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This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

by Sherman Alexie

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Why does Victor give Thomas half of his father's ashes?

In "This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona," Victor gives Thomas half of his father's ashes because of their new, shared connection. Earlier in the story, Thomas tells Victor of a time when Victor's father had looked out for him, and in exchange, Thomas promised to watch out for Victor. It is because of this promise that Thomas offers to help Victor in retrieving his father's remains but insists on accompanying him.

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During a chance meeting years ago, Victor's father treated Thomas with great kindness. In exchange for keeping Thomas's presence at Spokane Falls a secret, Victor's father asked Thomas to look out for his son.

That fateful encounter is forever sealed in Thomas's memory. In fact, the encounter was a defining moment in Thomas's life. Initially confused about the significance of the meeting, Thomas later realized its meaning. Just as Victor's father cared for him, Thomas was to care for others in their community. Even though many look upon him with suspicion and distrust, Thomas is to continue sharing his visions.

In the story, Thomas fulfills his promise to Victor's father by helping Victor get to Phoenix. There, he accompanies Victor to the trailer where the body of Victor's father was found. Because no one knew Victor's father had died, his body decomposed in the trailer for a week. Although it isn't a pleasant experience, Thomas enters the trailer with Victor, and he patiently waits as Victor collects pieces of memorabilia to take back with him.

Later, Victor gives Thomas half of his father's ashes. He does so to acknowledge his new connection with Victor, a connection facilitated by his father years ago. This shared connection is so powerful that it can't be destroyed by indifference. It's a connection that forces Victor to acknowledge his own vulnerability and admit his need for Thomas's timeless stories of faith, courage, and resilience.

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