University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
The Absolutely True Diary About a Parttime Indian
Chapter 4: Because geometry is not a country somewhere near France Arnold went to high school for the first time. He thinks his sister is good at ruining things. She didn’t do anything after high school, kind of sad. He thinks she’s pretty, but crazy and random. She’s called Mary Run Away. Arnold is worried that Rowdy will hang around with older children and leave him behind or hate him. Arnold was sitting in the classroom of Wellpinit High School with the teacher Mr P, who looks pretty weird. He sometimes forgets to come to school. He receives an geometry book that’s older than 30 years (his mother name even stands in the book) and throws it in Mr P’s face.
Chapter 5: Hope against hope
Arnold was suspended from school. He wanted to hit ‘something’ not ‘somebody’. Mr P came to talk with Arnold about what he’s done. Mr P ‘killed’ the Indian culture, because that was the way of teaching. Mr P apologises to Arnold about he hurt many Indian children. Mr P was young, stupid and full of ideas. Mr P said that Arnold’s sister the smartest kid was he ever had. His sister wanted to be a writer, a romance novel writer. Arnold thinks that’s silly. Arnold wants the pictures, Mary wants the words. Mary stopped writing, maybe because something bad had happened to her. Mr P thinks that Arnold deserves better because he is the smartest kid in school. Mr P tells to Arnold that he has to leave the reservation, because otherwise he’d give up his future. Rowdy doesn’t hurt Arnold because he’s the only good thing in his life. Arnold’s to search for hope. He can’t find hope in the reservation, because he could get killed.
Chapter 6: Go means go
Arnold’s parents think that white people have the most hope. Arnold tells his parents that he wants to transfer schools; he wants to go to Reardan, outside of the reservation. Mary is running away to get lost. Arnold is running away to find something. The members of the reservation are going to be angry with Arnold. They’re going to torture him.
Chapter 7: Rowdy sings the blues
Rowdy is getting mad, while Arnold is telling him that he’s leaving to Reardan. Arnold wants Rowdy to come with him. Their school in the reservation has played many times against Reardan: with no success (they lost every match). Arnold thinks the white children have everything and are everything: they are filled with hope. Rowdy was crying and getting angry; he punched Arnold in the face. Arnold’s best friend had become his worst enemy.
Chapter 8: How to fight monsters
Arnold arrived at Reardan for the first time. Kids, translucent kids, surrounded him. They had much more muscles than him. When he entered the classroom, a gorgeous girl introduced herself: Penelope. He got into some fistfights with boys from Reardan, and he lost of course. He was scared that they were going to kill him. Arnold got into a fight with Roger, a ‘gang’ leader of Reardan. They didn’t follow The Rules Of Fist Fighting.
Chapter 9: Grandmother gives me some advice
Arnold asks his grandmother some advise about what he has to do with Roger, because he just walked away. Grandma thinks Roger respects Arnold. Grandma seemed to be right, because the next day at school Roger was being very nice to Arnold. But when Arnold saw Penelope, she was acting like a bitch. She pretended like she didn’t know Arnold.
Chapter 10: Tears of a clown
Arnold fell in love with Dawn. But she didn’t care a thing about him, but Arnolds thinks he even loves her more that way. She was ungettable for him. Rowdy makes Arnold cry; he says that Dawn doesn’t care about him.
Chapter 11: Halloween
Arnold dressed himself as a homeless guy, he sees that Penelope is wearing the same. They made a deal to spare change for homeless people. On the rez he collected $10, but some guys punched him and took the money. Penelope is very nice to him and Arnold thinks she likes him. He asks rowdy some advice for Penelope.
Chapter 12: Slouching toward Thanksgiving
It was the loneliest time of Arnold at Reardan. Nobody looked or talked to him. He also realised that he was smarter than most children. When Arnold arrived home, his mother was crying: Mary got married to a nomadic gambler. Arnold goes to Gordy (nerd) and asks him to become friends. They did become friends. Gordy taught him how to read. He said book should give you a boner (joy).
Chapter 13: My Sister Sends Me an E-mail
Mary sends Arnold an email. She tells about her husband and her living in Montana. She rode a horse and she’s applying for jobs at restaurants at Flathead reservation (which is much bigger). There are also white people living there. Polson tried to secede. She also tells about her honeymoon at Flathead Lake. Dreams really come true, she loves Montana and Arnold.
Chapter 14: Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving comes and the Spirit family celebrates with a turkey and all the trimmings. Arnold wonders why Indians even celebrate Thanksgiving. His Dad says they should be thankful that the white men didn’t kill all of the Indians. Everyone laughs. Arnold misses Rowdy coming over to eat pumpkin pie, so he draws a picture of the two of them together and goes to Rowdy’s house to deliver it to him. Rowdy’s father says that Rowdy isn’t home (but he is), so Arnold asks him to give Rowdy the drawing. Rowdy’s father says that Arnold is “kind of gay,” but that he’ll give him the picture. Walking away, Arnold stops at the end of the driveway and sees Rowdy watching him from his bedroom window. Arnold calls him, but Rowdy flips Arnold off and walks away from the window.
Chapter 15: Hunger pains
Arnold is in Mr. Sheridan’s history class, and the lecture is way boring. He leaves to go to the bathroom. Arnold heard vomiting sounds coming from the girls’ bathroom. He knocks on the door, but the voice yells at him to go away. The lovely Penelope walks out. It turns out that she’s bulimic. She starts crying and tells Arnold that she’s lonely and not as perfect and beautiful and intelligent as everyone thinks. Arnold and Penelope became a couple. Penelope’s father doesn’t like Arnold, because he’s a racist. Arnold is becoming popular. They both have a couple of similarity’s: Penelope tells Arnold she wants to leave Reardan because people there have “small ideas” and “small dreams”. Arnold laughs and Penelope complains that no one takes her seriously. Arnold asks what she really wants to do. She says she wants to go to Stanford, study architecture, and make something beautiful because she wants to be remembered. Arnold doesn’t laugh at this because it’s his dream, too.
Arnold also mentions that he loves just to look at Penelope, and he then graces us with an aside on her crazy beauty.
Chapter 16: Rowdy Gives Me Advice About Love
Arnold is at school watching the beautiful Penelope play volleyball, and it’s just blowing his mind. Her skin is all “milky white” and Arnold is lusting after it big time. He compares her to a vanilla cake and says he wants to be the “chocolate topping” Not knowing what to do with all these feelings, Arnold decides to email Rowdy. He writes: “I’m in love with a white girl. What should I do?” Rowdy responds promptly that he’s sick of Indians who treat white women like “bowling trophies” and that Arnold should get a life. Arnold decides to ask Gordy, who researches the topic via Google and returns to Arnold with a report on a girl named Cynthia who disappeared in Mexico last summer. The article says that, while Cynthia’s disappearance generated a lot of attention, tons of Mexican girls go missing and no one says anything. According to the article, people “care more about beautiful white girls than they do about everybody else on the planet. White girls are privileged” (26). Basically, Gordy tells Arnold he is racist. Arnold realizes Gordy is just as tough as Rowdy.
Chapter 17: Dance, Dance, And Dance
Arnold makes the trip between Reardan and Wellpinit regularly and begins to feel like a “part-time” Indian. At school, Arnold pretends his family has more money than they actually do. Arnold takes Penelope to the Winter Formal, though he only has five dollars to pull the whole thing off. With no money for gas or new clothes, Arnold meets Penelope at the gym in one of his Dad’s old polyester suits. Fortunately, this just delights Penelope who thinks the look is super retro. Even though he has only five dollars, he agrees. Penelope’s father lets her go, but really only because Roger (who is becoming Arnold’s friend) is driving the two of them. At the diner Arnold goes hog wild and orders tons of food for Penelope and himself. Later in the bathroom, Roger asks Arnold about basketball, and then about money. Roger sweeps in to loan Arnold some cash to cover the diner tab. As Penelope and Arnold say their goodbyes for the night, she asks him if he is poor. He says yes. She kisses him on the cheek. Roger drives the two home. Arnold concludes the chapter with an uplifting thought: “If you let people into your life a little bit, they can be pretty damn amazing”
Chapter 18: Don’t trust your computer
At school, Arnold starts to miss Rowdy a whole bunch, so he decides to take a smiling picture of himself and email it to Rowdy. Gordy sees the picture and the two boys were having a conversation about Rowdy and why he hates Arnold. They discuss how things are difficult on the rez now that Junior is going to school in Reardan. Arnold tells Gordy that Indians think you become white if you try to make your life successful. Arnold tells Gordy that people on the rez call him an apple: red on the outside, white on the inside. Gordy offers some professional advice about the struggle between an individual and the community. Gordy and Arnold decide they are both weird and are therefore a tribe of two.
Chapter 19: My sister sends me a letter
Mary writes another letter to Junior. In this letter she tells Junior about her troubles finding a job on the new reservation, because she doesn’t have enough experience. She’s also started to write her life story and is thinking of entitling it: How to Run Away from Your House and Find Your Home. She sends a photo of her new house (which looks awful like a ‘TV dinner tray’).
Chapter 20: Reindeer games
Arnolds father tries to inspire him to join the basketball team, “you should dream big to get big”. Arnold joins the team. To get in the varsity, you’d have to do drills. First drill was a marathon (100 laps), second drill was a one-to-one game. Arnold, the best shooter Coach has ever seen, ends up making varsity. Reardan’s first game is against Arnold’s old school, Wellpinit High. Arnold vomits four times on the day of the game. Rowdy beats Arnold unconscious. Arnold ends up with a minor concussion and three stitches. Coach visits him in the hospital and tells him he’s never met someone as committed as Arnold.
Chapter 21: And a partridge in a pear tree
Arnold’s father takes the little money they have and gets drunk. He comes back on January 2 with a big old hangover. His father gives him a $5 bill and says “Merry Christmas”. Knowing that his dad is a raging alcoholic, Junior is actually touched that he didn’t spend the money on beer – but saved it for him.
Chapter 22: Red vs. White
Arnold acknowledges that his reader probably thinks he’s fallen in love with white people. Still, he tells us that’s not true. He loves his sister and he loves his mother and father, because, though they may have their flaws, they talk to him. And they listen. Arnold says living in Wellpinit is better than living in Reardan. On the rez everybody knows everybody. Indians used to accept gay people, but because of the white people they no longer do. Unfortunately, Grandma has recently passed away. Coming back from a mini powwow, she was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Arnold also forgives Gerald, the Indian who struck her with his car. Gerald also got sent to prison for eighteen months. Arnold laments his grandmother’s death, especially since she didn’t even drink alcohol.
Chapter 23: Wake
Grandmother’s wake is held three days later, and two thousand Indians show up. No one gives Arnold any crap because they know his family is in mourning. After his grandmother dies, they stop hassling him. So many people show up, they have to move the wake to the football field, though Arnold’s sister Mary isn’t able to come. During the wake, a rich white guy named Ted stands up holding a suitcase. He gushes about how much he loves Indian people and art and songs and dances. Billionaire Ted, it turns out, is an art collector, and he has come into the possession of a very beautiful – though probably stolen – powwow dance outfit. He hired an expert to track its origins, and the anthropologist said it came from the Spokane Indian Reservation.
Ted eventually found out that the outfit belonged to Arnold’s grandmother. She says he has no need to apologize because her mother didn’t dance and the outfit wasn’t hers. In fact, the outfit didn’t even look like it belonged to a Spokane person. Probably Sioux or Oglala. Billionaire Ted packs up the suitcase and bolts. Then Arnold’s mother started laughing, and then everyone starts laughing. Laughing and crying, they bury Arnold’s grandmother.
Chapter 24: Valentine’s heart
Right around Valentine’s Day, Eugene, Arnold’s dad’s best friend, is shot in the face in the parking lot of a 7-11. Eugene was drunk, and so was his friend Bobby, who was wasted and accidentally pulled the trigger. The police think they were fighting over the last drink of a bottle of wine. Bobby hung himself in jail a few weeks later. Arnold’s dad goes on a drinking binge, while Junior gets mad at God and Jesus and draws cartoons about it. Gordy introduces Arnold to Euripides’ Greek tragedy Medea as a way of understanding grief and loss. Arnold becomes depressed and misses a bunch of school. When he returns to social studies class, the teacher, Mrs. Jeremy, makes a sarcastic comment about Arnold deigning to show up. She tells him he shouldn’t be missing this much class.
In Arnold’s defense, Gordy stands up and drops his textbook on the floor. And then everyone does. Then they all walk out of the room. All Arnold can do is laugh. He delivers a pretty good line to Mrs. Jeremy about the world being broken down into two tribes: assholes and not assholes. And then he walks out too. He finally has hope again. Arnold makes lists to keep joy in his life. He makes a list of people who give him joy, of musicians who make joyous music, his favorite foods, books, and his favorite basketball players. Arnold keeps making joy lists. He keeps drawing cartoons, and he keeps writing. It gives him joy and helps him grieve.
Chapter 25: In like a lion
Over the course of the basketball season, Arnold starts to shine as a shooter. Back on the rez, he wasn’t expected to be good – so he wasn’t. At Reardan, though, everyone wants him to be good. So he is. “The power of expectations,” he says. Though he’s getting good, Arnold still throws up before every game. Why? Not because he’s scared, but because he’s nervous. He’s a “nervous yucker,” not a scared one like back in Wellpinit. All of the players get compared to older players of the past, but not Arnold. It’s harder to compare an Indian to a white man. The Wellpinit re-match rolls around and Arnold wants to beat Rowdy. He wants revenge. The Wellpinit team has gotten good, though, with a 13-0 record. They’re ranked number 1 for a small school in the state. Reardan is ranked number 2, so, needless to say, the match is a big deal. A local news team interviews Arnold and asks him how he feels. All he can come up with is “weird”.
The reporter asks again, but Junior feeling “exposed and primitive” and suspicious of the guy’s motives just says “weird”. This goes on for a while until Arnold finally pulls it together and talks to him on camera about how this is “the most important night of his life” and how badly he wants to win. Coach says they may not have more talent than the Indian team, but they have “bigger hearts”. And their team has Arnold Spirit. Coach tells Arnold that he’s guarding Rowdy. Arnold is stunned. And honored. And afraid. Coach tells him something very powerful: “You can do it”. The Wellpinit team comes on the court and the crowd just boos. Rowdy and Arnold exchange hate signals, and all Rowdy can do when Arnold tells him he is guarding him is laugh. Arnold knows Rowdy wants to make a dunk with the first play to send a message, but he races alongside him and manages to jump higher than him and take the ball out of his hands.
He dribbles towards his hoop, shoots a three pointer, lands it, and the crowd goes wild! After that, the game is basically over. As Arnold says, Reardan beats Wellpinit by forty points. At the end of the game, the team lifts Arnold up on their shoulders. Arnold looks at his father in the stands, and his father is quiet-faced. He is watching the Wellpinit team. Arnold realizes that he’s been playing on the side of Goliath – not David. Arnold then realizes that Rowdy’s father is probably going to beat him up for losing the game. He cries not tears of joy, but tears of shame. Wellpinit doesn’t make it to the playoffs, but Reardan does, though they lose to a tiny farm-town school called Almira Coulee-Hartline.
Chapter 26: Rowdy and I Have a Long and Serious Discussion About Basketball After basketball season ends, Arnold emails Rowdy to say sorry they beat them and sorry their season went to hell. Rowdy calls him a “faggot”. Seeing as how this is the first time Rowdy has really talked to Junior since he left the rez, the email exchange makes him a “happy faggot”.
Chapter 27: Because Russians are not always geniuses
Arnold tells us that he’s only fourteen and has been to 42 funerals. That’s way more than any white teenager he knows, but that’s the main difference between Indians and whites. Most of the deaths are caused by alcohol. Gordy gives Arnold a book by Tolstoy who said that unhappy families are all unhappy in their own way; Arnold disagrees. He thinks all Indian families are unhappy because of the booze. Arnold tells us why he’s feeling so extra-bitter: this morning Miss Warren, the guidance counselor, called him into her office. It was weird because Miss Warren is pretty hot, so when she hugs him he gets an erection. The she tells him his sister is dead. Weird squared. Arnold’s Dad is on the way to pick him up, but it’s snowing and Arnold is afraid his Dad will get in a wreck.
When he finally sees the car he can only start laughing. Once he starts, he can’t stop. In a state of hysteria, Arnold loses it and can’t stop laughing. In the car, Arnold’s Dad tells him that his sister died in a fire. She was having a party and someone left the hot plate on. A curtain caught on fire, and everything burned down. His sister wouldn’t have felt any pain because she was too drunk. Junior is not comforted by this last part. He starts laughing hysterically again. He throws up and a little piece of cantaloupe comes out. This is weird cause he hates cantaloupe, but his sister loved it. Weird. More hysterical laughing ensues. Then Arnold falls asleep and dreams about cantaloupe and the time he got stung by a wasp. At home, relatives are around eating all the food, and Arnold’s Mom clings to him and slaps him until he promises never to drink. Then she cries on him for hours. Mary is buried in the Catholic graveyard near the powwow ground and Arnold feels like he’s in a fog.
After the coffin is lowered into the ground, Arnold turns and runs into the woods. He runs straight into Rowdy, who had been hiding and watching the burial. Rowdy is crying. Junior reaches to touch Rowdy’s shoulder, but Rowdy tries to punch him. He misses! This makes Junior laugh, and Rowdy cry harder. Rowdy tells Junior it’s his entire fault. Mary is dead because Junior left the rez. She only left and got married because Junior left first. Rowdy tells Junior he hates him. Then Rowdy turns and runs away. Junior has never seen him run from anything before. Unable to bear everyone drinking at home, Junior goes to school the next day. At school everyone hugs and comforts Junior. Penelope is weeping with a snotty nose but still looks good, according to Junior.
Chapter 28: My final freshman year report card
This chapter is a drawing of “Mr. Arnold Spirit, Jr., Esq., PhD*”‘s report card. *PhD = “Pretty hot Dude!”A’s in English, Geometry, P.E., and Computer Programming. A- in History. B+ in Geology. B- in “Let’s-Make-Birdhouses Woody Shop.”
Chapter 29: Remembering
Arnold and his family go to the cemetery to clean the graves of Grandmother Spirit, Eugene, and Mary. Dad brings his saxophone and Mom packs a picnic. The two adults hold hands. Arnold’s Mom tells him she’s proud of him. Arnold is happy, but he cries and cries. For his sister, for himself, for his tribe – many of whom will keep on dying from alcohol and never leave the rez. He feels alone because he was the only one crazy and arrogant enough to leave the reservation. Arnold realizes, though, that he might be an Indian, and alone in many ways, but he is also a cartoonist, and a boy, and a son, and million other things. And that’s when he knows he’ll be OK. Then he misses Rowdy. He wants to hug him and for Rowdy to forgive him.
Chapter 30: Talking about turtles
Arnold writes about how beautiful the reservation is, with all of its pine trees, so tall and so old. He’s climbed plenty of them. He tells the story of how, when he and Rowdy were ten years old, they climbed one of the biggest pines out by Turtle Lake. Back then, they shared all their dreams: dreams about having air conditioning and playing for the NBA. Arnold tells us how that day they had decided to go swimming at Turtle Lake. He was afraid he’d sink and drown because no one had ever been to the bottom. A volcano probably made the lake. It was “forever deep”. Many people told stories and myths about Turtle Lake. Arnold’s dad had even seen a horse drown in the lake. According to legend, “Stupid Horse” drowned in Turtle Lake, but his body washed up on the shore of another lake about ten miles away. The people burned the body of Stupid Horse, but after they did the water on Turtle Lake caught fire. Freaky. Days later they all found Stupid Horse washed up on the shore on Turtle Lake again.
No one messed with that corpse again. It rotted on the shore for weeks. No one swam in Turtle Lake after that. Back to 10-year-old Rowdy and Arnold: on their way to Turtle Lake, they see a big, tall, beautiful pine. Rowdy suggests they climb the tree. Junior is reluctant, but they do anyway. It is amazing and beautiful and terrifying. They can see the whole reservation. Eventually Rowdy farts, though, and they get down out of the tree. Arnold still can’t believe he climbed that tree – or transferred to Reardan, or any of the amazing, beautiful, terrifying things he’s done. Back to the present: After school ends for the summer, Arnold feels hopeful about the future and misses his white friends.
One day, he is sitting in the living room when Rowdy stops by. They banter a little, and then Rowdy asks if Arnold wants to shoot some hoops. Though he hesitates at first, Arnold says yes. They shoot the ball for a bit, then decide to go one-on-one. During the game, Arnold asks Rowdy to come to Reardan with him next year. Rowdy says no. Rowdy says he was reading a book about old-time Indians, and how they used to be nomadic. He thinks Arnold is nomadic. Rowdy tells him Arnold he had a dream where Arnold was standing on the Great Wall of China. Rowdy said he was actually pretty happy for him. Arnold cries. Rowdy makes Arnold promise to send him postcards.
Arnold will always miss Rowdy, and he will always miss his family. He hopes he can forgive himself for leaving them – and the reservation – and that they can also forgive him. Rowdy and Arnold continue playing one-on-one. They don’t keep score.