Chapter 37 continues
The story so far: Word gets out that the sheriff plans to deputize criminals.
No one spoke for a while. They could hear the frogs in the pond a ways off. The creatures sang to each other as they did most nights in the early summer. Baby Gregor began to fuss in his sling; Lily took a sip of her beer, then lifted him out of the sling and put the baby on her shoulder, patting his back and crooning.
“Give him to me,” Anton said. He took the child from his wife and held him high in the air in front of him, arms outstretched. “Look how alert he is. His eyes are wide open.”
“Be careful,” Lily said. “His head isn’t strong enough for that.”
“He’s stronger than you think,” Anton said. “See? He stopped the noisemaking.”
“You terrified him into silence.”
“Do you think they’ll terrify us into silence?” Katka asked. “This brute force squad?”
Anton gave the baby back to Lily. “We have to be ready for them. Don’t let anyone know about the food stash. If they find out what we’ve got, we’ll be a target for certain. I’ve already talked to Andy. He won’t tell a soul. He’s a good man, he is.”
“And a smart man,” Lily said. “He told me what you’re paying him to deliver the food supplies.”
“You expected him to do it for nothing, you did?”
“Nah. But I expect the strike committee to pay his delivery fees, not us. We’re getting thin, Anton.”
“Not compared to most, Lily.”
“We have a family now. It’s not just you and me, living off the land, anymore.”
“At least you have land, cousin,” Paul said. He spoke softly, addressing his words to Lily. “These miners ain’t got nothing. And when these thugs arrive from Duluth, life here, it’s going to get even worse. Even the strongest of men will be tempted to give it all up. The least we can do is put a biscuit in their stomachs.”
“Yes, I suppose you are right.”
“I am right. Do you understand what is happening here? This is big. Much bigger than your family and the families in Biwabik. This is the largest unified labor resistance in the history of our country. And who is behind it? Immigrants like me and all your boarders. And five hundred armed thugs aren’t going to stop them. There’s nothing more dangerous, or more hopeful, than a man who has nothing to lose.”
“What good is hope if you’re dead?” Katka asked. “Armed prisoners wearing badges, running around our town? No. We have to stop this. Where are the lawmen? Are there not laws in this country? How can they make prisoners deputies? Who will protect us? The people who live here? Who will keep us safe?”
“There are laws in this country but they are not always our friend. The same laws that protect the rich oppress the poor. If this strike is successful, we can change that. For ourselves, maybe, but for our children, definitely. Write about that in Strikers News. When these men come, we must be ready to protect ourselves. We must stand strong and stand together. There are hundreds of them, but there are thousands of us. Write about that.”
“Your egghead cousin is correct,” Anton said, gesturing toward Paul. “For once.”
Tomorrow: Chapter 37 continues.