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Boldo's Honor

A life for a life

By J. S. WadePublished 10 months ago Updated 10 months ago 15 min read
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1941- Dallas

Blue and gold crepe streamers danced from the gym's rafters and overlooked the teenagers on opposing sides below. Boys in blue jeans and plaid button-down shirts congregated near one wall and leered across the polished hardwood at the girls.

Innocent-eyed girls in pattern dresses, bobby socks, and pony-tailed headbands waited for the soon-to-come onslaught. The local swing band played Glenn Miller's latest hit, Chattanooga, Choo, Choo.

The battle had begun. Bobby, a senior, pushed up his black-framed glasses, broke from the timid pack, and marched across the abandoned floor. His eye was on Susan Perkins, who giggled with her friends. She was aware of the incoming charge but remained calm. Bobby stopped in front of her. Susan's friends wilted into the background as the spotlight isolated the one-on-one challenge before her.

"Susan Perkins, would you like to dance," Bobby fired a volley and offered her his hand.

Susan glanced to the left and right and realized she was on her own. With doe-like eyes that could melt an Ogre, she volleyed back.

"Yes, Bobby, but not too close," she said.

The 1941 Monument High School Spring dance started as a battle but turned into a treaty of marriage five months after they graduated. An unassailable bubble of romance surrounded them with their first dance. Love blossomed like the yellow roses of summer to the reds of Christmas. Their wedding date was December 6th, 1941, one day before the attack on Pearl Harbor.


2005 - Dallas

Bob woke with a start, bolted up in bed, and heaved for air.

"Damn it, I forgot my CPAP machine again. Suzy's going to be angry," he said.

He turned to the empty side of the bed that lay untouched and silent. Except for World War II, in sixty-four years of marriage, they had never been apart a single night until the past week. Fear fettered his emotions as her absence screamed loudly in his mind.

Two children, four grandchildren, and a long career with the U.S. Postal Service had led them to this moment to fulfill their lifelong dream of retirement. Foremost on their list was the long-promised tour of Europe they had planned for decades. World War II fundamentally changed Bob, but Suzie's patience and love restored the core of his nature with time. His Purple Heart medal was long forgotten, but a limp forever remained. Now, his partner and love of his life lay deathly ill in the hospital, the victim of a stroke. The European tour would have to wait. Bob Jr. would arrive today from Atlanta to lend much-needed moral support. He understood his father would struggle with his fear of the future.

Bob had showered, dressed, and tried to read the newspaper as the sun broke over the horizon. Hospital visitation wouldn't start for an hour, and he suffered through each tick-tock of the mantle clock. "Where are you, Junior?"

A high-frequency hum, like a horsefly, sounded in the distance and created dissonance with the harmony of the dawn. Bob stepped onto the front porch, enamored by flyovers from planes and helicopters that crossed the airspace above his house.

In the distance, a red flash caught his eye as the buzzing came closer and louder. He didn't believe in aliens, but his mind became muddled at the possibility when a gray eight-legged machine dropped from the sky and hovered above the front steps. Bob had read about drones but had never been close to one.

The red strobe turned green as the drone's undercarriage door retracted and lowered a fair-sized box to the step. The door closed, and the drone shot into the sky and disappeared into the amber of the rising sun.

Perplexed, Bob stared at the unlabeled box and observed the nosy widow Riley from next door peeking out her side window. Eliminating his unwelcome audience, he lifted the box and limped into the house.

The microwave-sized box slipped in his hands as the contents shifted. Something thumped against the sides from the interior, and he dropped it on the kitchen table like it would burn his hands.

Curious and cautious, he pulled a steak knife from a counter rack, carefully slit the top, and stepped back. The top flap pushed up and fell back into its place. The box shifted on the table, and a white with black paw thrust through the seam. Less fearful, Bob stepped closer as the Tuxedo cat poked through the two flaps and announced its presence with a long meow.

"My goodness, who would send us a cat? Is this a sick joke? Who would deliver a cat with a machine? A cat? The postal service would never have delivered this, much less accepted a live animal for shipping," he said.

The Tuxedo sprung from the box onto the table and hissed in contempt.

"Hey bud. Don't blame me. I didn't do this," he said. The irritated feline arched its back and hissed at him when he stepped closer. He read the name tag on her blue collar, Bella.

"Hello, Bella. I'm Bob."

The aged feline jumped from the table, explored the kitchen, settled on the counter by the sink, and meowed. Bob pulled a bowl from a cabinet, filled it with water and set it beside Bella. She lapped up the water.

"I bet, besides being agitated, you are thirsty," Bob said.

Upon inspection, the interior of the box was clean, and an envelope lay on the bottom addressed to

Sgt. Bob Turner, U.S. Army

"You couldn't have travelled far, there's no mess," he said to his guest, opened the envelope, and removed a single sheet of white paper. Bold calligraphic handwriting filled the middle of the page.


Sgt Turner,

Take Bella to your wife.

O viata pentru O viata.



Bob's heart accelerated, and his breath grew short as a sixty-year-old memory, long forgotten flooded his mind. He dropped into the kitchen chair and tried to make sense of this odd interruption to his morning. Bella jumped onto the table, lay down facing him, and purred.


1945 - Berlin

Explosions scattered my wearied platoon as we met resistance from a German rear guard unit. Our enemy retreated toward the bombed-out city of Berlin, where they would soon surrender. In the dark of night, separated from my unit, a scream drew my attention to the remnants of a barn. The deterioration of all structures was common in the war-torn land, but a woman's scream was not. Glimmers of light leaked through the barn's cracks, and I belly-crawled to the closed door. A multi-colored wagon blocked my view, and I slid left for a better angle. Two German soldiers stood over a woman with a torn blouse exposing her breasts. Her long, raven black hair was strewn with straw. Blood trickled from her nostrils, over her lips and down her chin. Terror competed with hatred from her black olive pupils as she kicked her dirty bare feet in defiance. A young black-haired man, tied to the wagon's rear wheel, cried out, "Lino. LINO!" and fell limp against the ground.

The Romani people, also called Roma and Travelers, were persecuted, murdered, and interred in work camps by the Nazis. Labeled as undesirable, thousands met the fate of Auschwitz, Dachau, or work camps. I had to act.

I checked that my ammo cartridge was full, attached my bayonet, and broke through the door. Startled, the Germans turned toward me, and I ordered them to surrender. One complied, but the other reached for his sidearm. I fired a round, and a red blossom bloomed on his chest as he fell backward. He fired his Luger, and a bullet struck my thigh and spun my body to the ground. The other soldier yelled, "Ich gebe auf!" as the sharp prongs of a pitchfork jutted from his chest. The woman had run him through from behind. Moments later, my vision descended into darkness as the raven-haired woman stood over me.

My first memory upon waking was my leg throbbed in pain. Light pierced my closed eyelids and stabbed needles in my aching head. With full consciousness, I learned that the Romani couple, driving a Roma wagon, had deposited me at an Allied field hospital.

The Captain praised me for taking out two of the enemy but chastised me for risking my life to save scum. The Romani were thought to be liars and thieves. Most Europeans overlooked the persecution and considered them dishonorable. My dog tags were missing, but a note with a bloody thumbprint was pinned to my uniform.


Sgt. Turner

O viata pentru O viata.




2005 - Dallas

Sweat beaded from Bob's brow at the memory. He thumped the prosthetic leg with his knuckles and cursed the day the leaders of the world had thrust young men like him into battle. The phone vibrated on the kitchen wall and rang the ancient Bellsouth bell like that in a boxing ring. He answered on the fifth ring.

"Turner residence," he said.

"Mr. Turner, this is Stefi Jones, the floor nurse at Piedmont Hospital. Your wife has taken a turn for the worse and you need to come now," she said.

Speechless, Bob hung up the receiver and an uncomfortable pressure mounted in his chest. Bella’s meow sounded like a cry of urgency.

"She isn't supposed to go first, Bella. Everything I've done has been to prepare the future for her without me," he said.

Bob limped into the bedroom to his dresser. He opened his valet, lifted the top tray, and found the aged yellow paper from the war. Below the ink-scrawled note in Roma was the translation an orderly had traded a can of beans for at his request.

A life for a life. Boldo.

He didn't understand. "What does a cat have to do with helping Suzie? I can't take a cat into a hospital. Even if I did, what purpose would it serve?"

Bella followed him into the bedroom, jumped on the bed, and lay on Suzie's pillow.

"Meow," she cried with urgency, "Meow!"

"I will end up in the psychiatric ward," he said, "If she dies, I may end up committed anyhow."

Desperate to take action, Bob retrieved the box from the kitchen table and set it on the bed. Bella leaped into the box.


Stringent antiseptics masked the scent of suffering and death as Bob carried the cardboard box down the hospital corridor. He hoped no one would inquire as to its contents. When he opened the door, Bob Jr. stood by the hospital bed.

"The hospital called, and I drove straight here Dad." He hugged his dad and eyed the mysterious box.

Suzie was wired and connected like a mad lab experiment to pure oxygen, a heart monitor, I.V., and a blood pressure cuff. Her withered body had shifted from peach pink to a pallor of gray overnight.

"Her pulse is weak and blood pressure's dropping,” Junior said. "I'm sorry Dad, but it doesn't look good."

Bob sat the box by the bed, leaned down, and kissed Suzie's cheek.

"I'm here Suzie. Please hold on."

Bella pushed her face out the box flaps, and Junior stepped back in alarm.

"Dad, what is a cat doing here? You brought a stray into the hospital?"

"You wouldn't understand, son. I'm not sure I do either," and picked the box up.

Junior wrestled the box from his dad and headed for the door.

"This is nuts. You've lost your mind, Dad. I'm taking this thing out of here.”

Bella swatted her claws at Junior's face and sprung from the box. She sprinted across the floor and launched her body onto the bed. Bob’s prosthetic leg slipped but held steady when he blocked his son from retrieving Bella. The tuxedo cat purred, circled Suzie's chest over her heart, curled up, and fell asleep.

"You’re crazy," said Junior and ran from the room. Minutes passed before the floor nurse, a doctor, and two orderlies charged into the room. Bob was overpowered, sedated, and carted to the emergency room.


Bob woke in the psychiatric ward groggy and suffering from a pulsing headache. His arms ached like he had lost an arm-wrestling match. The dim light, without his glasses, made it hard to visualize who sat in the chair by his bed.

"What happened?" he said, "How's my Suzie?"

"I'm fine Bob. I don't know what you did or what this beautiful cat has to do with my miraculous recovery but I'm glad you did."

"Suzie, am I dreaming? Are we dead?" he said. "What are you doing out of I.C.U.? Where's Bella?"

"I'm the only one not confused in the entire hospital. The staff is baffled, doctors can find no sign of a stroke, and Junior is speechless, for once. My heart is as strong as a thirty-year-old woman's, and my head feels wonderful. My new best friend, Bella, is here in my lap."


Bob and Suzie were released from the hospital and returned home. Bound for life, Bella never strayed far from Suzie, nor Suzie from her. Bob displayed the note from the box and the parched paper from the war. He told her the story he had never shared.

"I can never understand it but I'm grateful. I'm thankful to be alive with you, Bobby," she said, "Who else is going to remind you to use your C-Pap machine?"

The following morning they sat on the porch swing and sipped coffee. Music of their Forties generation played on the radio in the background. Bella lay curled in Suzie's lap, and she stroked her back as the sun rose over the horizon. A buzz hummed from afar like a disturbed beehive. Bella lifted her head, and Suzie became alarmed.

"What is that?" she said.

"It's a drone, like the one that delivered Bella," Bob said.

A flying robot descended, hovered over the front step, dropped a white padded envelope to the concrete, and departed. When the droning faded, Bella jumped from Suzie's lap, circled the package, and sniffed. Bella lay on the packet and rolled on it like a drug-addicted cat on catnip.

Suzie retrieved both and returned to the swing. Bob ripped the seal on the unmarked package, extracted a handwritten letter, and read it aloud.


Sgt Bob Turner,

You may not remember me from many decades ago. We encountered each other when you spared my life by interceding with the two thugs who attempted to rape me and kill my husband, Boldo.

My Boldo, as is our way, pledged a life for a life at the time of your need. He has now honored that vow. Bella is an ancient Romani feline who has the gift of nine lives. She has been a member of our clan for decades. Throughout her long life, she has utilized seven and two remained. We immigrated to Texas after the war, and Boldo has followed your life from a distance. This ability is a Romani skill.

Like most Romani, there was no home for us in Europe with the attempted extermination of our people. A month ago, Boldo received news that his body failed him due to age and the trials of a difficult life. At the same time, he learned of your wife's stroke.

Bella, his spirit partner, offered her eighth life for him to live, but he refused. Many years ago, we pledged to you, O viata Pentru O viata, a life for a life, for your brave actions. Boldo requested Bella grant your wife the life she offered him. She is the essence of love and agreed to settle his debt to you.

Your courageous intervention has allowed us a life of freedom with the blessing of ten children, twenty grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Boldo, through his descendants, will be remembered forever.

My beloved Boldo is now gone. He has passed to the next world as we ceremoniously burned his wagon last week. The star-strewn skies received his spirit, and he is free in a way this world never granted. One day soon, I will join him.

Sgt. Turner, you will find your Army dog tags, the bond of our past, in the envelope. Do not try to find us as we wander the hills of Texas to live in peace. This is what we have always sought to do.

Please care for Bella as she lives her final life until the day comes for her to be reunited with Boldo.


Boldo's wife


"I wish I could meet them, to thank them," said Suzie, hugging Bella as tears streamed down her cheek and Bob held her hand in his.

"The Romani people have been stereotyped and suffered terribly for ages. Boldo has disproved this through his ultimate sacrifice and honor,” Bob said.

"I love Boldo’s family!" said Suzie as Bella purred.

Bob stood as Glenn Millers Chattanooga Choo Choo played on the radio, retrieved the dog tags from the envelope, and placed them around Suzie's neck.

"You are my forever bond," he said, holding his hand out to her. "Susan Perkins, would you like to dance."

Author’s Note – This story is fictional but the horrors perpetuated on the Romani (Gypsy’s) are not. Post-war Europe refused to acknowledge these atrocity’s for decades after the war.


German authorities subjected Roma (slur Gypsy’s) to arbitrary internment, sterilization, forced labor in concentration camps, deportation, and mass murder. Authorities murdered tens of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied territories. On the basis of the evidence available, historians estimate that the Axis powers killed between 250,000 and 500,000 European Roma during World War II. In 1982 Federal Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, formally stated that Roma had been victims of genocide. - Excerpts from The Holocaust Encyclopedia.


Ella Jane Proofing Copy

HistoricalShort Story

About the Creator

J. S. Wade

Since reading Tolkien in Middle school, I have been fascinated with creating, reading, and hearing art through story’s and music. I am a perpetual student of writing and life.

J. S. Wade owns all work contained here.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Excellent storytelling

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Comments (10)

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  • Caroline Jane10 months ago

    This is a definite contender Scott. Fantastic work. Fabulous story.

  • Alina Z10 months ago

    I am so glad you found inspiration in this subject! Atrocities against Roma people are a less-known aspect of the WWII, maybe due to their almost entirely oral culture. The Romas you mention are Romanian, but Roma people from Hungarian and all Eastern European were decimated. Great job!

  • Heather Hubler10 months ago

    A truly heartwarming and fantastic take on the challenge! I loved the history and author's note at the end. Excellent work :)

  • Cathy holmes10 months ago

    Wow. I think you got a winner here, Scott. I absolutely love this.

  • Babs Iverson10 months ago

    Bravo! Bravo!! Bravo!!!

  • Well written, I really enjoyed this one!

  • A great take on the challenge and including Glenn Miller and a cat in a box, wonderful

  • As usual excellent writing and exceptional story telling. I liked the history lesson at the end. Thank you!

  • Alex H Mittelman 10 months ago

    Very well written! A lot of detail! I like the history!

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