Superheros

You get that notice from the union?

You mean the “you better picket or else” notice? Yeah, I got it.

You going?

I don’t know. You?

Jesus I don’t know. It’s not like I got a personal strike fund.

Me either. We got the gig Saturday night though and I got us two more lined up. That’s something.

Something, but not nearly enough to live on yet. That article sure helped though.

I’ll say. I had no idea The Sun even sent someone.

New Polka Kings Invade Punk Scene. The Sun gave us a quarter page including a picture of Maggie diving into a sea of dancers. Now that was a sight to behold.  Everyone was on the dance floor by that point, not exactly dancing the polka, but getting as close as this crowd was ever going to get.

By that time I was running on pure adrenaline. This was the first time I’d played a show in a decade and my body was protesting big time. I was hot and sweaty, and my fingers were swelling too. Now we were playing away and we had this fantastic groove happening when suddenly the guitar cut out of the mix. I glanced over to see what happened and there was Maggie taking off her guitar. I figured what she had in mind, but there was no stopping her. Two strides and she launched herself off the stage, her arms outstretched like some kind of polka superhero. If she had planned it, she didn’t tell anyone. The rest of us just kept on playing.

The gig at the Boneyard had come up fast and we didn’t even have a proper name yet, so we were billed as The Staash Dudas Band. That changed right after the article. Now we were The New Polka Kings, NPK for short, and people were talking about us. That was exciting and all, but the truth was we were still starting out. With the strike at the Bottle & Can, me and Staash – who both worked there to make ends meet – had to think about how we were going to put bread on the table. I didn’t much want to walk a picket line but I didn’t see a lot of options.

That afternoon I met Staashu for lunch and a few beers over at Ruby’s, and we walked down to the picket line together, both of us complaining about how we’d rather be anywhere else. Some of the guys were doing it out of a sense of solidarity. Others were scared the union reps would target them later if they didn’t picket. Me and Staash, we were doing it for the strike pay.

It was chaos down there if you know what I mean. The afternoon shift managers and soops were starting to cross the line and the picketers were giving them a hard time, trying to stop them from crossing. There were maybe a dozen hardcore strikers on the line stirring up trouble and there were a lot of workers down there who were seriously liquored up. It was so strange seeing how people, really mild-mannered people, people you know, can get so aggressive on a picket line. The whole scene smelled ugly. Staashu’s gal Sabina saw us and waived us over.

What’s happening?

We got word they’re bringing in scabs.

Really? When?

I don’t know. Anytime. I’m glad you’re here.

There’s a lot of drinking going on here.

What do you expect?

I don’t know. People do stupid things when they’re drunk.

And you haven’t been drinking?

Well yeah, but we only had 3 or 4 beers over at Ruby’s.

She laughed.

Don’t worry. It’s under control.

Shit, what’s that?

We heard the telltale clip-clop of horses and sure enough, 4 cops on horseback were slowly riding up the road.

Christ they’re bringing in the fucking cavalry.

The crowd of picketers pushed forward as the riders approached. Sabina rushed into the mix. There was chanting and shouting and the usual union sing-songs erupted from the crowd. The cops sat silently up on their horses, flanking the roadway. More cops poured out of a van and lined the street. It was happening. A bus filled with scabs turned the corner and that’s when it all went to Hell.

The whole thing happened in a blink of an eye. First there was a frantic ebb and flow as picketers tried to block the road and police pushed them back. The bus crept forward inches at a time. Somebody behind the line hurled a brick, smashing the front window. Glass rained down on picketers and the police. The cops on horses pulled out billy clubs. More shouting, then a horrible scream and a horse collapsed, stabbed with a shard of glass.

The cops went crazy when the horse fell, and started beating on picketers, throwing them to the ground, cuffing them, whacking them with their nasty little clubs. Paddy wagons pulled up. More cops. I never seen so many cops.

Lazy, I don’t see Sabina.

Me either Staash. Last I saw she was in the crowd by the road.

Aw Christ, man.

Staash started pushing his way into the crowd with me at his heels, but we ran into a wall of cops who shoved us back.

Sabina…. Sabina…. Has anyone seen Sabina?

There! She’s over there. The cops got her.

Sabina’s hands were cuffed behind her back. A burly uniformed officer dragged her toward the open doors of a paddy wagon and Sabina she was fighting and kicking all the way. A second cop joined the first, picked Sabina up and tossed her into the back of the van.

I saw Sabina spit in the cop’s face as he slammed shut the paddy wagon door.

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