It is well known, though seldom said, that the people who most often say “In my day…” are usually the ones with the least valuable experience to share. Mary-Ellen Rothschild is most definitely one of those people. If your most common practice in life is to measure the changes between then and now, how can you ever enjoy yourself presently? It is on this basis that we join Mrs. Rothschild in her Naples condo on the morning of the day she would die.
Upon rising every day, Mary-Ellen Rothschild would slip into her matted terrycloth sandals and shuffle into her bathroom to begin her morning beauty regiment. After a shower so hot some might suggest she died years ago from daily blanching, she would brazenly step in front of her 8 foot, bare-bulbed vanity mirror completely nude, and perch on her closest life-long companion: the powder pink upholstered stool that she swears to this day she bought for a bargain from Cher’s road manager back in ’79. Her first husband loved it, her second never noticed, but now that she was all on her own it was the one piece of furniture she relied on to set her at the perfect height to drown her wrinkles in pore reducing oils, creams, masks, and some ill-gotten gels from deep in the orient (she had surreptitiously stocked up in 92…)
After slipping into her threadbare silk robe, she would saunter into her kitchen to mix a mimosa at her heavily mirrored bar. The kind of people that drink first thing in the morning are typically those who don’t, wont, and never will need to work a day in their lives. Her first husband saw to that, her second didn’t hurt. It becomes apparent within just a few minutes near Mrs. Rothschild that though she is very learned in the ways of etiquette, the true philosophy of being a lady entirely escaped her – or maybe it was that Staten Island never left her either.
The day was one of those impeccably enjoyable days where most anyone of any emotional stability would be happy to just see the sky. In the bubbly wake of her second mimosa, Mary-Ellen decided she should mosey down to the club house and shamelessly ogle Mr. Caphrey’s caddy who, at the delectable age of 26, was also a local fitness instructor. As was her custom in the many years of her life, pageantry was a necessity of her position in life and marriage. She was the type of woman that would wear multiple patterns together, and chose hats that even the most pompous Kentucky Derby attendees wouldn’t dare perch on their heads.
After slipping into her royal blue dress and putting on her horn rimmed glasses she climbed into her Cadillac and drove all of .2 miles to the covered veranda and valeted her car – though never tipped. When she arrived, the entire staff would let out a collective grunt of displeasure. She was notorious for all of the plethora of minute annoyances that only a tactless brute could possibly commit repetitiously. She was notorious for making her presence known by demanding service from any member of staff that would happen to be near enough to hear her shrill “Excuse me!”
As always, only the most senior staff members were allowed to cater to her every whim – which usually included a never-ending well of margaritas with more fruit garnish than anything else, and martinis dirtier than the Chicago River. Though the hostess always tried to seat her away from the other guests so she wouldn’t be a nuisance, Mrs. Rothschild had different ideas. The perfect view of the driving range was the north end of the patio. From there, she could discretely pull the sports binoculars from her purse and eye-molest Mr. Caphrey’s caddy while she sipped her cocktails. His muscular arms pulling tight the cuffs on his standard issue polo. Being that it was Monday, he was giving lessons to the kids of the members of the club.
She was lucky to have never been caught staring by the caddy himself, and though she never even knew his name, she had elaborate fantasies about their vacations to Paris and the Mediterranean coast. It was the best part of her day, without a doubt. He motioned for his students to step back and watch his follow-through and proper backswing form. He braced the grip and stood firmly over the ball and drew back the driver pulling tight every thread of his maybe-too-tight polo shirt and cracked down the club sending the ball smacking right into the steel support beam of the awning the club put up earlier that year. The few young girls in the students screeched and ducked as the ball came flying backwards and clear into the sky.
Mary-Ellen let out a hearty laugh and heads turned on the patio. She cleared her throat self-consciously and sipped her martini again. Just as everyone turned back to their tables and rolled their eyes, Mrs. Rothschild put the binoculars back up to her eyes. Just then, reeling at terminal velocity out of the sunlight came the ball… It crashed right into her head. Now, there is a measure of discrepancy as to how the rest of the afternoon came to pass, but the coroner’s office released an official statement to the members of the golf club. It explained, in short, that with sudden blunt force trauma to the skull, a piece of Mrs. Rothschild’s skull was sent spinning into her brain. It also explained how most commonly, sudden brain damage causes instant paralysis, and being that most of Mrs. Rothschild’s time was spent pinioning her weight on chairs or couches, there was nowhere for her to fall, really.
She sat still and silent with a pair of binoculars up to her eyes, a martini on her patio table, and an eerily pleased smirk on her face for most of the afternoon until Beatrice, the patio waitress, requested rather tersely that Mrs. Rothschild pay her tab before they closed the club house for the evening.
It’s not that no one wouldn’t miss her – it was just that no one could possibly know who on Earth it could be that would. Being that there was no next of kin, and no way of disseminating any news of her passing since she had long since lost touch with anyone related to her by blood or marriage, there was an auction of her things a few weeks later. The entire Victorian era feel of her home was dismantled piece by piece and appraised. Her heavily toted Charles Eastlake and Augustus Pugin were all found to be forgeries of the weakest breed, the art; all prints. In the end the most valuable piece of furniture, supported by photographic evidence and later a letter of authenticity, was a small powder pink upholstered stool that sat in her bathroom: it belonged to Cher, but went mysteriously missing sometime in 1979.