Essays

Cassadaga

gloria cassadaga road

By Susan Lilley

When the clutch pops on the cemetery hill, I ask for directions and find out they don’t like to be called fortune-tellers. And here is the low, vine-swallowed cottage of the oldest practicing medium, the most revered. Through crackly intercoms, his voice leads me to a room full of Seminole arrowheads and jagged, uncut gemstones, dusty in the bars of afternoon light.

He is sitting up in bed, plaid blanket like a boy’s over his useless legs, his large hand open. What do you give someone who must hold one thing saturated with your being? My mother’s old scarab watch or keys that jangle next to my thigh? It is my first time, I say; he cages the watch in his fingers like it is the wrist bone of a saint, touching the jewel-colored beetles one at a time. The room grows hot and azaleas purple up the window. He lies back to consult his advisors, the first people of this land. Better than the recent dead, he says, these Indians can size up three centuries all at once.

But how would they find me, a bit of froth on top of a thousand-layer cake? So far in my twenty years, no one has ever spoken about me for 45 unbroken minutes.

God, it’s boring. He catches contrails of voices swirling by his head, greetings from dead relatives. He reveals that since my dad has quit smoking, his life will be longer now. Longer than what?

I fidget while he warns me about the fearsome heaven of young motherhood and some kind of fall from grace. I cannot wait to get in the car and drive home fast, throwing his truth out the window in handfuls. He catches me smirking, even with his eyes closed. He says, It’s all coming.

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Note: Cassadaga is a spiritualist camp established outside Deland, Florida in the late 1800’s.

Originally published in Tiger Tail. 

9 replies »

  1. In My early twenties I went to Cassadaga as a total skeptic. With out going into too much detail, the medium told me some I knew had died. I told her that my uncle had past away. She said no that wasn’t the person. A week later a friend of mine came by m uh apartment to visit. I was working as a construction worker at Disney and wanted to get a mutual friend of ours a job with me. He looked at me with a cold look and told me he had died a few weeks ago. He died on the operating table, a young man in his early 20’s. I started to lose my skepticism that day.