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Moment of Truth: On Some Bats of the Red Forest

Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.

Among the trees swarm at least 122 distinctly different species of bat, each unique to the Red Forest on the Fat Island of Langostan, in the Middle Seasoning A Capellago. Hardly anyone ever goes there other than bat enthusiasts, professional and amateur, because of the great confusion. But no bat has yet been denied into one or another official taxonomic slot, so it's unclear what is so bewildering. Maybe it's the sheer number of species in so limited a space, no one knows how limited. In any case, the climate is both tropical and sub-tropical, and extremely humid.

Two main genera of bats comprise the numerous species, all but two (of those two exceptions later). These two grand groups are the bug-eaters, which echo-locate, and the fruit-eaters, which do not. The bug-eaters tend to be smaller than the fruit-eaters. Bug- eaters have been known to eat birds on occasion. Particularly vulnerable to predation is the typeface hummingbird, which is the size and shape of an 18-point Times New Roman comma, and the smallest hummingbird known. They only exist in the Red Forest. Happily, they are a prolific species, and swarm in their thousands among the apricot shrubs like minnows amidst seaweed.

Among the bug-eaters are the orchid-nosed bat, the bee bat, the tissue bat, and the glass- eared bat. Each species echo-locates at a unique frequency, in one of the musical modes, frequently Mixolydian.

The fruit-eating bats, or dog-faced bats, seem to be descended from the early wild gliding foxes of Pan-Asia, however they are no relation, except in the very distant sense that all mammals are. As stated above, these bats are neither able nor inclined to echo-locate. They just look around with their eyes. As they are nocturnal, they often bump into things.

While the bug-eaters range in size from that of a bumble-bee to that of a robin, the fruit- eaters are much larger, the largest, the schnauzer dragon, known to possess a wingspan of upwards of eight feet.

The indigo umbrella monkey is of more manageable proportions, meaning it can be fit conveniently into an overnight train case, although one should expect it to be displeased with the experience. The indigo umbrella is one of the above-mentioned species falling neither into one major genera nor the other. It eats both insects and fruit, as well as birds, roots, tree bark, fungi, cheese, small prey animals, snakes, snake eggs, cake, buns, onion rings, flower nectar, and carrion.

I have just remembered one supremely annoying aspect of traveling to any of the Islands of Langostan, or anywhere in the Middle Seasoning A Capellago: the in-flight service on the regional Barcola Airlines. Never is anything given gratis aboard an intra-coastal flight on this airline. Everything, from ear buds to ice, is for purchase only, and the flight attendants take frequent strolls up and down the strangely wide aisles calling out, "hot dogs, food for sale, pretzels, salt cod, milk, prawns, pig tails, peas, king fish, purple yam mush," and "hay cerveza coca cola limonada naranjada agua fresca." The prices aren't unreasonable, but on returning to the civilized world of normal things, like complimentary ice, one has the unpleasant feeling of having been nickel-and-dimed at every opportunity.

As the reader or listener has probably surmised, the umbrella monkeys are a sub-category of fruit-eaters, the indigo one being only ambivalently positioned among that crowd due to its freakish dietary habits. The umbrella monkeys are so-called because of their baboon-like faces, the umbrella-like curvature of their wing-support fingerbone structure, and their propensity to climb in the upper branches of trees.

Interestingly enough, among the umbrella monkeys, or climbing umbrellas, or umbrella spiders, or simply umbrellas, is found another exception to the fruit-eater vs. bug-eater bifurcation: the yellow umbrella, alluded to in the Grouse Family novelty song, "Yella Umbrella."

"Hey, fella
Your yella umbrella
Yella umbrella has nevuh looked swella Wella wella
A yella umbrella
Dote dote dody-o dote"

The yellow umbrella is the color of a very yellow yellow Labrador retriever, and its shorthaired face looks quite like a miniature version of the canid's visage, though its torso resembles more a plump angora rabbit-like thing, except when swimming, hunting its favorite food, fish, as well as river polyps, with its wings clutched to its sides, at which time it looks like a blonde tailless dogfaced river otter with a spidery external ribcage webbed with yellow leather.

While bug-eaters echo-locate and fruit-eaters do not, the yellow umbrella, though ostensibly in the latter clan, uses something akin to radar. It emits radio waves at frequencies in a narrow band range between 88.3 and 91.7 megahertz, commonly known as the college radio or public radio transmission ghetto, though its signals rarely interfere with radio programing due to its limited broadcast range. You would have to bring a yellow umbrella into a studio and broadcast its signals via antenna to detect them, as people do, now and then, for reasons described below. A gland or organ, approximately the size and shape of a quail egg or new potato, situated below the bat's sternum, produces the electromagnetic emission.

When the yellow umbrella's signals have ever been translated into audible sound, something quite strange has occurred: the pulses are invariably a gargly, high-pitched phrase in Spanish, Portuguese, Garifuna, Q'eqchi', Mopan, Mayan, Creole, Plautdeitsch, or English, similar in a way to the mimicry of a parrot, but in content always with a leftist slant. This may be due to the left leanings of visitors to the Red Forest, who concern themselves with ecological conservancy, indigenous rights, resource management, bats, and other like preoccupations. "Free the Adoaxaji" was one, referring to the Red Forest's indigenous inhabitants, another, "Crush the Patriachy." "Abolish Debt." "Dissolve the IMF." "Private Property is Theft from the People." "Abolish Prison." Yet another was, "Ban Slash and Burn," though that would have been thought to refer to a destructive agricultural practice in the Amazon region, fifteen hundred miles from the Red Forest.

Along similar lines, for a long time, the signals dissented to the rule of Brazil's fascist president. "Down with Bolsonaro" was the sole phrase they would broadcast for months, whenever brought into the local transmission station by jocular anti-fascists. The President was quite embarrassed by this and tried his best to influence policy in the A Capellago, over which he has zero jurisdiction, cajoling and wheedling any way he could to get someone to hunt the yellow umbrellas to extinction, or ruin their habitat, or restrict leftwing travel to the Red Forest, or encourage rightwingers to go there and march through the undergrowth shouting pro-Bolsonaro slogans. President Donald Dump, at times explicitly or implicitly a target of the signals, attempted to exert influence with threats of a trade embargo, to no avail. None of either demagogue's efforts was the least bit effective. The signals of the yellow umbrella monkey bat, one of only three semi- aquatic umbrella monkey species, remain firmly on the Marxist to post-Marxist end of the ideological spectrum, much to the chagrin of the ruling and owning elite in the region and beyond, and to the delight of activists, academics, revolutionaries, scientists, teachers, folk singers, investigative journalists, liberation clergy and their congregations, and podcasters.

For the time being, protected by impish activists, and their popularity with the region's populace, the bats of the Red Forest of the Fat Island can be expected to flourish. On average, at least one never-before seen species of bat is discovered there each year, to say nothing of the as-yet-undiscovered possible curative properties of one or another bat's guano. And almost everyone agrees that, with the amount of batshit barraging us daily in the world, it would be nice if some of it turned out to have a use.

This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!

Moment of Truth


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