Sandra Conaty Brace: 25 Cats, 55
Conaty Brace might have appreciated a short biographical
sketch about her. After all, she herself had mastered the
55-word short story &emdash; a challenge to the most
diligent amateur writer. Mrs. Brace had published much of
her work on Web sites dedicated to the genre.
Mrs. Brace lived in Stapleton, Staten Island, and took
the 7:40 a.m. ferry across the harbor each day to her job
at Risk Insurance Solutions, where she was an
administrative assistant. She shared her house with a
husband, David, and 25 cats. Well, maybe not exactly 25.
"It's probably more," Mr. Brace said, "But I lose
Dinner for the cats always caused a minor food riot,
but even a riot can have its own poetry. Mrs. Brace
placed cat food on seven plates on the kitchen and dining
room floors. The groups of cats arrayed around each plate
formed a furry constellation of stars, with the plates at
the centers and the cats as the coronas.
On Sept. 10, Mrs. Brace, 60, took the day off from
work to do chores, fix the carpeting on the stairs that
had been torn by a cat, and watch "Judge Judy" on
television. Mr. Brace came home at 5 p.m.
He asked her: "Why don't you take another vacation day
tomorrow?" She replied, "No, I think I'll go to
"And that's what happened," Mr. Brace said. "That's