Chapter 30

The story so far: The boarders return and toast the birth of Lily and Anton’s baby.

 

The fifth day of June was the baby’s fourth day of life and it was the first day of rest for the miners. There was no work to do and no picketing planned. Katka thought perhaps the men would sleep in, but none did. They were all there at the breakfast table at 6 a.m., eating hard-boiled eggs, sausage, fresh rolls and jam. Katka had been up since 4:30 a.m. and had found herself with a little extra time since she had no pasties to bake and wrap.

“Big plans for the day?” Katka asked, serving coffee.

“Think I’ll do some fishing,” Old Joe said, stretching his arms leisurely.

“In truth?”

Old Joe smiled. “I’d like to. Can’t remember the last time I was off on a Monday.”

“And how about you, Milo? Plannin’ to do some fishing your own self?”

“Nah,” Milo said. “Might head in to town. Visit some ladies I know.”

“I heard that worked real swell for you last time,” Katka said. “How about the rest of you? What’s the plan?”

“You a reporter or something?” Old Joe said with a smile. “I’ll give you a story that your lady readers will love: ‘How to please Joe on his day off.’ ”

“No, thanks.”

Samo planned to listen to birds. Dusca was going to go to church. Another wanted to catch up on some reading.

“Fine,” Katka said. “If not a one of you is doing anything important, I reckon you can clean up after yourselves. I’m going to take a plate up to Lily, check on the baby and head into town. Got to sell some eggs.”

“You want us to do women’s work?” Old Joe asked incredulously. “Now that’s a story.”

“I’m on strike, too,” she said.

“Women don’t go on strike.”

Katka delivered a plate for Lily and when she got back downstairs, the men were gone. The dishes were left on the table. She cleared the plates and stacked the dirty dishes in the sink. Then she grabbed her shawl and basket, and headed out to the barn. “Morning Sasa,” she said to the hen.

“No one’s ever called me that before.”

Katka looked in the direction of the voice and smiled. Paul stepped out from behind a hay bale. She ran to his arms and kissed him. “What are you doing here?”

“I stayed not too far from here last night.”

“Slept in the barn?”

“Near the barn. I was on night duty. Wanted to see if anyone was coming for Milo.”

“Then you haven’t slept?”

“Well, my little tiger, I was just starting to drift into the most wonderful dream. You were there, of course. But then I heard something. Footsteps. And so I watched. I saw a man come in here. So I followed him, real quiet-like. With my gun, of course. And I watched him do the most peculiar thing. He went over to that big fat hen …”

“Sasa.”

“Yes. And he looked underneath her body. I thought he was an egg thief. But then, finding nothing, he shook his head and walked away.”

“I wonder what he was looking for,” Katka said, her eyes fixed on a spider that was perched asleep on the corner of the doorway.

“Do you?”

She looked at him. Said nothing.

“Who was he?”

“I’ve never seen him in person, Paul. I don’t know his name. Lily never told me. He helps us distribute the Ladies Journal. The one I told you about.”

“If he doesn’t check out, Katka, you will have to get rid of him. We can’t have strangers lurking around the farm. It’s too dangerous.”

“What do you mean, ‘check out’?”

“When there’s a strike, there are two sides of the table. No one gets to sit on the table. No one gets to sit under it. You’re on one side or the other.”

“What’s going to happen today, Paul? The men all left early. I don’t know where they were going.”

“Different places.”

“If I don’t get it from you, I’ll get it from Helen at the Mercantile. That’s where I was headed anyway. But I’d rather get it from you. I’d like to be accurate.”

“For your newspaper?”

“Yes.”

“The men are meeting to make signs. The picketing won’t start until tomorrow, at the earliest. There will be a big meeting at the Finnish Socialist Hall tonight. The Finns have agreed to let us use their hall as union headquarters.”

“I missed most of the action. I wanted to get the perspective of the wives, the mothers. But I didn’t, so I’ll have to get it in town today. That man you saw, he was probably expecting a pamphlet. But I couldn’t write it. Too busy.”

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 30 continues.