Michael Czyzniejewski


Chicago Stories, by Michael Czyzniejewski, is collection of forty dramatic vignettes told in the voices of famous Chicagoans. Just out this month from Curbside Press and featuring captivating illustrations by Chicago artist Rob Funderburk, Chicago Stories will be available for purchase at this week’s AWP conference in Chicago–or if you can’t make it to the Windy City but still want a taste of it, we offer three sweet samples from the book and encourage you to get your hands on it any way you can.

The Ghost of Rosetta Jackson Lobbies Congress to Continue Funding Planned Parenthood

The coat hanger, in my day, did not yet exist. They told me to jump rope, drink this, drink that, and it worked…on both of us. Today, the coat hanger serves as a symbol for the cause, adorning buttons on lapels and posters during protests. But there’s also a lot of talk about this debate not being about abortions, how it concerns education, options, and prevention. Come on. Why can’t it be about abortions? Would that be so wrong? All that other stuff is fine, but I don’t remember being misinformed. I wasn’t disadvantaged. I wasn’t ill prepared. I slept with my sister’s husband, over and over again, in their matrimonial bed: Does that sound like I was interested in planning? Would a pamphlet have made any difference? Would a pep talk have kept me chaste and pure? Maybe for other women, and I respect that, but I needed things taken care of, a safe place, someone who knew what they were doing. Asking around the neighborhood wasn’t the way to go about this, isn’t how it should have to be. I wasn’t the first teenage girl who made that choice. I wasn’t the last. If this goes through, there’ll be a lot more. I realized many of you think I got what I deserved, burned from the inside out, nothing less than what was coming to me. It’s an interesting stance, one not indefensible. Just remember, most of you will never be in my shoes, will never have to make that decision–and no, it doesn’t count if you’re the dad, not unless you drink that tea, straighten that hanger, or put your legs in those stirrups and have some hack go to town. I can’t believe I’ve heard men utter the phrase “We’re pregnant!” I don’t know how they do it with a straight face. What I do know is this: I can’t propose a bill. I don’t have a vote. It’s the way it’s always been. The way it still is. The way you like it.


The Sixteen-Inch Softball Buys a Shot of Malort for the Italian Beef Sandwich at the End of the Bar

Don’t take this the wrong way: I got a wife and kids at home. It just looked like you could use a pick-me-up, and from the way you knocked it down, I’m thinking I’m right. Might just be you had a bad day, but my gut tells me that’s not the case. I’m not mind reader–I’m not even sure you’re listening–but if this were just a bad day, you’d be home telling someone about it, not here, by yourself, sharing a slug with a chump like me. My guess is, the first time you came to this place, you had a bad day. But that was months ago. Maybe even years. Now, that bartender there, she knows your drink, knows when to top off, and never once has she asked you for a dime, knowing you’re good for it. You’ll flip her a fin on your way out, if not a ten spot, just cause she keeps that glass full. She ain’t bad to look at, either, and if somebody asked, that’s what you’d tell them, that you come here to see her. She favors the halter top, you’d say, explain that she has more tattoos than meet the eye, how once, on a slow night, she asked you to guess how many and where. I know what you’re thinking: You’d rather pay me for that drink than hear another word come from my mouth. I get that. But I get that because I get you. You see, I used to be you. No one to go home to, nothing good on TV, so you find a joint with soft chairs, the game always on, nobody like me up in your face. A little patch of heaven: If only we could still smoke in here, eh? What I’m getting at is, there’s no reason to be so glum. Things are going to get better. Yeah, Daley’ll fuck us with another tax hike before he’s done, and if the kids keep shooting each other like this, they’re going to call in the National Guard. The Cubs? Don’t get me started. I just broke three pinkys at a church picnic last Sunday, dropped my cell in the toilet, and one of my kids? She’s 11 and still wets the bed. But none of it’s the end of the world. Somebody out there, they like you. It might be your mom. It might be your ex. It might even be our bartender, hoping and praying one day you’ll buy her a drink, at another bar, in a different part of town. Heck, I like you and I don’t even know you. I won’t waste any more of your time, but I just wanted to say hey, introduce myself, and let you know: If you ever want to have a drink, maybe grab a bite, or just meet somewhere and talk, you’re not alone. I always say: If you don’t like what people are saying about you, change the conversation. And with that, I bid you adieu. Na zdrowie.


In a Prerecorded Message Played at His Hall of Fame Induction, Ron Santo Outlines the Inevitable Cubs World Series Championship Parade

Instead of ending in Grant Park, this parade will start in Grant Park. That will give us a large, centralized place for everyone to meet. There’s going to be a lot of people in this parade. The players would be first, everyone on a big blue float, sequins shining in the October sun, everyone waving, drinking champagne, and blowing kisses to the crowd, all of them trying and failing to hold back the tears. After that, they’d have to have former Cubs, and by that, I mean all of them. Ernie gets his own car, a blue Chevy convertible, Billy and Fergie, too. Then Ryno, Hawk, Mad Dog, and maybe a couple of other guys, Beckert and Kessinger and my pal, Hundley. Gracie and Sutcliffe and heck, Sammy Sosa, too. After that, there could be more floats, enough for anyone who’s ever played for the Cubs, whether they had one at-bat or they served faithfully for years, never getting a statue, never getting their number on the foul pole. Next will be would be the owners, along with all the executives, broadcasters, scouts, office staff, anyone else who had anything to do with the team’s success, the people who put it all together. Security guys, groundskeepers, scorekeepers, ushers, janitors, vendors, the guys in the clubhouse, they’d be next, all in uniform, all waving to the fans, maybe throwing little pieces of candy to the kids, holding up their fingers, mouthing We’re number 1! After that, anyone who wanted to join in, anyone who’s suffered, anyone who endured, anyone who made it through to the end, they could all follow, even those who lost hope, even those who never followed the team, even Sox fans, everyone everywhere, one big, citywide parade. From Grant Park we’ll move up Michigan Avenue, cross the river, wave hello to everyone at the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower, point at whoever is in the WGN booth, give them a thumbs up as they called play-by-play. We’d go up Lake Shore–they’d have to close the whole city down–all the way to North Avenue and cut through Lincoln Park. Everyone will give a speech, and then we’d head up Clark toward the Field, stopping at the Billy Goat along the way to say hello, to tell everyone there no hard feelings. Once we make it to Wrigley, we’ll do three laps around, one for every championship so far, the stadium full to the gills with anyone who wanted to come in and feel the energy, exorcise their ghosts, see the flag flying high on the center field pole. Then we’ll work our way back south, all the way past Downtown, all the way to Comiskey and do a lap there, just to say hello to the fans on the South Side, let them know that we did it, that we love them just as much as we can love anyone. Finally, we’ll end up back to Grant Park, and there, the parade will end and the party will begin. Everyone will get up on stage, and everyone, no matter who they are, everyone will get a chance to talk. The whole shebang might take three days, a modern Woodstock, fans drunk on Old Style, sleeping in tents, lots of free love, no one wanting to go home, not until it’s over, not until the final peanut vendor says thank you, not until Monday comes and the mayor make us leave. We could stay forever, we know, just celebrate until we die, but eventually, we’d have to get back to it. After all, what would be sweeter than the next Cubs’ World Series title? Two World Series titles! Our second repeat, and after that, what Cub fans deserve, what’s been long overdue, a Cub dynasty to last the ages, nothing but total and complete domination.