It was cold grey January day, the first day of the spring semester and Cassie’s first day back to school since she went blind two and half years before.
As Marie drove into the city of Sonora, Cassie kept up her 360 degree scan out to a range of 250 yards. There were an amazing number of lousy drivers in such a small city. The unlicensed, farm workers and illegal aliens all of whom had no insurance and drove like they expected God to be next to them.
Cassie was in the fifth grade when she became blind and she would start in the second semester of the 8th grade of middle school. In the fall she expected to start her first year of high school.
Cassie had discussed what she could expect with Susie, who had become a regular visitor at their ranch. Susie had once been Cassie’s best friend, but they had to become reacquainted It was almost like meeting someone new about whom you had read a book. It had taken awhile but over the last six months their friendship had been firmly reestablished.
“We are here Nina, you got all the papers?”
“The lunch, I fixed you?”
“Si, Marie, I’ve got all of it in my book bag.”
Cassie opened the sliding door of the SUV, and pushed the button to lower the steps. She then exited the SUV using the extended steps. As soon as she was standing she turned to get her book bag and her collapsed cane.
Facing the front entrance of the school she snapped her wrist and her cane extended 36 inches in front of her. In reality her cane was a white enamel Asp Baton. With the white marking nobody would see anything but a blind person’s cane.
She scanned the area around the front of the school. She knew from Susie that things had not changed much from elementary school. There would be a troublemaker somewhere around who loved putting someone else down to make themselves looks bigger.
A bully! Boys usually were physical while girls liked to use words to do the same thing.
It did not matter to Cassie as she was no wimp. She had gone blind and had really fought back. Today she was much stronger and smarter and knew her own worth.
Tap, tap, and tap: she moved up the sidewalk toward the front entrance of the school. Her scan spotted the first suspect. A boy slowly approached the sidewalk in front of her. Cassie wondered whether it would be a shove, a foot trip, or the innocent bending down in front of her so she would trip over him.
He made his move and Cassie almost smiled. He moved with her cane as it went to the far left and he bent down to the right of the cane on his hands and knees.
Cassie came to a stop and did a polite nod of her head.
“Why think you, but kneeling is not necessary. A simple bow will do.”
She stepped forward with her right foot higher than normal and stepped onto the center of his back at his hip. Her weight hit him and he collapsed onto his face.
Almost everybody in front of the school had heard her and turned to see what was happening. She stepped off his back and with a tap, tap, tap continued into the school.
At the end of the last semester her parents had brought her to the school to meet the administration and to get familiar with the school itself. She knew the location of everyone of her classes. Though her parents worried excessively about her getting lost or falling, she herself had no such worries.
Cassie almost laughed out loud as she thought of all her ‘emergency’ equipment. There was a lot that even her parents did not know about. There was a super-sat cell phone with GPS that was always on, a 500,000 candle power flash light and her back up collapsible cane that she wore on her left forearm. Her shoes had steel toes. The dress belt she wore was almost unbreakable and could be used in a thousand ways. She also carried a pair of sure grip gloves that would never slip or slide no matter how slick the surface they were trying to grip. Yeah she could make a ninja die of envy.
She walked into her first period classroom where she was fairly early. The schedule had shown that her first period started at 8:15 and her watch said.
“The time is oh eight hundred.”
There were two students all the way to the rear of the room. Cassie moved across the room to the desk in the first row next to the windows. She scanned the black board as she seated herself.
“Mr. Johnson, American History 102 (1866 to the Present)” was written on the board. Good, she thought he did not use a projector, as long as he wrote on the board she would be able to read what he wrote.
She opened her book bag and took out her history text and a laptop computer with a scanner attached. She plugged in a headphone set with an attach microphone. Cassie also attached a micro recorder to the side of her laptop. She was ready to go. She could scan any printed material and the OCR and text to speech software would be able to read it back almost instantly.
The boys in the back had been joined by two more. They were watching her and carrying on a hushed conversation. It did seem strange, but the closer they got to the start of class and the more students who came in and found seats the quieter the class room seemed to get.
Just as the bell rang a man entered the room. He was in his early 30’s and appeared to be in great shape. He had almost zero body fat and his muscles were hard. This man would give Sensei Inoue a run for the money for being in shape.
He stood behind his desk looking out over the class, he said. “For you who do not know me, I am Mr. James Johnson. Students will address me as Mr. Johnson, not as James, Jim, or Jimmy. The only reason you are being informed of my whole name is in case someone asks you where I am or to take something to me. In case any of you are lost this class is American History 102. If this is the wrong class, take yourself to the office and inform them that you are lost.”
He paused to see if anyone left the class. Cassie almost shook her head as a student did get up to leave. “What had he been doing all the time we had waited for Mr. Johnson to arrive?” she thought.
“For you students that need textbooks we have them on the table at the rear of the Class. Go get yourself one, then line up down this aisle until you have signed for it.
“Home work will be to read chapter 1, 2, and 4 tonight. We will discuss those chapters tomorrow. Chapter 3 is redundant as everything in it is also in chapter 2 and 4.
“This being your first period class it is also you homeroom. Any time that you are told to report to your homeroom you will come here. That is one of the reasons that this class is 15 minutes longer than any other class period. Those 15 minutes are for school administration.
“The good and bad is the same for most of you. I do not send any student to detention hall.”
A quiet groan flowed through the room. Cassie looked around and 3/4 of the class members were holding their heads.
“Detention hall is a waste of time. It’s a waste for both students and the hall monitor. So if you get detention from me you will join me after school in the gym or on the track, which depends on the weather. You will be wearing your gym clothes. It just so happens that I am the football and baseball coach. Detention with me is one hour of exercise. I love to see young men and women running and one hour of running after school seems to have a detrimental effect on those things that cause detention.”
“Ms. Howard, would you please stand up.”
Cassie stood up.
“Class this is Ms. Howard. Ms. Cassandra Howard is blind. Where is your cane Ms. Howard?”
She turned and with a snap of her wrist the collapsed white enamel cane in her hand expanded to its full 36 inches length.
Mr. Johnson seemed to freeze for a moment. “Ms. Howard has been blind for almost three years and not attending school. She has, on her own, caught up with her former classmates. She has certain exemptions such as no reading or writing in class. She has a large amount of equipment that she carries with her to help her attend classes such as micro recorders, scanners and headsets. Any person interfering with or taking any of these things will be considered interfering with a person covered by the American Disability Act, a federal law. You do not want to see what befalls you if you do this. Have your seat Ms. Howard.”
“Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Wilson it’s obvious that you two have found something of immense interest so please let the rest of the class in on it.”
Two of the boys in the back stood up.
“Egh sir I would not like to add to the embarrassment of another student so if you would please let me just write you a report on what we were talking about.”
“Me too, Mr. Johnson,” Matt Wilson said.
Mr. Johnson seemed surprised and made no move for a few seconds. “Mr. Richard Jenkins that was well said, but now you have really got me and the rest of the class curious. So, no, please give an oral report at this time.”
Cassie slid deeper into her seat. She knew that this had to be about what happened out front earlier.
“Yes, sir, I was telling Matt, Egh Mr. Wilson that she might be blind but she was sure no wimp, not after she made Harry Hankins looked like a fool this morning.”
The class all turned their heads to look at her. Even Mr. Johnson did a fast peek.
“Continue Mr. Jenkins.”
“Well everybody knows Harry. He got in front of Ms. Howard and as she approached him he got down on his hands and knees right in front of her.” He started giggling.
“Then she stopped. Eh, eh, eh she nodded at Harry and said in a voice everybody out front could hear: “Why thank you but kneeling is not necessary a bow will do.” Then she stepped up on his hips and as he collapsed she stepped off of him and continued on into the school.”
The whole class burst into laughter. Mr. Johnson just stood there for a moment. “Class” Everybody shut up.
“Mr. Jenkins, Mr. Wilson I will accept a written report from the two of you tomorrow.”
“Ms. Howard that was an interesting story, could you please explain?”
Cassie stood up with her cane in her hand.
“Situational awareness sir, my Sensei has taught me to be aware of everything around me.”
With a snap of her wrist her cane expanded in front of her. She twirled and stepped forward bending at the knee with her right leg extended behind her. Her cane was pointing down and to her front from over her head and her left arm was extended in front of her. Then she moved upright once more and the cane had collapsed.
“When the boy, Harry? Moved I heard his clothes rub against themselves. I felt the air move with his movement. I also sensed the direction of his movement. The analysis of all these variables led me to the conclusion that he was playing a prank so I did not attack him.”
She bowed to Mr. Johnson and seated herself.
The teacher walked over to her. “Ms. Howard may I examine your cane.”
Cassie held the collapsed cane in the palm of both hands.
He bowed as he took it up. He turned away and with a snap of his wrist the cane expanded to its full 36 inches. Then Mr. Johnson went into a series of movements that had her cane going in a dozen directions at once. Then he returned to a fully upright position and the cane was collapsed once more. He approached Cassie.
She held her hands open palms up. He placed her cane in her hands then he bowed to her. She returned the bow.
The rest of the day was as normal as she could expect. Most of the teachers acted resigned to having her in their class. Some simply ignored her. But the students were all watching her, even the ones not in her class.
Lunch time found her meeting up with Susie in the cafeteria along with a friend of hers that Cassie had not met.
“Cassie, I’m hearing rumors everywhere. Somebody said that Harry Hankins attacked you. Another says that you picked him up and threw him into the side of the building. What happened?”
Cassie took a minute to explain what had happened when she entered the building that morning.
“Well you were lucky! Harry plays dirty. There are going to be a lot of grateful students who are pleased that he is going to be aimed at you and not them.” Susie’s friend Liza said.
“He is a real thug, he will do anything to get even if you once get ahead of him.”
“Well then I guess I better find him and give him a warning.”
“What?” Liza almost screamed.
“Oh my God, Cassie you must of finally found your family motto!”
“Hun, what are you talking about Susie?” Cassie asked.
“Well I heard my dad talking about it once. You know he has known your dad for like forever. He was telling someone that the motto tells you everything you need to know about dealing with a Howard.”
“Always give fair warning, never worry about when your enemies will die.”
Cassie shivered as those words flowed through her. For a moment she saw a battlefield with a man in armor standing on top of a hill. From the top to the bottom was nothing but dead bodies. The man on top of the hill raised his sword to the sky and lightening struck up to the heavens. She heard the words echo “I gave fair warning!”
“Cassie, Cassie, are you here? Earth to Cassie, wake up.”
She shook her head and looked around. “What?”
“Boy you were all dazed out there for a minute.”
“I’ve got to find this Harry guy.”
“Well if you have to find him he’s over in the far corner of the cafeteria.” Liza pointed across the table.
Cassie turned her vision in that direction and ‘saw’ the guy from that morning sitting huddled up at a table in the corner.
Finishing up her lunch quickly, she stood up and gathered all her things. Then she began a slow walk with her tap, tap, and tap in the direction of Harry. Susie and Liza followed one on each side at her rear.
The students in the cafeteria quieted as she got closer to Harry. More and more people noticed as a wave of silence spread out from her as she neared Harry.
Harry began to notice the gathering silence around him and looked up.
His eyes widened as he straightened up. “What the heck do you want bitch. You’re dead and don’t even know it. I always get even. Some way, somehow, I will get you.”
Cassie just stared at him for a moment.
“I am Cassandra Howly Howard. My father is richer than all the other people in West Texas combined. I could be awarded three black belts in separate martial arts anytime I wish. And you wish to make yourself my enemy? You are a fool”
“The first rule of war is, ‘know your enemy’. There are others: ‘Attack when you are strong. Retreat when you are weak. Scout the enemy, destroy his resources. Kill his allies and supporters. Attack the rear. Take the high ground. Leave nothing behind that the enemy can use’.”
“You knew nothing. Susie, tell him my family’s motto.”
“Hun? Oh yeah, the Howard family motto is.
“Always give fair warning, never worry about when your enemies will die.”
“You should have thought before you acted. I have heard of you. You have now been given fair warning. You better check with your family, they may even work for our family in one of our enterprises.”
With that Cassie turned and walked away, her cane tapping on the floor like a drum beat. Susie and Liza followed like two honor guards, one on each side and to her rear. With her vision she noticed as, one by one the students setting around Harry got up and moved away. Harry, who nobody liked, was now getting the ultimate punishment for a student. He was being ostracized.
A couple days later when Cassie got home she found her parents waiting for her. They called her into the breakfast nook. Marie took one look at the three of them and began bringing coffee and ice tea.
“Cassie I have heard some rumor that a boy attacked you at school on your first day. Your mother picked up similar rumors so what happened?”
The two of them set there waiting. Cassie waited and said only one thing. “Drinks”
Marie had them ready and two cups of coffee and a glass of iced tea appeared on the table. Cassie picked up her glass wondering just how she should explain.
“It started out as a school ground bullying except he did not get away with it and I turned the tables on him. Then the word came to me that he never gives up and he always gets even. I had turned it on him and he was the butt of jokes all over the school. I’d heard that he was making threatening noise about me.
Now I need to ask, both of you, have you noticed anything strange about me? Anything that made you think twice about something involving me?”
They looked at each other and then looked away.
“Well a few things.” Her dad said.
“Honey, are you telling me that you don’t have a few questions buzzing around in your head. Like what caused her blindness? That’s never been explained. From talks I had with your sensei you are learning physical things at an unreasonable pace. He told me that it’s like you have been training in martial arts for over 20 years. A psychologist that was used to give you your TSK test stated that your IQ was nearly 200. So yeah Cassie I’ve had questions but had no way of asking them.”
“I guess I had a few also.” Sarah said.
“Like that time in town, at the rodeo when you were able to take down two very dangerous men with no effort and that was before you had any martial arts training. Then how you take care of yourself with never a hair out of place or how every horse on this place would follow you around like a puppy dog if we let them. How you never stumble, never fall, never trip over your feet or anything else.”
Cassie sat there a few moments drinking her tea. “Marie.”
“Can I borrow that deck of cards you use to play solitaire?”
“Si, Nina.” A moment later she brought a deck of cards from the kitchen to the breakfast table.
Cassie took the cards out of the box and began to shuffle them. Then she handed them to her Dad. “Deal out three hands for Draw poker.”
“What is this about Cassie?”
“Just wait Dad, I think this is the best way to get started.”
She sat there as he dealt each of them five cards. A quick scan of her cards, face down on the table, showed that she had a pair of 6’s with three throw a-ways. She then looked at her mother’s cards. She had a queen of hearts, a jack of spades and a 10 of clubs the other two were garbage to throw away. Her Dad’s cards were a pair of 8’s the rest were garbage to throw away.
Her mom would get her cards first, and there was a 9 of hearts first then a 7 of hearts. She would have one card short of a straight. Then Cassie would be dealt a six of hearts, four of hearts and a deuce. The next three cards were a Jack, a three and an ace.
“Mom if you hold those three high cards you will get a 9 of hearts and a 7 of hearts which will not help you.”
She turned her cards over and put the 6’s to the side shoving the three throw away into the center.
“Now my three cards will be a 6, a 4 and 2 of hearts. That will give me three 6’s trips.
“Dad you will hold those 8’s and draw a jack a three and an ace. I will win. Now deal them out face up.”
Her Dad dealt the cards and they were all just as she had called them.
Her mother and dad both stared at her. “How you do that Cassie?”
She began to call the cards and had her dad deal them out after she named them.
Cassie stood up and laid her collapsed cane on the table.
She shoved her chair under the table and then started for the kitchen backdoor. She moved around Marie as she was preparing supper.
She went out the backdoor sensing her parents’ right behind her. Cassie skipped down the walkway toward the stables. As she reached the step down to the drive way her mother called from behind her.
“Cassie! Be careful.”
She jumped into the air twirled and kicked her heels together then straightened up and continued to the stables. She stopped and waited at the stable doors for her parents to catch up. Her father was paying close attention and watching her every move. Her mother had not caught on yet. She was still worried that Cassie would fall, trip or hit herself with something.
As they entered the stable, the last of the horses had stuck its head over the stall door. She walked down past each of the horses and touched their heads. Reaching the end of the stable she turned with no hesitation and returned to the front of the stable touching each of the horses on the other side.
When she stopped in front of her parents she pointed at the horses with a sweep of her hand. They were all standing sound asleep. Cassie then led her parents to the side of the stable where there was a small pile of rocks. She bent over to pick up a couple of them and reared back and began to throw them. She aimed at a fence pole about 20 yards from the rock pile.
Each of the rocks she threw hit the pole.
“I have not had a chance to try shooting a gun yet, but I bet I could hit the targets just as well if not better.”
“Dad, step back and look at the tree on the other side near the house. There is a bird on the limb to the right.”
She turned and headed back to the house. When her parents joined her at the breakfast table both, were wearing very thoughtful expressions on their face.
“How are you doing it Cassie?” Her dad asked.”
Her mother looked at her father then at her.
“What is she doing, George?”
“I’m not sure. She is still blind but it’s almost like she is not blind.”
“That is crazy George. Dr. Grey just gave her a full examination for school. He really examined her eyes, and she is still blind.”
“Yes, I am still blind. However, something happened that night my period first started. I woke up really early that morning and had to use the bathroom. When I was leaving the bathroom, I reached to turn off the lights when it hit me. I was seeing but the lights were all turned off.”
“It took me awhile to figure out that I was not really seeing. It was really scary when I looked around seeing everything but when I looked at a mirror I saw nothing except a blank mirror. I cannot see any digital read out. I can’t see anything that is emitting light such as LED and light bulbs and the sun, no colors and nothing that is reflected. In other words, I cannot see anything that is direct light or reflected light.”
“That means the dark does not affect what you can see?”
“That is right, Dad. I can see what material is different from surrounding material. I found that with concentration I can barely see ink on paper and chalk on chalk boards.”
“I can see in a 360 degrees circle with me in the center of the circle out to about 200-250 yards. I can concentrate and narrow the vision down to about a 10 degrees and out to about 2 miles. And I can see through anything I want to see through.”
“Then there is the water Tiny drilled for! I changed the maps he used. I had spotted that underground river at about 1200 yard deep. So I marked it on the map I gave Tiny.”
“Mom when I went blind? I was setting outside thinking about how poor some of my classmates were. I was daydreaming and imagining what their homes were like. It was like I was looking directly at them, then it expanded I was seeing everything, everywhere in the world. I saw earthquakes, storms, fires, murders and robberies. I was seeing things that no 10 year old should ever see. I could not close my eyes and make it go away. With my eyes closed I could still see everything.”
“I think I burnt out my vision centers trying to make those visions go away. Now, for the last year or so, I have had this new way of seeing. I think it similar to those visions I was having at 10.”
“Oh my God Cassie, why did you keep it a secret from us?” Her mother gathered her in her arms.
“Well, how could I explain it when I had no idea what was happening. We had just gone through like a year and a half of testing. Now something new and I knew if I mentioned it, it would be back to the hospitals for more testing.”
“Honest truth mom, if something new was not happening I would still not have mentioned it.”
“Something new?” Her dad asked.
“Yeah, I had a confrontation at lunch in the cafeteria with that boy Harry Hankins.”
“Hankins, Hankins?” Her Dad seemed to contemplate that name for a minute.
“Yeah turns out he is one of those people that just will not give up. He constantly looks to get even. The other person is always at fault. Susie and her friend Liza told me he bullies everybody and if you get him, he never stops trying to get back at you. He would keep accelerating. Some of the kids think he has actually killed some of their pets.”
“I said something to the effect that I needed to give him a warning. Then Susie said something like Oh, you mean like your family motto. I did not know what she meant. Then she told this story about overhearing her dad tells someone that to understand you, they needed to know our family motto. Then she told me. It was almost like she was reading it.”
“Family motto, what is that Cassie?” her mom asked.
Her father sat up straight in his chair.
“Always a fair warning give, then worry not where your enemy dies.”
“When she quoted that a cold chill flowed through me. I saw a vision of a man in armor standing on top of a hill. From the peak to the base was nothing but dead men. The man in armor raised his sword to the heavens and lightening went from the sword up to heaven. A voice spoke. ‘I gave fair warning!’ and then it went away.”
“I knew then I had to face that kid, Harry Hankins. Well Liza must have seen him as she pointed toward him across the cafeteria in the far corner.”
“We finished our lunches and I gathered my things up and headed toward him. When I got to the corners he started a lot of trash talk like ‘you’re dead you bitch. You are dead and don’t even know it yet.’”
Cassie’s dad’s eyes tightened and she could see his muscles clenching.
“That little son of a bitch, I will pull the hair out of his head. I will kick his ass from here to Dallas. George let’s go I want to see that family right now.”
“Gently, Sarah, let’s hear the rest of this story.”
“Well I am afraid I did some trash talking myself then. I told him that my Dad was the richest man in this part of Texas. That my Sensei had told me I could be awarded black belts in three different martial arts anytime I wanted.”
I grinned “Then I said, and you want to be my enemy?”
“I quoted some of the things I have found on the internet, like ‘know your enemy, if he is superior retreat, if he is inferior attack, if he has allies and supporters then kill them. Attack from the rear, destroy the enemy resources, take the high ground, attack from ambush.’ Then I had Susie repeat our family motto and when she was through I told him. ‘I have given fair warning.’ We turned and walked away. Susie and Liza follow me like honor guards.”
Her dad had his head down resting in his hands.
“Our name was not originally Howard. We were Scottish, from one of the highland clans. I don’t even know which clan today. Our family left Scotland in the late 1600’s because there were too many feuds; feuds that we never seemed to lose. Over the years so many septs and families lost to us that we were hated by all.
“We gave up our name. We gave up our clan, sept and family in fact. But our motto was bred into us blood and bones.
“Now my only child has come into her birth right. ‘All else money, lands and property will be yours but your blood will hold it all.’”
My thanks to Grumpybear for his editing and proofing help. But the final results are mine and all criticism should be loaded onto my shoulders.
© Virgil Lee Fuqua III and vlfouquet.wordpress, 2008-2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vlfouquet and Virgil Lee Fuqua III with appropriate and specific direction to the original contents