With schoolwork already piling up, I haven’t had as much time to help Dad, and that doesn’t make me happy.
The other night I finally got done studying, and I saw the light was still on in the barn, so I went down there to see if I could help.
Me (closing the creaky door behind me): Need a hand?
I smelled the pungent scent of fresh paint. Dad was working on buoys again. He was holding a brush banded with red.
Dad: Just finishing up. Do me a favor and hang this up to dry.
He passed the glistening buoy to me and I reached up and hung it from its loop on a nail driven into a rafter. He closed the paint can and put the brush in a pail of thinner and we went out. I closed the door behind us.
Dad: Already getting cold out.
I looked up to see a bat fluttering overhead, a shadow twitching across the sharp stars.
Dad (stopping to look up at the sky): I was tempted to light a fire in the woodstove.
Me: I wish I could have helped you. All that schoolwork. It just gets in the way. I’d rather be on the boat with you.
Dad kept his head turned toward the sky. A light the color of a pumpkin glowed through a window from up at the house.
The bat made a helix across the stars between the dark shapes of the trees. My eyes were adjusting to the dark. The crickets whispered to each other in a low raspy hiss, probably discussing how cold they were going to get by dawn.
Dad: You see Cassiopeia up there?
I craned my neck to look up at the sky. It was crowded with stars already. I spotted the big crooked W of five stars that formed Cassiopeia.
Dad: You know the story behind it?
Me: The story? I don’t think so.
Dad: You have to use your imagination, just the way you do with all the Greek myths. That’s what’s so great about them. Anyway, Cassiopeia was a beautiful queen—and a vain one—who bragged that she was even more beautiful than the Nereids, sea nymphs that helped sailors. This really miffed Poseidon, the god of the sea, and Poseidon sent the Kraken, a sea monster, to attack the kingdom of Cepheus, Cassiopeia’s husband. Poseidon wanted the lives of Cepheus and Cassiopeia’s own daughter, Andromeda, sacrificed to the Kraken, to make up for Cassiopeia’s boast. So they chained Andromeda to a rock on the coast to wait for the Kraken.
Me: That was nice of them. What happened next?
Dad: Along came Perseus, just after he’d beheaded Medusa. Medusa was a snake-haired woman.
Me: A snake-haired woman?
I could see Dad nod.
Dad: And if you looked at her, you turned to stone. When Perseus saw Andromeda, he fell in love, and he told Cepheus and Cassiopeia he would save their daughter if he could marry her. When the Kraken attacked, Perseus pulled out the head of Medusa, and the Kraken looked at it and turned to stone. Perseus married Andromeda, and they led a happy life.
Me: What happened to Cassiopeia?
Dad: Poseidon put her up in the heavens, still on her throne with her head pointing toward Polaris, the North Star. She revolves, so half the time she’s upside down—not quite fit for a queen.
Me: Where did you hear that story? Your dad?
Dad (chuckling): No. I read about it. In school.
He paused for second.
Dad: So, you want to head in, get out of the cold?