Bat, man, batman, batsman.

by Marie Marshall

Crypto-anthropology is a word I thought I might have invented (like ‘polemophonic’ – pertinent to the sound of warfare, ‘polemophonics’ – the study of the sounds of warfare) but it seems not. A pity, considering my interest in the Moosh-Moosh. But then I didn’t invent ‘futilitarian’ or ‘eukelele’ either, although the latter is only a pre-existing, alternative spelling. Here is my butterfly mind flitting from flower to thoughtflower for the brief summer of its life, digressing from the off. Here’s what I mean to say:

Cities grow. Ours did. Track outwards from the centre and you will see where the margins were, how they advanced and were filled in, how they swallowed neighbouring villages and towns, how there are rural names for roads and faubourgs mixed in with the newer names that commemorate royalty, trees, Scottish islands. Between the city and me there is woodland and parkland, but in that woodland there is a golf course. Golf courses are things of the Scottish ‘edge’ as farmers diversify in hard times. Also there is a water tower for the nearest of the city’s housing schemes that lie on the other side of the wood. The parkland, once the estate of a conquering admiral, is now a pleasure park for the citizens, complete with zoo and funfair. Only on the edge could such things be.

Is my village itself still a village? Its dormitory status makes it almost a suburb, yet it has or had a number of edge-features – a caravan park, and at one time an indoor play-area for children with a ball-pool and such like. Oh flit, flitter, flutter, fritillary. Anyhow, here’s what I mean to say… no really…

Attached to our Millennium Hall are a bowling green and playing fields. There is fitba of course, but also a cricket pitch. Cricket is not unknown in Scotland, of course, and much further north in the land too, but it is nevertheless a curiosity to many, something you would have to turn your head to gawk at if you were passing on a bus. It isn’t entirely a haven for expatriate English and third-generation South Asian Scots either, but it is an edgy place where crypto-anthropology has recently taken a strange turn. I think so. I had to think so when someone told me that the cricket team had a member who was half-man and half-bat.

I remember thinking that they were making a play on the word ‘bat’, but no, they meant it literally. There is a man nominally on their playing strength who has the arms and wings of a bat. He goes by the name of Doug Millar. He can fly, though he hardly ever does, and only once has done so on the field of play. He was fielding at silly-point when a farmer’s son from Forfar let fly a square cut with his full strength. Doug dived out of the way to avoid harm – there was no way he could have stopped the ball, let alone caught it, without risk of injury – and in diving he spread his wings. He only flapped them once but that was enough to allow him to glide over the outfield towards the Third Man boundary where he banked sharply, caught a thermal, and soared. Thankfully the umpire was about to call a drinks break anyway and Doug wasn’t even off the field long enough to warrant substitution by Twelfth Man. He returned red-faced and apologetic for his lapse.

Doug is not of this world. He is a Thogrian, which many folk mistakenly write as ‘Thorgian’, a unique marooneer on our planet and a castadrift from the world of Goldilocks 4. The cricket club doesn’t shout about him, they’re cagey blokes. If he could handle the willow or the cork-and-leather a wee bit better, or if ever he flew from Fine Leg to take a catch at Gully, it might cause questions amongst the rules committee of the league in which our village team plays. But he’s a plodder with both ball and blade and an average though conscientious fielder, driven less by skill than by his love for the game.

I have always wanted to talk to him but have never succeeded. I heard that he was due to be at the last home game so I went there and hung about the pavilion, searching amongst the whited players on the field or waiting their innings on deck chairs. I couldn’t see him. Then someone told me he was in the scorers’ hut for that match and couldn’t be disturbed. And that’s when I caught sight of him, very briefly, walking back to the hut with a tray of teacups and a teapot, his wings folded across his back. For some reason he had affected a Mohawk haircut.

I am told that if he excels in any respect it is as a scorer. His entries in the score book are precise, instant, and accurate. He uses an ancient Parker fountain pen but never makes a blot, and indeed there is a little Gothic flourish every time he records a ‘W’ for wicket. I think that he’ll be in that hut whenever I make an appearance at the cricket pitch. I think I have missed my chance. The hut is sacrosanct.

You see… I want to tell him that I can fly too, even though I only have conventional arms. I can’t soar as he does, though I have tried it once or twice when leaping from the King’s Seat, beyond Abernyte. Each time I could feel the wind under my arms, but my descent was too rapid and I had to resort to flapping hard to maintain any height and to land safely. I want to share with him that sweet, intimate knowledge of the upper air and of seeing the land turn beneath me. I have to speak this truth to someone who will not say I have been dreaming.