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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Pet (05/15/08)

TITLE: Tam and Cora
By Virginia Lee Bliss


“Violet, will ye’ fetch the sugar, lass.”

Mama rolled out dough and lined a tart pan, then filled it with apples that Violet had peeled and sliced, mixing them with sugar and ginger, marmalade and a wee bit of orange peel.

When the tart was in the oven, Mama cleaned the trout Jimmy had caught after school, and Violet shredded kale and peeled potatoes.

“Aye, an’ will ye’ set aside some fish for the wee kitties, lass,” said Mama.

Mama set the table with the white linen tablecloth she had brought from Scotland and the colorful pottery which, wrapped in the tablecloth, had miraculously survived the voyage.

It was Friday and no school tomorrow for Violet and her brothers, Alex and Hamish (“Jimmy”).

October sunshine streamed through the windows creating long late afternoon shadows. Tam, the golden yellow tiger cat, had mastered the art of climbing up the window, catching the narrow panes with his feet, his amber eyes sparkling with mischief. Cora, his sweet Angora calico queen, watched him from the window seat, her emerald eyes glowing with devotion to her prince.

“Aye, an’ Scotland in autumn was never so beautiful,” said Mama. “It’s as if the forest was afire.”

“It’s the sugar maples, Mama,” explained Alex. Alex was studying biology in high school and planned to be a doctor.

Faither and Mama had come from Lockerbie, Scotland in early 1912 to New York State’s Mohawk Valley. Barely nineteen, Mama gave birth to Alex just months after their arrival, Jimmy a year later, and Violet in 1917.

The Lindsays were Scots Episcopalian and kept many of the ways of the “auld faith”. Fish on Friday, celebrations at Christmas----and music.

After dinner, Faither got out his fiddle, and Mama sat at the piano. Faither sang bass, Alex baritone, Jimmy tenor, and Violet at age twelve, already an alto like her mother. Tam and Cora sang soprano.

“Oh ye'll tak' the high road
and I'll tak' the low road,
An' I'll be in Scotland ‘afore ye',
But wae is my heart until we meet again
On the Bonnie, bonnie banks
O' Loch Lomond.”

The Lindsays loved poetry and Violet had been named after the Scottish poet, Violet Jacob. Tonight Faither read from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

“He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.”

Violet knew he was thinking of the wee kitties, and Tam and Cora seemed to know this too, and smiled their wise cat smiles.

Hugging her hot water bottle, Violet climbed into bed and pulled the feather down quilt over her. Enveloped in Tam and Cora’s purring, she drifted off to sleep.


“Vi! Wake up!”

Violet looked about her. She was in the student nurses’ study room. Her friend and classmate Peggy Crimmins was shaking her gently.

“And haven’t ye’ been dreamin’ now!” said Peggy. Peggy’s lilting Irish brogue resembled Mama’s burr.

Slowly, Violet brought herself back to the present. It was October 1937 and she was twenty years old, a first year student nurse at Puritan Hospital in Boston.

“Peggy! I dreamed that it was October 1929. I was home with my parents and---.”

“Vi, sure and it could not have been October of ‘twenty-nine.”

“I know, Peggy. I----“

She had told Peggy about the rainy night in September 1929. She had been home sick with a cold, while the rest of the family visited friends. A drunken reveler crashed his car into the family Ford, killing the four Lindsays.

Then the dreadful years in Ohio, living with the only kin in America that could be found—Lizzie Oakes, a distant cousin of her mother and her drunken husband Willie.

But why now, among good friends and a promising career before her, was she haunted by childhood memories?

“Whatever happened to Tam and Cora? I can’t remember. I couldn’t take them with me to Ohio.”

“Vi,” said Peggy gently. “The wee kitties would be livin’ no longer even if—if…..”

“Peggy! When we graduate from nursing school and get jobs and an apartment, what do you think will be the first things I’ll buy?”

“Tell me!”

“A golden yellow tiger Tom with amber eyes. And a sweet calico Angora with emerald eyes to be his queen.”

“But wae is my heart until we meet again
On the Bonnie, bonnie banks
O' Loch Lomond.”

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This article has been read 776 times
Member Comments
Member Date
terri tiffany05/22/08
This would make a great book! Great dialogue and pace!
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/24/08
This tale of an earlier day is very well told with excellent description.
Glynis Becker05/26/08
Great job with the dialogue. I got a little confused on the jump from one time to another, but enjoyed this very much!
Joanne Sher 05/26/08
Just beautiful - love the atmosphere and the beautiful dialog and setting of this piece. I could see this expanded to book length. Wonderful.
Joshua Janoski05/26/08
I loved the Scottish flavor sprinkled throughout this piece. Thank you for sharing.
Debbie Wistrom05/26/08
Touching and well done. I enjoyed the bits of history thrown in as well.
Jan Ackerson 05/27/08
Excellent dialect! I enjoyed this very much.
Karen Story06/01/08
This could be the beginning of a book in my opinion. I loved how I could hear them. You are good girl. Keep it up!