The epilogue continues
The story so far: Eight years pass since the strike.
‘I wonder what time it is,” Katka said, looking up at the sun. “People will be arriving soon.” They were expecting at least fifty people to join them for the party.
“Oh my stars,” Lily said. “I forgot to cut the watermelon. Did we forget anything else?”
“Not that I can think of.”
While Lily was inside, a car pulled up. It was a bright blue, four-passenger sedan with shiny white tires. At the sound of the vehicle, four children came running from the barn. The oldest, a boy, was eight. The younger three were all girls. “Who’s here, Teta Katka?” Gregor asked.
“Who is it Mama?” one of the little girls echoed. “Who has come in such a fancy motorcar?”
“Perhaps someone for your ata,” Katka said. “Go get your father. He’s taking a sauna.” The little girls scurried off to get him. Gregor stayed by Katka.
The driver’s side door of the car opened and out stepped a man. He helped the backseat passengers get out of the car. All three were clean-shaven and dressed in suits and hats. Katka was shocked speechless.
“I don’t believe my eyes,” Old Joe said. He hobbled forward to greet the men.
“Who are they, Teta Katka?” Gregor asked. “Mafia men?”
Katka laughed. “Not Mafia men. The older one, his name is Mr. Le Sueur.” He was the Wobbly lawyer who had defended Anton, Samo and Dusca in one unsuccessful appeal after another, over the course of several years. The prosecuting attorney, Warren Greene, who had made the deal with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, had been drafted into the Great War and was never heard from again. So his promise that the men would serve no more than a year in jail was never kept.
“That one is Samo,” Katka said, pointing. “The short one is Dusca, and that one there, the really handsome one coming out of the passenger side door is ...”
Lily came barreling out of the house. “Anton!” she cried.
“Come here, my precious flower!” He held out his arms and she ran to him. She kissed his head, his forehead, his nose and finally his mouth. She almost knocked him down.
Then she began talking nonstop as usual. “How did you get here?” Lily asked. “And why didn’t you tell me you had another appeal? Are you free, really free?”
“I’m home to stay, Lily.”
“Then you better get to know your son. Come on over here, Gregor. Meet your ata.” Gregor walked over to Anton, smiling shyly. Anton bent to his knees and looked into the boy’s eyes. “Look how grown you are. Guess we can’t call you baby Gregor anymores. You’re practically a man. You been a good boy, Gregor?”
“You listen to your Ma?”
“Yes, sir. Everybody listen to Ma. Don’t nobody have a choice.” Anton laughed. He hugged Gregor tightly, then put his arm around Lily’s waist. “You did a good job raising him, Lily.” Then in a lower voice, he whispered, “What you say we run off to the sauna and make another one?”
They looked toward the sauna and saw Paul jogging toward them, with two of his daughters in tow. The other he carried on his shoulders. When he recognized Anton, Samo and Dusca, he put his youngest down and embraced each man for a long time. He shook Le Sueur’s hand.
“I’d heard you came back here, Paul,” Le Sueur said. “That took guts.”
“I tried to leave,” Paul said. “But there are some places ain’t meant to be left. I made it as far as Chicago before I turned around and came back to marry the most beautiful woman in the world.” Paul kissed his wife on the forehead. Katka smiled.
“They give you a rough time?”
Paul shrugged. “Water under the bridge.”
“It’s good to be back,” Anton said. “So good.” He looked at his son, then looked around at the yard and the forest of pine that surrounded it. “This is the most beautiful place in the world.” He took a deep breath.
They heard an accordion off in the distance. A few moments later, they began to decipher voices. “We’re having a party, Ata,” Gregor said. “For Old Joe’s Birthday!”
The townsfolk were coming up to the house from Biwabik. They were dressed in their party clothes and good shoes. As they walked, they kicked up the red dust from the road, but they didn’t cough or care. Their children orbited around them. Their hearts were joyful, like new suns.