Cassie Says

by Gwenda Bond

I’m leaning against the kitchen counter drinking a glass of water when Dad comes in wearing one of his silly golfing outfits. He nods at me, then opens the closet and wheels out his bag of clubs.

"Dad, you look tragic," I tell him. "It’s like a Shakespearean tragedy writ in polyester. That’s why playing golf is ridiculous. Because when you wear a tragedy? You become a tragical comedy."

Dad’s going through a midlife crisis, which isn’t surprising, since he’s, well, midlife and teaches history to bored college students. His jackets have corduroy–freaking patches on the sleeves, for god’s sake.And Mom is a rock star, off exhuming remains in Athens half the time and being interviewed on the National GeographicChannel — sexy if you’re a professor, apparently. So he took up golf. Golf. I don’t get it.

"My daughter the fashion plate." He laughs, and continues to futz around with his clubs. "Cassandra, hold this for me."

It’s only the teachers in my life, including my parents, who insist on calling me Cassandra. He hands me one of his clubs, and I dutifully take it.

The vision happens as soon as I touch the metal.

Storm clouds swim across the sky with violent speed. Lightning strikes near Dad’s feet, too near. He’s soaked with rain, but running, running hard enough that he doesn’t look up; he doesn’t hear it coming until the roar seems morelike a sound effect than reality.

The funnel cloud swirls like water going down a drain. It’s right there, diving toward him and the soggy green of the golf course. He gasps for breath, even though the wind is all around him. . .

I drop the club. It bashes his foot.

"Are you trying to kill me?"

He’s still playing around. It didn’t hurt that much. Not like what’s going to happen to him.

"Dad, you shouldn’t go, okay? It’s going to. . .storm. A bad one."

"Honey, what are you talking about? It’s a perfect day outside. So perfect it’s cliché." He twirls a golf club in his palm, still looking at me, and I know he’s dying to turn his attention backto arranging his beloved steel sticks in their overpriced leather case.

"Just don’t go today. I have a bad feeling." And you’ll die, I add in my head, but there’s no point telling him that.

He picks up the club I dropped and looks at me, shaking his head. His eyes are sad.

"You and your feelings, Cassandra. I’ll be fine. Not a cloud in the sky."

No one ever listens to me, especially not my parents.

Dad pecks my forehead on his way to the front door. I follow him outside, determined to stop him from leaving. I will throw myself in front of the car, if necessary.

My brother Hel stands in front of us on the sidewalk. His head tilts back, mouth open as if he’s tasting rain. Dad’s right. The sky is cloudless and baby boy blue.

"Dad," Hel says, "You better go back inside. Bad storm’s coming."

Hel snaps his head down to look at Dad, not bothering with so much as a glance at me. I attempt to shoot killing rays of death from my pupils into his brain.Why couldn’t I have been born with some useful talent like that? You know, instead of the curse.

A cliché perfect day. And Dad behaves predictably. He doesn’t trouble to ask how Hel knows — no doubt filling in the blank with the advice of some overly–coiffed weatherman.No, he just waits for Hel to come inside, holding open the door. When Hel passes me, he smirks. They leave me outside to wait for the rain.

So I don’t want to hate my brother, but I sort of have to.

* * * * *

A rational person would assume that my mother and father actually despise my brother. Why else would they have named their son Helenus? My name, on the other hand, is beautiful. Cassandra. Cassie.You try being Helenus, née Hel, on a playground somewhere sometime. Not the funnest.

My parents aren’t rational though, outside their careers. They study ruins and Greek poetry and cluck their tongues at how risqué the gods were back in the ancient world. They live for the comboof dust and books, the curlicues of forgotten alphabets. So they christened us after a set of unlucky twins, fraught twins, twins who knew things they shouldn’t: Cassandra and Helenus.

They were the kids of the king and queen of Troy. When they were babies, two snakes stuck darting, black tongues into their ears in the temple of Apollo. Their parents were out drinking and forgot them there.The tongue bath gave both twins the gift of prophesy.

But plots thicken. When she got older, Cassandra told Apollo no way was she having sex with a nasty, pervy, old god like him. He cursed her. She was still a prophetess, but no one would ever listen to her.No one would believe her warnings, no matter how true they were. It got worse from there.

And, of course, Helenus got to be all famous and respected, even though he wasn’t nearly as gifted as Cassandra.

Hel and me, we’re in the same fix. I haven’t been able to figure out why. All I know is I’m on a path that ends up nowhere pretty, with no way in sight to slip the bonds of this surly bullshit.

The huge storm hit an hour later. A couple of counties over, it threw a funnel cloud that killed a mobile home park’s worth of people. The golf course is nearby, but was untouched. And Dad’s fine.

Even I can’t trust what I see sometimes.