This is what it means to say Phoenix, Arizona by Sherman Alexie - A soul-searching #shortstory Click To Tweet
Once, when they were seven years old, when Victor’s father still lived with the family, Thomas closed his eyes and told Victor this story: “Your father’s heart is weak. He is afraid of his own family. He is afraid of you. Late at night he sits in the dark. Watches the television until there’s nothing but that white noise. Sometimes he feels like he wants to buy a motorcycle and ride away. He wants to ride and hide. He doesn’t want to be found.”
Thomas Builds-the-Fire had known that Victor’s father was going to leave, knew it before anyone. Now Victor stood in the Trading Post with a one-hundred-dollar check in his hand, wondering if Thomas knew that Victor’s father was dead, if he knew what was going to happen next.
Just then Thomas looked at Victor, smiled, and walked over to him.
“Victor, I’m sorry about your father,” Thomas said.
“How did you know about it?” Victor asked.
“I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds. I felt it in the sunlight. Also, your mother was just in here crying.”
This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona is the main inspiration for the 1998 film Smoke Signals, which draws from several of the stories included in Sherman Alexis’s fist anthology The Lone-Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. This is my favourit story from a truly fantastic anthology, and I think much of my feelings rest with Thomas and his relation with Victor.
The way Alexis handles his characters is very unique. There are many characters called Victor and Thomas throughout Alexis’s body of stories, but they are never exactly the same characters. What they share is a main characteristic, their heart, I could say.
All the characters called Thomas Builds-the-Fire have strong spirituality, though lived with a lot of fun. They are idealists, they firmly believe in tradition, which normally makes them kind of freaks… but they seldom care. They are very positive characters even in the face of harsh, sometimes ugly reality. In short, they are believers. That’s what I like about them.
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