What happens in "The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire," the tenth story in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven?
In the story "The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire," Thomas, a central character in Alexie's collection of stories is forced to stand trial for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The premise of Franz Kafka's existential story The Trial, is not lost on Alexie, as he opens the work with a quote from Kafka's novel. Thomas stands out in Alexie's work as a fervent storyteller within and amongst a large collection of stories. This particular story places Thomas on a witness stand, testifying to free himself of charges that the reader, the judges, and even Thomas can't seem to place. His testimony describes an American Calvary massacre of nearly 800 horses, Thomas being one of the "brothers" that survived. He goes on to describe himself shooting one of the soldiers, and Alexie leaves the reader believing this was what sealed his fate with the court. The epilogue of sorts that concludes the story seems to be cyclical in that Thomas is on a bus headed to prison when he begins to tell, as Alexie puts it, "this story."