Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie

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Chapter 4 Summary

When Coyote Springs arrives in Spokane, they go to Thomas’s house and find a body lying in the front yard. When they get out of the van, the boys recognize the man as Thomas’s father, Samuel. Once Victor and Junior have identified the man, they go inside Thomas’s house and fall asleep. So Thomas, Chess, and Checkers must carry Samuel into the house, where they lay him on the kitchen table.

The girls’ father used to drink a lot, so they empathize with what Thomas is going through. As he looks down at his father, Thomas tells the girls that his father was once a very good basketball player. When he was in high school, Samuel was awarded the Washington State High School Basketball Player of the Year. This put pressure on his father, Thomas tells Chess and Checkers. Whenever someone did well on the reservation, all the other people thought he should be able to help them—even to the point of making miracles happen. But after high school, Samuel discovered there was not anything really special about him except for basketball.

After Thomas finishes telling this story, Chess and Checkers say they hate being Indian. So many Indian families are ruined by alcohol. Almost every family has a parent who is a drunk. Then Chess and Checkers begin singing an Indian mourning song. Thomas joins in. Afterward, Thomas walks out the back door. He wants to be alone. Out in the dark of the night, Thomas cries.

The narrator relates a flashback to an earlier time in Samuel’s life. Samuel and his friend Lester FallsApart are driving down one of the reservation roads when Lester slaps Samuel on the back, congratulating him for having gotten his girlfriend pregnant. The slap surprises Samuel, and he momentarily loses control of the steering wheel. Unfortunately, a Spokane Tribal Police Officer sees Samuel’s car swerve, and he stops him. Officer Wilson is a White man who does not like his job on the reservation. Samuel does not like Officer Wilson. Instead of giving Samuel a ticket for his erratic driving, Officer Wilson agrees to a quick basketball game. Samuel brags about his skills; instead of playing Wilson...

(The entire section is 578 words.)