by Nancy Ludmerer
In a Florida hospital, I peel navel oranges to mask the smell of death. I sing dad’s favourite: “Gonna sit right down and write myself a letter.” As a girl, I’d pictured him, young, besotted, writing endearments in florid penmanship, pretending his sweetheart (mom?) had written the sweet words.
Retired to Florida a decade ago, widowed, he’d send Cara Cara oranges every December to Boys Town, the Doe Fund, me — lonely souls back North.
Now I sit beside his lifeless form, white-sheeted. Neither of us has anywhere to go. I sort through his mail, which he’d asked me to bring that morning. Ralph’s Orange Groves has written: “Did you forget your orders this year, Morris?”
Should I tell them?
“It was time,” the doctor says, stopping by to express his regrets. But the doctor didn’t know him. None of them did: not the kindest nurses, the cheerful receptionist, the jaunty mortician wandering the halls saying, “Hopefully you’ll never need me, but just in case.” None had heard him sing.
None had tasted those oranges, skin burst, dripping with juice.
Except, of course, Ralph.
“Dear Ralph,” I begin.