My innocent peace shattered with the howling of an ungodly beast. At once I realized the meaning of terror. Some sort of monster had broken into the stillness of my day with an explosive and thundering roar. And the thing caught me completely off-guard.
I turned around to look. There I saw a unfamiliar shape heading straight for me. It slid and bellowed and shrieked as it came.
I unwittingly froze, and my gaze locked fast.
The creature slinked across the room, crying louder as it crept. My knees began to shake. The thing jerked once, and then it paused. It sat still, watching me as it continued to wail.
There was nothing I could do but look on in fright. Before I could think to run, the beast started at me again.
It came gliding across a polished hardwood floor, yelling madly. It clambered over a large hooked rug where it halted again for a moment before resuming its steady pace in my direction.
The distance between us shrank. The deadly noise wore out my senses. It caused any reason I possessed to vanish. It had almost reached me.
I wanted to dash away, to escape, but both legs went limp and refused to obey.
I tried taking a shaky step or two backwards, but something there blocked my path. With an outstretched hand I felt a nearby couch touching my legs, so I turned around and scrambled up on its back. I climbed in desperation, but even then I knew I had become trapped.
There was no other place to go.
My stomach went weak as I turned to face the fury of this unknown savage.
I recall screaming.
Outside in a sunlit back yard, cicadas buzzed loudly in the distance while the wind played gently in the tops of tall pine trees. Several goats chewed contentedly on lush grasses in the yard below. Bells around their necks signaled every move as they ate their way lazily about the lot. In that mid-summer of 1945 the goats had no thoughts on a war that raged half a world away. And they paid no attention to my plight either.
Back inside the two-story brick house, I sat at the top of the couch, shaking uncontrollably.
Then another movement caught my eye. At once I recognized the form of my mother. She cheerily dragged this horrid beast through the room by its long devilish snout, and it seemed to follow after her willingly.
But the sounds that thing made still haunt me to this day.
At the age of two I had met the vacuum cleaner.
Whitemarsh Island was a peaceful private place where the affluent preferred to live. A smooth blacktop road dotted with bits of broken oyster shell snaked its way quietly among palmetto and Spanish moss-laden oak, the expensive solitude set apart from the commerce and noisy bustle of nearby Savannah. It held an atmosphere of old money, salt air and stately shade. This was my first home and my only memories.