from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman
Alexie. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a
collection of twenty-two short stories.  The excerpt came from the
chapter titled “A Drug Called Tradition.”
       “Hey,” he said.  “You two want to hear a story?”

        Junior and I looked at each other, looked back at Thomas,
and decided that it would be all right.  Thomas closed his eyes and
told his story.

        It is now.  Three Indian boys are drinking Diet Pepsi and
talking out by Benjamin Lake.  They are wearing only loincloths and
braids.  Although it is the twentieth century and planes are passing
overhead, the Indian boys have decided to be real Indians tonight.

        They all want to have their vision, to receive their true
names, their adult names.  That is the problem with Indians these
days.  They have the same names all their lives.  Indians wear their
names like a pair of bad shoes.

        So they decided to build a fire and breathe in that sweet
smoke.  They have not eaten for days so they know their visions
should arrive soon.  Maybe they’ll see it in the flames or in the
wood.  Maybe the smoke will talk in Spokane or English.  Maybe the
cinders and ash will rise up.

        The boys sit by the fire and breathe, their visions arrive.  
They are all carried away to the past, to the moment before any of
them took their first drink of alcohol.

        The boy Thomas throws the beer he is offered into the
garbage.  The boy Junior throws his whiskey through a window.  The
boy Victor spills his vodka down the drain.

        Then the boys sing.  They sing and dance and drum.  The
steal horses.  I can see them.  They steal horses.

        “You don’t really believe that shit?” I asked Thomas.

        “Don’t need to believe anything.  It just is.”

        Thomas stood up and walked away.  He wouldn’t even try to
tell us any stories again for a few years.  We had never been very
good to him, even as boys, but he had always been kind to us.  When
he stopped even looking at me, I was hurt.  How do you explain that?

        Before he left for good, though, he turned back to Junior
and me and yelled at us.  I couldn’t really understand what he was
saying, but Junior swore he told us not to slow dance with our

        “What the hell does that mean?” I asked.

        “I don’t know,” Junior said.

        There are things you should learn.  Your past is a skeleton
walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking
one step in front of you.  Maybe you don’t wear a watch, but your
skeletons do, and they always know what time it is.  Now, these
skeletons are made of memories, dreams, and voices.  And they can
trap you in the in-between, between touching and becoming.  But
they’re not necessarily evil, unless you let them be.

        What you have to do is keep moving, keep walking, in step
with your skeletons.  They ain’t ever going to leave you, so you
don’t have to worry about that.  Your past ain’t going to fall
behind, and your future won’t get too far ahead.  Sometimes, though,
your skeletons will talk to you, tell you to sit down and take a
rest, breathe a little.  Maybe they’ll make you promises, tell you
all the things you want to hear.

        Sometimes your skeletons will dress up as beautiful Indian
women and ask you to slow dance.  Sometimes your skeletons will
dress up as your best friend and offer you a drink, one more for the
road.  Sometimes your skeletons will look exactly like your parents
and offer you gifts.

        But, no matter what they do, keep walking, keep moving.  
And don’t wear a watch.  Hell, Indians never need to wear a watch
because your skeletons will always remind you about the time.  See,
it is always now.  That’s what Indian time is.  The past, the
future, all of it is wrapped up in the now.  That’s how it is.  We
are all trapped in the now.