Sandra Conaty Brace

Sandra Conaty Brace
World Trade Center

25 Cats, 55 Words

Sandra Conaty Brace might have appreciated a short biographical sketch about her. After all, she herself had mastered the 55-word short story — 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 count."

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 work."

"And that's what happened," Mr. Brace said. "That's what happened."

Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 22, 2001.

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