Struck by the dark spirit she had woken up-True Horror stories-Part 42

EPISODE 42

‘You stole my parsley!’ bellowed Mrs GRACE.  Huh?  You would think I had swindled her life-saving with her tomato-red face and widened eyes.  I slowly digested what she was on about.  There was a relatively large backyard where Mrs GRACE wanted to make her private garden.  Of course, the backyard was a communal area, so she asked for permission.  She offered to split up the backyard so each flat would be allocated a space.  The landlords thought it was a reasonable request and agreed…only to discover that Mrs GRACE had spread out beyond her allocation, and the backyard became her extensive garden.  This did not suit other young residents with children whose private playground had been narrowed.  Mrs GRACE’s children had all grown up, so she didn’t need a playground anymore.  But to show that she was a magnanimous person, she offered everyone to benefit from her private garden.  

Now, Australia is a vast agricultural country where parsleys are sold at a peanut price at the market with better quality.  However, out of my habit of politeness, I took one stalk so that I would have a reason to compliment Mrs GRACE.  It should have put her in a good mood.  I wished to get along with my neighbours, including Mrs GRACE.  But No.   She screamed.

‘I paid big money for that new soil!  It was not for you to steal from me!’ 

She did have tons of soil delivered, so she was telling the truth.  But if she wished to talk money, she must acknowledge that our water bill had jumped for having to water those tons of soil that my landlord and others were paying too.  I could not say it because I was facing a woman shouting down at me with a spattering mouth.  

Besides, I knew the real reason behind her foul allegation.  In the previous episode, I wrote about a renovation work of the exterior of the building.  The main work was painting which was not cheap, and there was not enough money accumulated in the joint bank account.  However, the intense Australian sun had scorched the building so much that putting off the painting for another two years would have been detrimental.  Thus my landlord offered to put out his money upfront so that the other landlords could pay him back later.  He did not ask for interest.  My Japanese landlord kept his silence even when Mrs GRACE chose the colour of the walls and windows, etc., without consulting his preference.  He did it for the good of the building, and Mrs GRACE hated that he was on a higher moral ground than she.  So here she was sticking it to his tenant (me) to offset the thousands of dollars loan for the painting job with a parsley stalk.  

Now, it was not the first time I heard Mrs GRACE bellowing.  She had a daughter; I shall call her Belle because this young woman was lovely, not just on the outside, but on the inside too.  Her compassion, she must have taken after her father, who had separated from Mrs GRACE.  Belle was kind to everyone, and I still remember her delicious lemon cake.  Belle should have been a confident woman, but she was not because Mrs GRACE would always redo whatever Belle had done.  Mrs GRACE had to interfere in everyone’s life about everything which must be done in her way and expected everyone to be grateful.  If she did not get what she wanted, her sweet voice would be replaced with harsh bellowing.  So many times, I heard her shouting down our sweet Belle.  We could hear it despite the walls and the doors.  So I knew Mrs. GRACE would not leave me alone unless she squeezed an apology from me about the stalk of parsley, so I let her win.  

Mirror that reflects your soul

Mrs GRACE’s attention next turned towards the trees around the building.  One she particularly disapproved as being a pest to other trees despite it being located in a corner away from other trees that it could not have done that much damage.  However, if Mrs GRACE did not like anything, it had to go.  The tall tree that had been in our backyards for many years, longer than any of us, was cut down by this newcomer.  Call me stupid, but I felt the pain of the tree.  Japanese believe in the spirit of nature that before we build our houses with trees, a Shinto priest is called to dedicate a prayer at the site.  The least I could do for the poor tree was sprinkle it with salt and say my prayer. 

The following morning I woke up to a sight I had never seen in the years I lived in this flat.  Hundreds of mushrooms had sprung up overnight.  The view was as chilling as ominous.  My grandmother in Japan had once spoken to me about what it meant.  Mrs GRACE had disturbed and dug up a dark spirit from the deep of the ground.  As if to prove it, a long chain of ants was spotted.  They were migrating out from our site into the next door as if to escape.  It was not long before Mrs GRACE was struck down with an illness that limited her mobility and speech.  It may have been triggered by the severe stress of her financial problem, for she had been passed over for promotion repeatedly.  According to Mrs GRACE, her way was right, and her boss was wrong.  She was behind in paying the maintenance fees of the building too, but my landlord would not pay out of his pocket to cover her again.  He had sold his apartment to a white career woman who would not be deterred by Mrs GRACE.   

It was the last I saw Mrs GRACE because I left Australia for good.  My final thought was on Belle.  When Mrs GRACE eventually recovered from the illness, she might finally mellow and allow Belle to be who she always deserved to be.  Thanks to her, my last days in Australia were not clouded with a bitter feeling towards Mrs GRACE.  My good wishes for Belle’s future and my gratitude towards Australia, the great island nation that helped me grow, were on my mind as the plane flew me out of down under.  

In 6 months, I would be on my way to Paris.   It would be more challenging than I thought, but I would learn so much as well.