Feeling very light-hearted, Luigi set out early the next morning for his new job. His muscles still ached from the day before, but he didn’t mind. Signora DeLuca hadn’t been able to say a single word – except for “Took you long enough!” Luigi just ignored her, kissed Stella goodbye, and hurried away. He knew the old woman was just as pleased as he was to finally have a steady income.
The streets were alive with activity that morning. It seemed more people than usual were going this way and that way to their places of business. Luigi pushed his way through the crowds, determined to get to work on time. Whenever he came across a construction site, he noticed that no one was working. All the men were standing around. Some held signs, but Luigi couldn’t see what they said through the thick crowd. When the second construction site he passed came into view, Luigi decided to get a look at what was going on.
“Fair pay for a Day’s Work,” was written in bold letters on one sign.
“STRIKE!” read another. “New York Construction Union Local 31.”
Luigi shook his head and kept moving.
“Hey, Italian, where you going?” A robust man grabbed his shoulder as he passed by.
Luigi pushed himself through two men who were standing nearby, successfully pulling away from the man’s grasp. “I have got to get to work!”
Finally, the half-finished building came into view. Fearing the crowd of men, who were holding signs out front, Luigi slipped his way around the back and tried the back door. “Locked.” He banged on the door.
“Someone’s trying to get in around back!” An angry voice yelled.
Hearing running footsteps coming from the alleyway, Luigi banged on the door and yelled, “Open up, quick!”
Just as the first man turned the corner of the building and saw Luigi, Harry opened the door and pulled Luigi inside.
Harry slammed the door shut and locked it again. “You okay, Luiga?”
Nodding, Luigi sighed with relief. “The foreman here yet?”
“Yep, he’s on the second floor.”
A spay of angry words could still be heard from outside.
“Go back from where you came from, you —–!” Luigi cringed at the all-too familiar derogatory name for Italians.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may never hurt me,” Harry said, walking over to a table, where he had been planing a board. “That’s ’bout the silliest sayin’ I ever heard. The Good Book say thet a merry heart is good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. Them words their sayin’ are bone dryin’.”
“You wage-cutters know you’re taking food from our families, don’t you?” Another angry voice called.
Luigi shivered, but quickly fought through the feeling. It didn’t matter what anyone said, he needed a job and to keep it he had to work hard. That was exactly what he was going to do.