Second illustration from “Olga & Trotsky,” a short story by Katja Hofmann.

(2) Anyone who exceeded their time in the café got to experience Mamushka’s stranglehold. Olga remembered with dread how once, gasping for breath, she had landed on the stone slabs of the pavement outside the café. She had been ready to surrender herself from sheer exhaustion to the cold, but her fury at Mamushka’s cruelty gave her enough energy to drag herself to her feet, button up her moth-eaten fur coat and stomp home through the endlessness.

She heard a seductive purr in her ear: ‘I’ll let you tickle my stomach if you let me lap the sour cream from your Borscht.’ — Trotsky! The cat had turned up again, silent and unannounced, and his velvety voice made the hairs on her neck stand up like hedgehog spines.

— Translation by Steph Morris.

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