116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Bixby Alexander Tam finds people complicated. The boy doesn't like looking people in the eye, and he doesn't understand why his sister and kids at school get upset when he shares his observations.
People also find him complicated. He sometimes wears earmuffs indoors to protect himself from loud noises. He also has an unusual habit of flapping his hands when he is upset or excited. Kind of like a bat. That habit, along with his initials, earn him the nickname "Bat."
One simple thing in Bat's life is his love of animals. He spends hours watching animal videos on YouTube. He adores Babycakes, the bunny who lives in his third grade classroom. And he's overjoyed when his mom brings home a baby skunk, or kit, from her veterinary practice.
The tiny skunk's pregnant mother had been hit by a car and brought to Dr. Tam's clinic that morning. Bat's mom couldn't save her or the rest of the litter. The surviving kit needs round-the-clock care.
Bat says he is up to the task. He immediately asks to hold the furless creature with the pink nose and eyes shut tight. He learns to feed him formula.
"I love him," Bat exclaims that first day.
But his mom discourages him from getting attached to the wild animal. She says they will have to hand the kit over to the rescue center in a month. “Bat, holding the tiny animal in his arms, made a silent promise that he'd figure out a way to keep him."
Bat's plan involves reading up on skunks in his animal encyclopedia and becoming the best skunk caregiver ever.
He carries the little guy in a cloth sling, the way human mothers sometimes carry their babies. He offers to share his bed with the skunk. (Mom says no to that idea.) He even asks his teacher to help him write to a well-known skunk expert, hoping for support on making the now-furry kit a pet.
This intense focus on the animal makes everything else in Bat's life — schoolwork and visits with his dad, who lives nearby — seem unimportant and even stressful.
And his classmates notice.
"He can't think about anything other than the stupid baby skunk," one girl announces.
But although Bat's attention to the kit annoys some people, it impresses others. Bat hopes that by the end of the month his mom's decision on what to do with the skunk will be simple. She will see that it's what is best for both the animal and the boy.
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