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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)

TITLE: Cats Own Us
By Virginia Lee Bliss


In mid November the girls went to the Sandberg home for dinner. Rosalie had gone ahead to help her mother. Violet, Peggy and Gail took the bus from the nurses’ residence on Pilgrim Road to Boston’s Brighton neighborhood.

With Peggy as navigator they found their way through the maze of quaint streets in the Aberdeen area of Brighton.

Their high heels clicked on the street, as they had used the occasion to dress up. They came to the Georgian Revival townhouse on Sutherland Road, where Herr Professor and Frau Sandberg lived with Rosalie’s little brother Joshua.

“My little friends, it is so good to see you!” cried the Professor. “You honor us with your presence.”

The girls could not imagine their professors at the nursing school being “honored” by the presence of first year nursing students.

Violet was surprised by the youthful appearance of the couple. But after all, Rosalie was their first child and not yet 21. They might be no older than their early 40s.

Herr Professor had medium brown hair—considerably lighter in color than his daughter’s---and blue eyes. He wore rimless glasses and was not bad looking either.

Frau Sandberg had coloring similar to Rosalie’s and looked like her daughter. Or is it the other way around? thought Violet.

Joshua was an extraordinarily good looking boy of ten with black curly hair, dark eyes and fair skin.

Frau Sandberg invited them to into the living room. “We are so happy that Rosalie has made such wonderful friends at Puritan Hospital. She has told us so much about each of you.”

Violet seated herself on the plush second hand sofa. She noticed today’s Boston Post on the coffee table opened to a page seven story describing the latest Nazi decree, this one barring Jews from obtaining passports.

The Sandbergs had fled Germany a few months earlier---in May 1937---after the Professor had spent six weeks in Dachau.

“Violet, would you like some juice?” asked Rosalie.

“Oh!---I was just thinking what a nice living room you have,” said Violet.

Rosalie smiled. “We do our best.”

“She means that it is not so grand as in Berlin,” explained her father.

Violet recognized Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata emitting from the second hand console radio phonograph. On top of the console was a photograph of the family outside their elegant Berlin residence.

Joshua sat in a burgundy arm chair sipping his juice, stroking a large golden yellow tiger cat with amber eyes.

“That’s a very handsome cat,” remarked Violet. “What is his name?”

“Kuba,” answered the boy.

“I—don’t know that name,” said Violet.

“It is a diminutive of Jakob,” explained the Professor. “Jakob is the name of Joshua’s friend who is still in Germany.”

Rosalie announced that dinner was served.

Although the apartment lacked a dining room, an alcove adjacent to the living room provided a pleasant ambience for dining.

The meal started with a small salad. Sauerbraten, boiled potatoes and red cabbage followed. Violet noticed that even the boy drank juice, not milk.

Gail said, “Professor, please tell us about your work at Boston College.”

“I am a medical bacteriologist. I teach introductory and advanced courses. I also do a little bit of research on prevention of the spread of infection.”

“Professor, your ‘little bit’ of research is published in The American Journal of Bacteriology,” said Peggy.

“My young friend, you are----well informed.”

“My cousin Patrick O’Malley is taking your course, Principles of Infection."

“Patrick is a fine student.”

When everyone had finished the main course, Frau Sandberg and Rosalie served coffee and apfelkuchen. No milk or cream was offered.

“I would get fat if I came here too often,” sighed Gail as they ate the apfelkuchen.

“I never thought I would need to cook,” said Frau Sandberg. “But my mother said I must learn because I might have to teach the servants one day. Servants! Little did I expect!

“But I do not miss having servants. Here, I am free. I can do what I like. Cooking and keeping house is a joy now. And shopping at the market. I can buy meat, vegetables, just anything."

“And Joshua is so happy,” added the Professor. “Of course boys do not like to go to school. But after school he can ride his bicycle, listen to the radio, play baseball in the park with his friends.”

“And own a cat!” cried Joshua.

“Joshua, cats own us!” replied Violet.

Everybody laughed.

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Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood05/10/07
I really enjoyed this story! Great realistic dialogue and specific descriptions--I could see everything and almost taste the exotic foods.
The characters all came to life--even the orange cat!

I loved the unusual title, which sparked my curiosity right away. Wondered for awhile what this story had to do with cats, but that bit of dialogue near the end explained it perfectly!
Sherrie Jackson05/10/07
Great job! I forgot to tell you that I have a friend named Patrick O'Malley. :-)
Benjamin Graber05/11/07
Good job bringing this story to life...
dub W05/11/07
Very well presented. A quick note or two, watch how many speech tags are used (he said). Also, try to show us, rather than tell us.
In all, this essay has merit, although the hint was there, I wonder how many other readers will realize it was Jewish family, other than the father's prison time and the milk discussion (twice) it was hidden, and in this essay, that was a great idea.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge05/12/07
Enjoyable read, easy to visualize the descriptions. Your weaving hints that they're Jewish, I felt, was groundwork for some revelation, conflict, or surprise ending. So, for me the ending was flat. With such vivid characters, the possibilities for expanding your story are limitless.
Jan Ackerson 05/14/07
Love the title (I'm a cat person) and this little slice-of-life. You made these people very real.
Jeffrey Snell05/14/07
Subtly-handled microcosm of the Nazi-Jew tension. Well done.
Betty Castleberry05/14/07
An entertaining read. As others have mentioned, this has "clues" throughout. I did think the ending could have used a little punching up, but it was a good piece. It held my attention throughout.
Joanne Sher 05/14/07
Great detail and sense of place. I agree with punching up the ending, but this was a very strong piece otherwise.