So It Goes, Part 11: A Letter from Prison
He had been an elected official. As often happens, he had been convicted of tax evasion or some other financial crime. He wrote:
It was with great interest that I read Greg Holden’s new column “So It Goes” in your paper the other day. I, in fact, wrote a column for a local paper in downstate Illinois that was intended for the edification of my constituents. It was also called “So It Goes.” Upon my release from this institution, I hope to resume writing this column. So I would ask that Mr. Holden stop using this name as it is an obvious attempt to do something literary, when in fact he’s plagiarizing my original inspiration.
I sat in the steel office chair with sweaty palms, but Burns just smiled. “You didn’t get the title from this guy’s column, did you?” I explained that no, the phrase came from a book by Kurt Vonnegut: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Burns composed a letter in response stating that this worthy man didn’t actually own the phrase “So It Goes,” and added that he should be focused on improving his own situation.
I left there feeling like a star. Someone I never met had actually taken notice of me and something I wrote. It didn’t matter who he was or where he was from. I was a journalist. Just as Mayor Daley regarded Mike Royko as his nemisis, I had someone who disliked me, too. I swaggered down Prospect Avenue past my old Catholic grade school, St. Euthanasia’s, and I wanted to open the door and shout, “Somebody hates me!” No one was safe in this town now. I was free to explore the political intrigues, the societal tensions, and the criminal underworld of this seemingly sleepy suburban town. I would dissect the population with the unwavering, incisive eye of a Nelson Algren.