Part I, Tony Loneman–Dene Oxendene

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Last Reviewed on January 27, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1289

Tony Loneman

Tony Loneman was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, which he calls “the Drome,” and it has caused various effects. His face has physical differences, from drooping eyes to the spacing of his features, and he has been told that he is in the lowest intelligence percentile. At age twenty-one, he considers the Drome his “power and curse.” A counselor assures him that people born with FAS have a spectrum of abilities and tells him that he has great intuition and street smarts. Tony agrees with this assessment. He knows when people say one thing and mean another. He knows when someone is trying to “come up on” him. He knows how to spot fear in people. 

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Tony’s grandmother, whom he calls Maxine, tells him that they are Cheyenne and that all the land they see once belonged to their people. Tony surmises that the Cheyenne didn’t have street smarts, since they allowed the white men to take all of their land. He then backtracks and says that they probably did but didn’t have the weapons of the white men, such as guns and diseases.

He talks to his mother, who is in jail, occasionally on the phone, but she usually makes a comment that makes him regret talking to her at all. She tells him that his father doesn’t know he exists, and when he asks for her to tell him, she refuses: “It ain’t simple like that.” 

His tall and physically imposing figure helps Tony face conflict. He was suspended many times for fighting in schools, noting that when he gets mad, his face heats up and hardens “like metal,” and then he blacks out. He stands tall so that no one will bother him and predicts that “Maybe I’m’a do something one day, and everybody’s gonna know about me. Maybe that’s when I’ll come to life.”

In order to help Maxine, Tony has been selling weed since he was thirteen. Once a nurse herself, now Maxine needs lots of medical assistance that she can’t afford. At her request, Tony also reads to her before bed, even though reading is difficult since the letters “move on [him] sometimes like bugs.” Maxine enjoys hearing “Indian stuff” that he doesn’t always understand but that somehow makes him feel better and less alone after reading it.

A group of white boys approach Tony in a liquor store parking lot and ask for “snow,” or coke. Tony isn’t sure he can get it but tells them to meet him at the same store in one week. He goes to find Octavio, who tells him that his own grandmother saved his life after his mother disappeared and that he would “give away [his] heart’s own blood for her,” which is the same way Tony feels about Maxine. The two make good money off the white boys and their friends that summer. One evening, Octavio asks Tony about his Native ancestry and then about the purpose of a powwow. Tony tells him that the purpose is to make money, and Octavio tells him “that’s why we’re gonna be at that powwow too.” Octavio has a gun made with a 3D printer and plans to use Tony to help stash the ammunition in a sock which he will then throw into some bushes at the event. Octavio says he owes somebody money and has to do things this way. Tony goes home and puts on his powwow regalia, feeling like an Indian dancer, not seeing the Drome. 

Dene Oxendene

The first time Dene Oxendene saw someone tag, he was on the bus. Dene is on his way to meet a panel of judges and believes they will all be old white men who will hate him immediately. Trying to acquire funds for a cultural arts grant, Dene is not “recognizably Native.” Instead, he is “ambiguously nonwhite,” and people have often simply asked him, “What are you?”

In a flashback, Dene recalls how he’d thought up the tag Lens when his uncle had come to visit. Someone had taken a photo of the bus Dene was riding, and in the...

(The entire section contains 1289 words.)

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