Chapter 24 continues
The story so far: Paul and Katka luxuriate in the Finnish sauna.
Katka walked around until she was peering directly at his face. His eyes were closed. She examined his body, noticing everything. The scars. The bruises. The bandage on his hand, coming undone. She washed his face with a delicateness that contrasted greatly with how she had washed his hair. She used the tips of her fingers only. She encircled his scar, washed his scruffy whiskers and rinsed. Then, with the washcloth, she cleansed his chest, his arms, and his left hand and all of its fingers. When she got to the right hand, she carefully unwound the bandage. She dipped his hand into the bucket and stared at the wound. “How’d you get it?” she said.
“Who did it?”
“Can’t say as I got his name.”
“Where were you?”
“Free speech rally in Ohio.”
“You were as close as Ohio and you couldn’t write?”
“I escaped from Ellis Island. I wasn’t sure I’d been followed. I was trying to protect you. The union sent me to Cleveland right after they arranged my escape. But a day didn’t go by when I didn’t think of you, Kat. ”
“You are a Wobbly? Is that who you work for?”
“The miners in Cleveland, they’re organizing?”
“Everybody’s organizing. Nobody’s organized. That’s why it’s so dangerous.”
“Does it hurt?” She looked at his hand. It was not bleeding and did not look infected.
“Nothing hurts. For the first time in a long time, nothing hurts.”
They stayed in the sauna for a while. He told her about the barracks in Ellis Island, how he had been jailed there for four months. Finally, he was able to find a guard named Tommy O’Sullivan who worked as a spy for the Wobblies. With Tommy’s help, he was able to secure a suit of clothing belonging to an immigration officer. One day, he simply got in line behind the other employees and walked out.
“Those months, were they terrible?” Katka asked.
“Been in worse prisons. But do you know what made me the most upset?”
“That I’d lost your picture. The one of the two of us together, on the boat with the lightning behind us. I loved that photograph. I never told you, but I bought it. I swear, Katka, so many nights in this last year, I would have given anything to have had that picture back. I wanted so much to see your face. I had to rely on my memories.”
“Maybe one day you’ll see it again,” Katka said.
“I don’t need to now. I have the real thing.”
As Paul finished telling her about his whereabouts in the last year, how the Wobblies sent him to Lawrence, Massachusetts, and then Cleveland, Katka rebandaged Paul’s hand with the white cloth she had brought from the house. “I couldn’t contact you,” he said. “Because no one knew if they were still looking for me. But I got word that you were safe.”
When they left the sauna, the moon was low in the sky, and the sun was nowhere to be seen. It was that mysterious time when it is neither day nor night.
They walked back to the main house via the smokehouse and barn. Paul climbed back into the cellar. Katka went into the dining room and fell asleep on the chair. The rooster would crow in less than an hour and it would be time to gather the eggs and start breakfast.
Katka was stuffing sausages in the smokehouse when she heard the alarm whistle. “Not again,” she thought, dipping her hands into the bowl of water on the upturned wooden crate they used for a table. She wiped her hands on her bloody apron and walked toward the house. She had to alert Lily, who was resting inside.
“Dear God,” Lily said, lumbering out of the house as Katka approached. “Nothin’ I hate more’n that goddamn whistle.”
“Maybe it’s a mistake,” Katka said. “Once they blew it by mistake.”
The two women started walking toward the mine, briskly at first. Then Lily touched Katka’s arm and slowed the pace, a simple gesture to remind Katka that Lily’s time was almost here. “I don’t think it was a mistake,” Lily said when their steps had shortened. “I had a dream last night. I dreamed that I was running through the fields, and the fields, they were beautiful. The grass, it kept changing color, and every color was more beautiful than the last. It was blue, like the sky, and then yellow, but not the color of wheat, more like a yellow you’d see on fabric at Cerkvenik’s, and then red, and finally it was purple. Light purple, like a lilac, followed by a deep purple, like the northern lights. And then the field was the northern lights, and I was running, trying to jump from beam to beam, so I wouldn’t, you know, fall from the sky. And I wasn’t scared at all, and it was like I was dancing, almost. Or floating. Then all at once, I was scared. Terrified even. I started thinking ‘don’t look down,’ but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to look down. And I tried to keep my eyes up, but I didn’t have the strength. I looked down ...”
“And what happened?”
“The lights disappeared. I had nothing left to hold me up.”
“I woke up. And the baby was kicking my ribs. Hard. It was as if the baby was scared, too.”
“I heard women can have dreams that are powerful strange when they are pregnant,” Katka said. “Pay no mind.”
“Yes. But one thing troubles me.”
Katka looked at her questioningly.
“I’ve had this dream before, and I wasn’t pregnant.”
“The night before Milo arrived.”
Tomorrow: Chapter 25 continues.