In Sherman Alexie's “This is what it means to say Phoenix, Arizona” a man named Victor finds out that his father has passed away. Being next of kin, Victor is responsible for gathering his father's assets together, which requires him to make an out of town trip. In order to accomplish this Victor needs help. This help comes from the town outcast, Thomas Builds-the Fire. Victor and Thomas were childhood best friends but as they grew older, Victor turned his back on the one that always looked out for him. A trip to gather his father's remains turns into a journey of reviewing his life and choices.
Shortly after losing his job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Victor is informed of his father's death. Although they haven't had
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Is it just what kids do? Pick on the underdog, make fun of the ones who don't fit in? Regardless of why, Victor is left feeling sick to his stomach, the reality of his actions haunting him. He can't believe that the person he let down the most, is the one who offered to help him. Victor apologizes to Thomas for beating him up and Thomas shrugs it off by replying “Oh, it was nothing. We were just kids and you were drunk.” (252). Victor can't understand how Thomas can be so forgiving and why he would help him after the horrendous way he has treated him.
The men arrive at Victor's father's trailer and Victor gathers anything of value. Thomas recalls memories of Victor's dad. Victor is surprised that Thomas would remember anything, especially since his own memories of his father are vague. Thomas begins to tell a story about a vision he had when he was thirteen. The vision told him to go to the Spokane waterfalls and wait for a sign. Thomas walked all day to reach the falls and when he finally made it he stood, waiting. Victor's father showed up and asked him what he was doing. When Thomas explained, Victor's dad lead him away from the falls and took him for dinner. Then he took Thomas home. Thomas and Victor's father made an agreement. Victor's father would not tell of the Thomas' trip to the falls and in return he asked Thomas to always look out for Victor. Victor finally understands why Thomas is helping him. Thomas tells Victor that he was