A Study Guide for Stuart Dybek’s “Hot Ice,” excerpted from Gale’s acclaimed Short Stories for Students. This concise study guide includes plot summary;. Hot Ice by Stuart Dybek, The magic trick: Blending realism with the poetic to create a world of epic beauty “Hot Ice” is the most perfect. A study guide for Stuart Dybek’s Hot Ice, excerpted from Gale’s acclaimed Short Stories for Students. This concise study guide includes plot summary; character.

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Stuxrt Dybek’s story “Hot Ice” takes place in a changing working-class neighborhood of Chicago during the s. As is typical of much of his work, Dybek mixes realism with fantasy to create a specific sense of place. At the center of the story is an urban legend about a girl who was drowned in a lake in the nearby park decades earlier and then frozen in the local atuart house and the miracles that people around the neighborhood attribute to her.

Her story affects the lives of three young men: Pancho, who is fanatically religious to the point of mental instability; his brother Manny, the cynic; ho Eddie, who feels both the weight of tradition and the struggle to live a good life in a harsh environment.

As they move through their days, Dybek renders with precise clarity the details of a city in transition, mixing memories of ice delivery and sharpening carts and streetcars and riding boxcars with the oppressive, looming presence of the county jail and the boarded windows of a neighborhood that is slipping away from memory. The story got published in Antaeus inand the following year it was chosen for the O. Henry Award for short fiction.

It is one of four Dybek stories that have won O. InThe Coast of Chicago was chosen for the city’s “One Book, One Chicago” program, which encouraged not just students but all citizens to participate in a city-wide discussion club about the book.

Stuart Dybek was born on April 10, into a Polish family, in a Chicago neighborhood similar to the one in this story. He attended Catholic grammar and high schools and then enrolled at Loyola University, on the other stuar of the city where a more urbane culture prevailed. He was the first person in his family to go to college.

His original major was pre-medicine, but he switched to English after a year. Still, he did not think of becoming a writer. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Loyola inhe was a case worker for the Cook County Department of Public Aid, a job that he pursued out of a drive to work for social justice. At the same time, he worked on his master’s degree from Loyola, which he earned in He married his wife Caryn in After earning his first master’s degree, Dybek went into teaching, first at a Catholic high school in the Chicago suburb of Morton Grove and then for two years at Wayne Aspinal School in St.

Thomas, Virgin Islands —a lush tropic environment that was about as far from his upbringing as he could get. In he entered the prestigious Writers’ Workshop program at the University of Iowaearning a master of fine arts degree in He then went to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, where he was still teaching as of InDybek published his first book of poetry, Brass Knuckles. His first book of short stories, Childhood and Other Neighborhoodscame out the following year and earned him much critical praise.

The Coast of Chicagothe collection from which this story comes, was published a decade later, in Inhe published the story collection I Sailed with Magellan.

Introduction & Overview of Hot Ice

It begins with the story of girl who had been molested then drowned in the park lagoon about thirty years earlier, during World War II.

According to the story, her father found her body and traveled with it on a streetcar to an icehouse across the street from the Cook County Jail, at 26th and California, in Dygek.

Her body is rumored to still be frozen iec and to have special, magical powers: Big Antek, an dybke neighborhood alcoholic, claims that he once locked himself in the meat locker of a butcher shop where he worked and the girl’s frozen body, temporarily stored there, kept stuaft alive throughout the weekend. The nun at the local school believes the girl should be canonized as a saint.

This story is discussed by the three main characters of “Hot Ice”: Pancho Santora, his brother Manny, and their friend Eddie Kapusta. Pancho, who has always been deeply religious, believes that she does hold magical powers, though the other two doubt the story, especially the part about her father riding on the streetcar with a dripping corpse from the lagoon.


Pancho asserts his belief in modern saints, referring to Roberto Clemente, a baseball player who died in a plane crash while on his way to help earthquake victims in The second section begins with Pancho already gone from the neighborhood and in jail.

Eddie and Manny walk through the neighborhood, as they do on most nights, to go to the Cook County Jail, where Pancho is being held for a crime that is not clearly identified in the story. At his sentencing, the judge offered Pancho the chance to go into the military instead of going to jail, but Pancho, who cie been fixated with religion since he was a little boy, laughed and sang to himself and claimed that his one goal in life was to atuart for the pictures on holy cards.

Manny visited him every week for three weeks, but Pancho eventually asked him to quit coming because he did not want to be reminded of the world outside.

Dyvek through the neighborhood, Manny and Eddie reflect on the signs of desolation: When they reach the jail, they walk around it, shouting Pancho’s name. Inside, prisoners call back to them, mocking. They ask if anyone knows Pancho Santora but are told that the name is not familiar.

At the start of this segment, Dybek reveals that Pancho has disappeared while in jail, with no definitive explanation of where he has gone. There are dozens of theories, ranging from his having committed suicide or been murdered to his having escaped and gone to Mexico or just to the North Side of the city. Some people claim to have seen him walking the streets or in church. He has become a legendary figure. When the chapter opens it is Easter Week. In the months since the last chapter, Eddie Kapusta has only seen Manny Santora once, at Christmas time.

They ran into each other at a bar, then walked over to the jail, where they threw snowballs at the wall. Now, on Tuesday before Easter, Eddie goes to Manny’s house, where they fall into a casual conversation, as if they had not been separated for months.

‘Hot Ice’ by Stuart Dybek – Short Story Magic Tricks

They go back to the jail, where they once had hollered up at the building when they believed that Pancho was inside. There, they shout again, but instead of joking with the inmates, Manny taunts them, calling them racial and ethnic names and reminding them that they are trapped without freedom.

When Eddie tries to stop him, he shouts louder, with worse insults, until the people inside take up a chant for him to shut up and the guards in the tower turn their searchlights on. Eddie finally persuades him to flee, and as they stand behind fybek icehouse across the street Manny talks about his anger toward everyone inside the jail, from the prisoners to the guards to the wall itself. He says he is going back the next night, and Eddie goes along, afraid to let him go alone.

The next night Manny again shouts obscenities at stiart jail until searchlights and sirens drive them away. Hiding by the railroad tracks, Manny recalls a time when he was young, when he dybeek some friends rode the freight train that ran on those tracks east to the lake shore.

Eddie says he is not going to the jail with him again, and Manny agrees to do something else the following night. On Thursday night, they take drugs and carouse oht city, passing a bottle of wine between them. Eddie leads the way to a nightclub with a neon window display that he admires and explains that his hobby has always been looking at window decorations. When they pass by an open fire hydrant, Manny says that he can smell the water of Lake Michigan coming out of it.

It reminds him of when his family used to go to the lakefront at night to fish for smelt, a small silvery fish that is captured in nets by the thousands.

Since Eddie does not know about smelt, they take a bus to the lake. On the way Manny tells a story about one time when he was young and swam out away from the shore, how he wanted to keep swimming away but returned when he heard his frantic uncle calling for him.

After taking amphetamines all night, they take quaaludes as the sun comes up. They sit talking at Manny’s kitchen table for a long time and then remember that it is Good Friday. Manny wants to follow a ritual that Dybe made up—going to services at seven churches on Good Friday. Eddie goes along with him, though he can hardly keep awake. While Manny goes to the front of each church to observe the service, Eddie sits in the back. At the last one, before falling asleep, he realizes that the emptiness he has always felt is a sense of grief for the living.


The final section of the story starts dynek the perspective of Big Antek, the neighborhood alcoholic who claims to once have been saved from freezing by the girl in ice. He has recently returned to the neighborhood after having been in the Veterans Administration hospital, and he feels that the neighborhood has changed in the weeks while he was gone.

Eddie and Manny approach him, laughing and drinking and in a good mood, and offer to buy him a drink, which Antek refuses. When they start mocking the story of the frozen girl he becomes angry. Eddie tells him that the icehouse where she is supposedly stored is slated for demolition.

‘Hot Ice’ by Stuart Dybek

Antek goes with them to the icehouse and stands outside while Manny and Eddie climb up the wrecker’s crane to stuqrt the building through the roof. From outside the building, Antek imagines them working their way around in the dark, lighting a road flare that dybdk stole, passing huge blocks of thawing ice until, in the building’s basement, they find what they are looking for: Having found her, Eddie and Manny decide that they cannot just leave her there.

They stjart the block onto an old railroad handcar that is on the track that backs up into the building and start the car in motion. The tracks, got Manny observed earlier, go dubek the lakefront, and they decide to take her to the lake and set her in the water, where she will finally be released from the ice. Big Antek is a local character known throughout the neighborhood. He is an alcoholic who has worked at numerous butcher shops, cutting off fingers out of clumsiness and drunkenness until he only has wtuart few left.

Young people like Eddie and the Santora brothers go to Antek because they know that he will buy liquor for them. When he returned home to his neighborhood he found his name included on a plaque commemorating those who had died in battle. Some time later, when he was already solidly within styart cycle of being fired for on-the-job drunkenness at butcher shops, he locked himself in the freezer of one on a Friday night and claims that he would have died if it had not been for the legendary girl drowned in the lagoon, whose body, frozen in a block of ice, was in the freezer, radiating energy that magically kept Antek alive until Monday morning.

At the end of the story, Eddie and Manny, who have been out all night, come to Antek to ask him to buy them some more alcohol. They tell him that the old icehouse, where the girl’s frozen body is allegedly stored, is marked for demolition.

Antek convinces them to go there and try to retrieve the body. He waits outside while the younger men go in and imagines their movements inside, seeing in his mind’s eye the hallways that they would go down and blocks of ice melting in ic of them until they actually find the girl.

Eddie is one of the main characters in this story. It is through his perspective that uce are first told the story of the girl frozen in ice, with the details that Eddie remembers hearing ever since his childhood. He is a young man of Polish descent in a neighborhood that is increasingly becoming Mexican.

He is close friends with Pancho and Manny Santora. Eddie, whose last name is the Polish word for “cabbage,” is characterized as an observer. While Pancho is a religious fanatic and Manny is a realist, Eddie does not have any such clear-cut perspective.

Instead, he is noted for his devotion to his friends. For a long time during the period covered by the story, he loses contact with Manny because he has to quit high school and work a night job to pay his bills, but then, one spring day months after they have seen each other, he goes to Manny’s tsuart, and they resume their friendship just as it had been before.

When Manny turns angry about losing Pancho and rybek to the county jail sybek shout obscenities at those inside, Eddie would like to stay away, but he feels obliged to go along rather than letting Manny get into trouble alone.