All Stories, General Fiction

Orchids in the Sun by Dorothy Rice

Sadie Blankenspiel was raised without faith, which she’d always been stubbornly proud of. Pricing caskets at her brother-in-law Peter’s deathatorium, she wasn’t so sure she’d hadn’t been too hasty in giving short shrift to all that spirituality and after-life mumbo jumbo.

In her eightieth year aboard the mothership, with achy hips, estranged from her two narrow-minded children, she wondered if daughter Maribel hadn’t been right after all. What had the ungrateful girl screamed out the car window before tearing away from the house that last time? Always so dramatic. Something about her mother likely running out of time to make things right before the Grim Reaper plucked her number.

Sadie fingered the sateen lining of a glossy walnut casket. She slumped into a padded chair, clutching an alligator handbag to her saggy bosom. 

She’d hoped to have her ashes scattered over the Sea of Cortez, where she’d enjoyed such delightful idylls with Pedro, Bill, and dear old, what was his name … Francis, she thought, or was it Lonnie, the swarthy contractor who redid her hardwood floors and fixed her plumbing—before he up and decided to reconcile with his wife. How many years ago had that been? A decade, or two, or three.

Sadie sighed and slumped lower in the chair. Her children hadn’t approved of her liaisons. Maribel used to say her mother was an “embarrassment.” Sadie chortled and hummed the Cyndi Lauper tune that used to infuriate her children no end, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”, which dissolved in a coughing fit.

Now, when Sadie felt the need to put her affairs in order, no one would commit to scattering her ashes. Not her children. Not Pedro, Bill or dear old what’s his name. Hence the possible change in burial plans.

Besides, there was the question of the soul, the spirit, or what have you. If all your bits and pieces were scattered by the winds, set to drift on the sea, even, horror of horrors, roiling about in some massive, swirling garbage gyre, how on earth would whoever/whatever saw after these convoluted spiritual matters put you back together again? On the off chance there was an afterlife, Sadie wanted in on it, and she was willing to pay a fair price for it. Who wouldn’t be? She’d pinched her pennies for just this sort of eventuality.

Sadie fiddled with the metal doodad on her handbag, clicking it open and shut, then open again. She dipped pastel fingertips inside to assure herself that wallet and change purse hadn’t been magically pilfered, recalled the nicely muscled gardener pruning roses at the entrance, and rummaged for her pearl compact and favorite lipstick, Orchids in the Sun, a timeless shade of mauve. No harm in being prepared.

Sadie shuttered her eyes. 

With a sensual open-mouthed exhale—of the type usually reserved for the tropical getaways of decades past—her head lolled to one side. A rosy cheek came to rest on the burgundy pile of the high-backed armchair. Through an unseen window, a breeze fanned her cheeks. Or was she now holding a fan? Yes, yes. The delicate wood one decorated with painted palm fronds. And who was that approaching from across a white sand beach? Barefoot, with a broad, welcoming smile, white shirt tails floating on the breeze. Oh yes, yes, dear Bill, or was it old what’s his name … no matter. He reached for her hand, drew her upright, her skin warmed by the sun, their bodies touching, his hands at the small of Sadie’s back, hers beneath the solid curve of his biceps, just so … yes, yes.

And that’s how Peter the undertaker found Sadie Blankenspiel, clutching a melty lipstick. An uncharacteristically joyous, albeit stiffening, smile creased her powdered cheeks. 

Sadie was buried in the last casket she’d touched—which her children gladly paid for. She was still smiling, still grasping a well-used tube of Orchids in the Sun lipstick.

Dorothy Rice

Image: Creator: iphotographer | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto Copyright: Photo Works, Inc.

4 thoughts on “Orchids in the Sun by Dorothy Rice

  1. Hi Dorothy,
    I should hate this!!!!
    I need to see a doctor!
    …A psychiatrist at the very least!!!!
    In a strange way, you have taken everything I hate and sort of changed it.
    The title is the colour of a game old girl’s lipstick so that takes away any romantic notion.
    The mention of biceps (Torso / green eyes / as well) normally lands me somewhere that I really don’t want to go but it is the last thought of the game old girl so that’s forgiven.
    We could take this as a romance but her forgetting the last guys name takes it more into lust than angst and that did make me smile.
    I love this character – It’s just a pity that this is so short as I reckon that Sadie would have surprised us with more of her escapades and taken us on a journey that we would never forget.


  2. I think of a movie from years ago “What A Way To Go” in which Shirley MacLaine’s four husbands all die. Probably not relevant. If I were not married, my fantasy would be dying from an attractive young woman’s lust. I’m happy for Sadie. What a way to go.


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