The Laughing Azaleas
Christy, from Christy's Coffee Break tagged me with her Freaky Friday meme in September, as embarrassing as that it is to admit. It took me this long to respond because I couldn't think of one weird or interesting thing that happened to me, until I found this old picture of my grandmothers Azalea bush. This is a story I've never told anyone.
This meme was written with the option to tag, but if you have a bizarre memory I would suggest you write about it. Because I may not have remembered this experience if I hadn't been wondering what to write for this meme, and I'm glad I remembered. In addition, it would be sad to see this meme die out just because no one can think of anything. So do some brain storming and try to think of a bizarre experience that happened to you, I think you'll be glad you did.
The Laughing Azaleas
My grandmother’s house rested behind a circular driveway made of gravel. I remember the gravel changing the color of my bicycle tires when I was a child... Those little white shells used for driveways do the same thing, except the tires change a white chalky color instead of rusty gravel. My grandmother Nana's house and yard were paradise and to me concrete evidence that heaven existed. The three-acre wonderland was everything a twelve-year-old child needed to find satisfaction in his/her surroundings. I spent as much time in Nana’s yard as possible, although I knew she would put me to work before the end of the day. However, the sheer pleasure of being in her fabulous yard was more than enough compensation for picking up sticks and raking leaves all afternoon. My siblings and I found pure joy in everything we did there. Whether we were playing games, climbing trees, or working, it was an environment perfumed with the intoxicating smells of magnolia blossoms and azalea bushes. In addition, within the branches of the trees lay the excitement of whatever new Louisiana wildlife creature we had recently decided to adopt. After all, everything has to eat and the yard belonged as much to the animals as the rest of us.
That is for animals, because I didn't feel the same way about insects, even if they are living things, and I wished they didn't populate bushes. Especially since Nana’s job for me meant rescuing the azalea bushes from the honey suckle vines suffocating grasp. Suffering from agoraphobia in the South was a nightmare within itself, so I was already ear marked as a sissy because of my paralyzing fear of insects, especially spiders, by the time I became a yard worker. I spent one weekend grounded after spending the night at Nana’s with a friend. My crime was letting out a blood-curdling scream one Saturday morning, after my friend woke me pointing to the most terrifying spider ever invented above my head!
My agoraphobia was beginning to cause problems for me, especially on my job at Nana's, due to the fear of running into my spider friend again. The problem progressed to the point where every time I worked in the yard, I let out blood curtailing screams imaging spiders falling on me, no doubt a flashback from that fateful morning.
Hence, by the time I heard voices in the bushes one day, my grandmother had grown accustomed to my blood curdling screams. The day in question is the day I heard laughing from within an azalea bush under attack. It was a bush closest to the road; in fact, the bush would've been directly on the road, if not for the ditch between the bushes and the yard. Just think of everything lined up in this order: the front yard, the bushes, other foliage, a ditch, then the road.
I was supposed to pull the honey suckle vines from the bushes then carry them to an old well we used to burn weeds and sticks. But I wanted to keep as much distance from the creatures as possible, so I'd grab a vine and run in the opposite direction until it broke away from the bush- I would repeat this action until the vine released it's grip on the bush and set it free. But, every time I repeated this procedure, I could see Nana becoming more aggravated with me for making a big mess of the rest of the yard. I prayed I would get finished before she finally lost patience with me and completely let go of her composure.
This was my routine: grab a vine, turn around, and run! Grab a vine, turn around, and run!
That is until the fateful day in question, when I heard what sounded like voices coming from the foliage on the other side of the bush. Actually, I heard a child’s laugh that was so real I thought it was a friend of mine watching me from the street. Excited about who came to visit, I walked inside the foliage, which resembled a little forest, only to find it empty, not a soul was there. I shouted my friend’s name: “Ellen?” Dead silence, one of those eerily dead silences, coupled with the shivery feelings of being alone in the dense foliage. What followed was the best blood curdling screams I've summoned to this day! I couldn’t stop screaming; I was so scared I couldn’t find my way out of the foliage and onto the other side of the bushes. I could see my grandmother running from the porch, shouting, “Be still, Ann. Be still! “
She told me later that she thought I had been bitten by a snake. She also led me to some old steps three or so feet from the sound of the laugh. The steps led to a house built before Nana’s which burned down some seventy-five to one-hundred years before.
Was it the imagination of an imaginative already-petrified child, maybe, or the laughter from one a hundred years before?
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