Chapters 25-29 Summary and Analysis
Buoyed by confidence and his amazing shooting skills, Junior becomes a freshman starter on the Reardan varsity basketball team, and he credits the high expectations set for him at Reardan for allowing him to reach his potential. After losing their first game to the reservation high school, Reardan has gone on to win twelve in a row. The next game will be a rematch against Wellpinit, and Junior admits that he wants revenge. A local news crew comes out to interview Junior before the big game, and he tells them that he feels he has something to prove, "to the people in Reardan, the people in Wellpinit, and to (him)self." Junior declares boldly that he will never surrender to anyone, in basketball, and in life. Assigned by Coach to guard Rowdy in the game, he draws strength from Coach's faith in him and from the presence of his father, who "may not (love him) perfectly but love(s) (him) as well as he (can)." Junior plays his best game ever, stealing the ball from Rowdy just as he is about to dunk on the first play, and setting the tone for the rest of the game. Reardan wins by forty points, humiliating Wellpinit, and as his team celebrates, Junior looks over at the reservation team standing quietly on their end of the court. He realizes that all the members of the Reardan team "(are) going to college...(have) their own cars...three pairs of blue jeans...and mothers and fathers who...(have) good jobs," while most of the Wellpinit players live with drunken parents and might not have even had breakfast that morning; none of them are college bound. Ashamed that he had so desperately wanted to take revenge on Wellpinit, Junior retreats to the locker room and cries. A few days after the end of basketball season, Junior emails Rowdy and says he is sorry that Reardan had beaten Wellpinit so badly; Rowdy irreverently responds that Wellpinit will "kick (Reardan's) asses next year." Junior is encouraged, because the exchange is "a little bit friendly," and because Rowdy is actually talking to him, a notable occurrence since Junior left the rez.
Junior observes that the biggest difference between Indians and white people is the number of deaths they experience. While a few of Junior's friends at Reardan have lost a relative or two, Junior himself, by the age of fourteen, has been to forty-two funerals on the reservation, and the saddest thing about all these deaths is that ninety percent of them have occurred because of alcohol. Junior is especially bitter in recounting the extent to which alcohol has ruined Indian lives because of yet another tragedy which befalls his family, which is still reeling over the deaths of his grandmother and Eugene. Junior is called out of class one morning by his guidance counselor, who tells him that his sister has died, and that his father is coming to get him. Devastated, Junior insists on waiting for his father alone, outside in the snow. Suddenly overcome with terror that his father might get into a wreck on the icy roads, he has almost reached the point of panic when his father finally drives up. Junior jumps into the car with relief, and without knowing why, begins to laugh hysterically, and is unable to stop until they reach the reservation border. When Junior asks how Mary died, his father says that she and her husband had passed out in the back bedroom of their little trailer after a big party; the trailer had caught fire, and they had burned to death. In a weak attempt to console Junior, his father adds that, according to the police, Mary was too drunk to have known what was happening, but Junior, shocked by the dark irony that this should be good news, reacts again by "going absolutely insane with laughter." Mercifully, unable to handle the intensity and pain of what has happened any longer, Junior's body simply "check(s) out," and he falls into a deep sleep. When they arrive home, Junior sees that his father is crying, and, wiping the tears from his face and tasting them,...
(The entire section is 1,870 words.)