I can't get anybody to understand it. I'm not sure what it is. I'm not scared of you anymore or anything, but . . . "
"Dale, there was never any reason for you to be scared of me," she said, putting a wing around him reassuringly.
"Well, I'm scared of something, and I don't know what it is." Even in the darkness he looked frustrated.
Foxy thought for just a moment. "I think maybe I know what it is," she told him. "I went through it before you did, when we first met and again back in June when I came to visit you for that first time. Are you sure you want to hear it?"
"Sure!" he said earnestly.
"Well, Dale," she began, "you and I are about the same age, and we'd never been in love before. At least I hadn't," she corrected herself, remembering Gadget. "Up to now we've been kids, but when we got these feelings, wild as they are, they told us that we were growing up and that we wouldn't be kids much longer. And they reminded us that we're going to keep on entering new stages of life until, well, until one day we're both going to get old and die."
Dale frowned. "That's a bit of a come-down, Foxy," he said.
"I know," she said, "but I'm afraid there's no getting away from it. The way I see it, you have two choices. You can go through it all alone, or you can share it with someone you love and who loves you. That's about the only solution I can think of."
Dale was quiet. It wasn't pleasant, but he realized she was right.
Finally Foxy was glad to break the train of thought. "Look, Dale!" she said, "The sun's coming up!"
And it was, right through the picture of Noah's Ark. If it was beautiful to Foxy, who had seen it before, to Dale it was simply awe-inspiring. "That's a picture of a time when we were all friends," she told him.
As she took it all in she wasn't sure which was the biggest thrill: the picture itself, the sunlight coming through it onto Dale's face, or the serious, studied way he watched it. He certainly seemed to be thinking deeply. Finally he turned to her.
"Do you think it'll ever be that way again?" he asked her. It was the most serious and philosophical question she had ever heard from him.
"You know what, Dale?" she said. "I think I'm going to give you a great big WET one!"
And you know?