Why did Thomas have to tell stories and have people listen in This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona?
To answer simply: Thomas Builds-the-Fire tells stories because he is a storyteller. He says that the stories come to him in dreams, which often lead him to a vision (he clearly distinguishes the two), which is where he gets the story. In this short story, Thomas relates that he had a dream telling him to go to the middle of Spokane and wait for a vision. In his version, Victor's father happens along and picks him up. Did any of it ever happen? That is precisely the question Alexie wants his readers to ask. Thomas Builds-the-Fire provides the majority of magic realism in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, a collection in which this story appears. Additionally, the idea of storytelling is clearly an ancient tribal tradition. The images of the characters shrugging off Thomas (when they are able to get free of him) and his stories, works well in exhibiting the struggle the tribes face to adapt to a modern world, while attempting to maintain their cultural traditions.