So I lay down on the floor beside him and patted his head and whispered his name for hours.
Then Dad came home from wherever and had one of those long talks with Mom, and they decided something without me.
And then Dad pulled down his rifle and bullets from the closet.
Junior, he said. Carry Oscar outside.
No! I screamed.
Hes suffering, Dad said. We got to help him.
You cant do it! I shouted.
I wanted to punch my Dad in the face. I wanted to punch him in the nose and make him bleed. I wanted to punch him in the eye and make him blind. I wanted to kick him in the balls and make him pass out.
I was hot mad. Volcano mad. Tsunami mad.
Dad just looked down at me with the saddest look in his eyes. He was crying. He looked weak.
I wanted to hate him for his weakness.
I wanted to hate Dad and Mom for our poverty.
I wanted to blame them for my sick dog and for all the other sickness in the world.
But I cant blame my parents for our poverty because my mother and father are the twin suns around which I orbit and my world will EXPLODE without them.
And its not like my mother and father were born into wealth. Its not like they gambled away their family fortunes. My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people.
Adam and Eve covered their privates with fig leaves; the first Indians covered their privates with their tiny hands.
Seriously, I know my mother and father had their dreams when they were kids. They dreamed about being something other than poor, but they never got the chance to be anything because nobody paid attention to their dreams.
Given the chance, my mother would have gone to college.
She still reads books like crazy. She buys them by the pound. And she remembers everything she reads. She recites whole pages by memory. She is a human tape recorder. Really. She reads the newspaper in fifteen minutes and tells me baseball scores, the location of every war, the latest guy to win the lottery, and the high temperature in Des Moines, Iowa.
Given the chance, my father would have been a musician.
When he gets drunk, he sings old country songs. And blues, too. And he sounds good. Like a pro. Like he should be on the radio. He plays the guitar and the piano a little bit. And he has this old saxophone from high school that he keeps all clean and shiny, like hes going to join a band at any moment.
But we reservation Indians dont get those chances. We dont get choices. Were just poor. Thats all we are.
It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that youre poor because youre stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that youre stupid and ugly because youre Indian. And because youre Indian you start believing youre destined to be poor. Its an ugly circle and theres nothing you can do about it.
Poverty doesnt give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.
So, poor and small and weak, I picked up Oscar. He licked my face because he loved and trusted me. And I carried him out to the lawn, and I laid him down beneath our green apple tree.
I love you, Oscar, I said.
He looked at me and I swear to you that he understood what was happening. He knew what Dad was going to do. But Oscar wasnt scared. He was relieved.
But not me.
I ran away as fast as I could.
I wanted to run faster than the speed of sound, but nobody, no matter how much pain theyre in, can run that fast. So I heard the boom of my fathers rifle when he shot my best friend.
Excerpted from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian © Copyright 2007 by Sherman Alexie. Reprinted with permission by Little, Brown for Young Readers, Inc. All rights reserved.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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