Chapter 30 continues

The story so far: A meeting of the striking miners is planned.

 

He was silent for a moment. “Sounds like you need to go to Cerkvenik’s Mercantile. I don’t have a clue what the women think. But it is important to find out. Will you tell me what you hear?”

“Of course.”

“Katka, how much do you know about the Wobblies?”

“I know that you went to prison because you are one.”

“Yes. But I don’t regret it. Not in retrospect. Are you sympathetic to the cause?”

“I’m a journalist. I just report the facts.”

Paul laughed. He kissed her neck and she put her hands on his waist. She pulled him in. Even after a night of sleeping in a barn, he still smelled of wind and salt.

Paul reluctantly let go of her and took a step back. “I have information, Kat. More than you would ever find out in town. But there is something we may need from you in return.”

“From me? What?”

“Meet me at Anton’s stable around noon. Bring your notebook and pens. I will take you to a meeting. You can take notes for us. We will need a secretary who can speak languages. You speak Slovenian, Russian and English.”

“And Croatian. My mother was half Croatian.”

“There are many who will be there who speak Finn. We will have to recruit a Swede, a Norwegian, others.”

“I know many women from many countries.”

“Kat, you will love working for the International Workers of the World. It is a great union, with the power to change lives.”

“I work for the Iron Range Ladies Journal.”

Paul laughed. He put his arms around her waist and pulled her close to him again. “I love Iron Range ladies.”

“All of them?”

“Just one. The one who’s about to become a Wob. If you’re not recruited, you can use the information however you see fit.”

“Noon?”

“That’s right.”

“I’ll be here.”

 

• • •

 

Paul was at the stable, as promised. Katka entered and stopped. She waited for him to approach her, which he did. He kissed her mouth. “So many meetings I’ve been to in the past few years,” he said. “But this will be tops. We’ll be a real team.”

“We best not be late then,” Katka said.

“We won’t be. I lied to you about the time. Meeting’s not for an hour and a half.”

She put her hand on his chest. What if that heart — that very real and tangible heart that she could feel now with the palm of her hand — started beating faster and faster until it exploded, leaving her with nothing but a handful of blood and stories of a love remembered by no living thing other than herself?

“Your heart is beating so quick,” Paul said.

“My heart?”

“Yes.”

She realized that he too had placed his own hand on her heart. She reached for her chest. “It is not easy to hold so much music inside.”

“Kat, when the strike is over, we will get married.”

“We will? Says who?”

“Your heart. And mine.”

Katka smiled.

“I love you,” he said. “Just as the snowy earth, tired from months of frostbite, loves the spring sun that melts away the cold. I cherish you like a bird with a broken wing cherishes his other wing — the one that works. Before you, I was strong and broken at the same time. Now I just feel strong.”

“I might marry you.”

“As soon as this bloody strike is done. I tell you true Kat. I want you to be my wife. And I ain’t never wanted a wife. Not even a little bit. But now it’s all I think about. You and me, the same, except we’d do other things.”

“What other things?”

“Married things. I’d work a steady job. A less dangerous job. I’d come home and we’d eat together. Something simple. A sausage. Some kraut. Then, after you cleaned up, we’d move to the sitting room and we’d read until there weren’t no light left. And maybe we’d be next to each other, my hand on your skirt, and maybe we wouldn’t, but no matter. I’d hear you breathing across the room. I’d see you, your soft silhouette turning the pages, and I’d feel like the luckiest bloke alive.”

“That sounds grand,” Katka said. And it did. But she didn’t want to dream about it. She wanted to make it happen. What was it that Anton had said to her when she first arrived in Biwabik? I don’t like to think about one day. If it’s possible one day, it’s possible today.

She brushed the dust of the stable off her clothes. It was time to go to a meeting.

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 31 begins.