‘This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona’ by Sherman Alexie

Alexie, Sherman 1993b

This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona by Sherman Alexie, 1993

The magic trick:

Interrupting the plot for an other-worldly recollection

This is the story Alexie expanded into the script for the “Smoke Signals” movie. Not surpring then that it has the most complete and linear plot of any of the pieces in the Lone Ranger and Tonto collection. My favorite part, though, isn’t plot-driven, but rather a small character detail.

Victor, the story’s protagonist, has a complicated relationship with his recently-deceased father, as well as a complicated friendship with Thomas Builds-the-Fire, who joins him for a trip to Arizona to claim the body. Both relationships take on a new light when Thomas tells Victor a story about a time when he and Victor’s dad ran into one another in Spokane one night. Thomas’s stories all have a dreamlike, ‘did-this-really-happen?’ quality to them, but even if it’s gibberish its single paragraph does much to expand the overall story’s themes. And that’s quite a trick on Alexie’s part.

The selection:

“…Your dad was my vision. Take care of each other is what my dreams were saying. Take care of each other.

Victor was quiet for a long time. He searched his mind for memories of his father, found the good ones, found a few bad ones, added it all up, and smiled.



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