Susan's Voice

Delmonicos, short prose by Susan Lilley

Here at The Gloria Sirens, we get to celebrate the successes of our sister writers. Today it’s Siren Susan Lilley’s turn. Her short-short story (essay? prose poem?), “Delmonicos,” won honorable mention in the 2014 Gulf Coast Barthelme Prize, and is now available to read online. Dive in to the sweet, stubborn smell of Old Florida, where the grand old ladies “had their own language” and “never seemed lonely.”



Susan Lilley

They are dying out, the grand old ladies of Florida, along with the citrus fortunes long spent and the orange blossoms that crowned their heads when they were beauty queens. Their graves wear flowers they called hydrangelas and spear lilies. They had their own language. In widowhood they traveled. When my grandmother went to Europe she had her hair done once and did not touch it for weeks. She might go up to Atlanta or down to Miamah for a funeral or a wedding, but would never board a plane to Chicargo. They were generous. They donated regularly to the Starvation Army and gave their maids and cooks old cocktail dresses and camellia cuttings, avocados, kumquats, and tangerines from the yard.

Some were teetotalers. Cousin Grover-Nell would order a Beefeater martini straight up only above the Mason-Dixon line. But my Granny and great-aunts blithely picked up fifths of bourbon with their delmonicos and maraschinos and long cartons of Benson & Hedges every week in the queenly light of high noon, fussing at the bagboy to stow everything just so in the back of Granny’s Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight. They never seemed lonely. They loved gaudy costume jewelry and kept the real stuff in a safe. They sat at white and gold French Provincial dressing tables and patted their necks and shoulders with giant powder puffs. They wore slinky negligees into their 80s and read racy Hollywood exposés until three in the morning. Aunt Mary Belle trained her poodle to sit in a highchair and smoke cigarettes. Granny talked to faces she saw in the coquina-swirled walls of her bedroom. They attended thousands of cocktail parties. They sent elegantly signed checks to their grandchildren for birthdays, and at fancy restaurants they taught us girls to order Shirley Temples and lobster tails against our parents’ wishes. If we wore denim in their presence, they moaned that we looked like field hands.

Then a few springs ago my own mother died…

–Read the end of this magical piece here.


2 replies »

  1. Susan, this is lovely. My grandmother lived a simpler life, but her younger sister, Lily, married a man with an RC cola franchise and she lorded over a small Carolina town all her days. She even changed her name to Lillian because she thought it was more gentrified.


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