The story so far: A priest refuses Milo last rites.
Lily and Katka laid out Milo's body on the dining room table. They washed his wounds and dressed him in fresh, white linen. As they worked, women came and went, bringing baskets of food. The men came and stayed, drinking in Anton's Slovenski Dom. The men were silent at first. Then they were boisterous and songs filled the air long into the night. By 2 a.m. the fistfights began and Teta Lily had enough. She burst into the tavern and told the men to get the hell out.
"You heard her," Anton said. The men filed out of the bar. When the last boarders had gone upstairs, Katka and Lily sat at the bar, next to Paul. "Serve us up," Lily said to Anton. "Vodka."
He poured four shots. They drank to Milo.
They drank until the wee hours of the morning. When the sun came up, they were all sobbing.
Although Milo had been gunned down in broad daylight in front of thousands of eyewitnesses, no one was arrested. The armed deputies paraded through each town on the Iron Range, bragging about the murder and egging on strikers to confront them. No one did.
The next day, a Friday, there were no assemblies, no parades. Small groups of strikers turned up quietly at each mine. They picketed silently in shifts of three. No one dared to violate the anti-assembly law, not after what happened to Milo. The women came sporadically, to deliver food and coffee at mealtimes. They, too, were eerily silent, exchanging nothing more than a nod or gesture with their men.
But at night, in their homes, in their meeting places, or in the forests where the townspeople felt untouchable, their anger and sorrow over Milo's murder exploded like dynamite. Up until the moment Milo had been shot in cold blood, the townsfolk had mostly supported the strike, even if they did not necessarily trust the outsiders who helped organize the workers. But now, with the grim cruelty staring them in the face, the townspeople became more united than ever. It was clear that the company would use any means necessary to get them back to the mines. And they were not going back without a victory. Milo's death would not be in vain. The complacency displayed at the picket lines was just a stall tactic until they could come up with a plan.
Tomorrow: Chapter 41 continues.
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