Chapter 12 continues
The story so far: Milo pays dearly for his chivalry.
Ana Zalar opened the door. She was very pregnant. “Milo! My poor little boy,” she cried. “Danko! Help me drag him to the bed!” Ana wondered what to do about Milo’s smashed-in face and useless arm. “A lawless land, this is,” she said. As Danko tugged at Milo’s boots, Ana put the water on to boil, added the eucalyptus leaves and readied the white bandages.
When Leo came home from his shift, he had heard all about the fight. He was relieved to see Milo safe in his house. “My son,” he said, when Milo stirred, “How did you get here?”
“Woman,” he said.
“Don’t know. Her name was Brina.”
“A woman like that,” Leo said, “you should marry.”
Milo tried to smile, but winced in pain.
“My arm, will it heal?”
Leo said nothing.
“Of course it will heal,” Ana said loudly. “Good as new in no time.”
Milo closed his eyes and drifted back into a fitful sleep. Leo looked doubtfully at his wife. “Good as new, ay?”
“In a land with no laws, faith is more important than anything.”
It took two weeks to recover. Milo lost his job at the Belgrade mine. He lost his spot at the boarding house, not that he wanted it back. Ana Zalar, with Danko in tow, returned to Torelli’s to retrieve Milo’s possessions. A sporting girl directed her, with a bored gesture, upstairs to where Milo had slept. His bed was occupied by one of several snoring miners who were gearing up for the night shift. Milo’s rucksack was lying empty in the corner. The other boarders had taken his canteen, his overalls, his candles, his knife. His guitar, however, was still there. Ana grabbed it and walked out of the tavern.
Moose Jackson had broken four of Milo’s ribs in the one-sided bar fight. After two weeks, Milo could see out of both eyes, but he still had trouble breathing. He loathed the idea of going back to work underground. Nonetheless, he applied for and immediately got hired at the St. James mine a few miles away.
As he recovered, Milo read in the Industrial Worker that the United States would soon enter the mighty war raging in Europe. Never before had there been a greater need for the iron produced on the Mesabi Range, and never before had there been so few workers to dig it out of the ground. The government had enacted immigration quotas, which stopped the flow of unskilled workers to northern Minnesota. An injured man was preferable to no worker at all. The foreman who hired Milo even offered him an advance on his first month’s wages to pay for his work clothes, candles and matches. Two days later, he got word from Mr. Anton Kovich that there was an opening at his boarding house. It was outside of town and had a reputation for being peaceful.
But not long after his arrival, things would change. A girl would arrive from the old country. A skinny girl with big, dark eyes like a deer. Within months, trouble would barge through the door of the Slovenski Dom. Once again, Milo would not be able to walk away.
“When you going to repair the smokehouse roof?” Lily said to Anton one morning after the miners had left for work. “You promised that patchwork would be temporary. It looks low class.”
“Lily, my precious flower. We got a nice house here. Bet Katka didn’t even notice the patch on the roof, did you niece?”
“What happened? A storm?”
“A right good one. Tree fell on it.” Anton said. “It happened before your arrival. But Lily’s right. I’ll get a man to help me and we’ll make it right as rain.”
“He will not,” Lily said to Katka. “He always says he is going to do something, and then he runs off to the woods and hibernates.”
“Do I?” Anton asked. He walked toward his wife, grabbed her hand tenderly and pulled her toward him. He put his hands on her cheeks and kissed her. “Why don’t you hibernate with me, you old nag?”
Katka liked to see her aunt and uncle so happy. Even when they argued, there was always an element of play in it. It made the long days shorter. She was exhausted. She and Lily rose at 4:30 a.m., prepared breakfast and sent the miners off to work with a hot lunch. While they were cleaning up, Anton left for the woods to hunt or oversee the men who logged his land. When the women could no longer hear the hooves of his horse, they would grab a few hard-boiled eggs and a carafe of coffee, and head to the cellar, where Katka continued to give Lily typing lessons. Lily was impatient and her work full of errors. “You type,” she said to Katka. “I’ll dictate.” They switched places and Katka’s fingers moved like a musician’s across a piano:
Chest Cold Remedy Cures What Ails You
1. Gather a few armfuls of Evergreen branches
2. Throw away all but the tips, which should be light green in color
3. Place the tips with half pound of sugar in a glass jar and cover (tight)
4. Place the jar in sunlight for two or three weeks, until syrup forms
5. Serve a spoonful at a time to your man and children
Tomorrow: Chapter 14 continues.