The rez bullies Arnold;
The rez basketball fans were chanting, “Ar-nold sucks! Ar-lold sucks! Ar-nold sucks!”
They weren’t calling me by my rez name, Junior. Nope, they were calling me by my
Reardan name. What are the implications of this statement?
Coach looked back at me.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“You don’t have to play this one,” he said.
“Yes, I do,” I said. Maybe, he has something to prove
Still, I probably would have turned around if I hadn’t seen my mom and dad and grandma
waiting at the front door.
I know they’d been pitched just as much crap as I was. And there they were, ready to
catch more crap for me. Ready to walk through the crap with me. Supportive family; can’t back down
Two tribal cops were also there.
I guess they were for security. For whose security, I don’t know. But they walked with
our team, too. What inference can we make from this?
So we walked through the front and into the loud gym.
Which immediately went silent.
Absolutely quiet. Repetition of ideas
My fellow tribal members saw me and they all stopped cheering, talking, and moving.
I think they stopped breathing.
And, then, as one, they all turned their backs on me. Visual?
It was a fricking awesome display of contempt.
I was impressed. So were my teammates.
He just looked at me and whistled.
I was mad.
If these dang Indians had been this organized when I went to school here, maybe I would have had
more reasons to stay.
That thought made me laugh.
So I laughed.
And my laughter was the only sound in the gym.
And then I noticed that the only Indian who hadn’t turned his back on me was Rowdy. He
was standing on the other end of the court. He passed a basketball around his back, around his back,
around his back, like a clock. And he glared at me.
He wanted to play.
He didn’t want to turn his back on me.
He wanted to kill me, face-to-face.
That made me laugh some more.
And then Coach started laughing with me.
And so did my teammates.
And we kept laughing as we walked into the locker room to get ready for the game.
Once inside the locker room, I almost passed out. I slumped against a locker. I felt dizzy and weak.
And then I cried, and felt ashamed of my tears.
But Coach knew exactly what to say.
“It’s okay,” Coach said to me, but he was talking to the whole team. “If you care about something
enough, it’s going to make you cry. But you have to use it. Use your tears. Use your pain. Use your
fear. Get mad, Arnold, get mad.”
And so I got mad.
And I was still mad and crying when we ran out for warm-ups. And I was still mad when
the game started. I was on the bench. I didn’t think I was going to play much. I was only a freshman.
But halfway through the first quarter, with the score tied at 10, Coach sent me in.
And as I ran onto the court, somebody in the crowd threw a quarter at me. AND HIT ME
IN THE FRICKING FOREHEAD!
They drew blood.
I was bleeding. So I couldn’t play.
Bleeding and angry, I glared at the crowd.
They taunted me as I walked into the locker room.
I bled alone, until Eugene, my dad’s best friend, walked in. He had just become an EMT
for the tribal clinic.
“Let me look at that,” he said, and poked at my wound.
“You still got your motorcycle?” I asked.
“Nah, I wrecked that thing,” he said, and dabbed antiseptic on my cut. “How does this feel?”
“Ah, it’s nothing,” he said. “Maybe three stitches. I’ll drive you to Spokane to get it fixed up.”
“Do you hate me, too?” I asked Eugene.
“No, man, you’re cool,” he said.
“Good,” I said.
“It’s too bad you didn’t get to play,” Eugene said. “Your dad says you’re getting pretty good.”
“Not as good as you,” I said.
Eugene was a legend. People say he could have played in college, but people also say
Eugene couldn’t read.
You can’t read, you can’t ball.
“You’ll get them next time,” Eugene said.
“You stitch me up,” I said.
“You stitch me up. I want to play tonight.”
“I can’t do that, man. It’s your face. I might leave a scar or something.”
“Then I’ll look tougher,” I said. “Come on, man.”
So Eugene did it. He gave me three stitches in my fore head and it hurt like crazy, but I was ready to
play the second half.
We were down by five points.
Rowdy had been an absolute terror, scoring twenty points, grabbing ten rebounds, and
stealing the ball seven times.
“That kid is good,” Coach said.
“He’s my best friend,” I said. “Well, he used to be my best friend.”
“What is he now?”
“I don’t know.”
We scored the first five points of the third quarter, and then Coach sent me into the game.
I immediately stole a pass and drove for a layup.
Rowdy was right behind me.
I jumped into the air, heard the curses of two hundred Spokanes, and then saw only a
bright light as Rowdy smashed his elbow into my head and knocked me unconscious.
Okay, I don’t remember anything else from that night. So everything I tell you now is
After Rowdy knocked me out, both of our teams got into a series of shoving matches and
The tribal cops had to pull twenty or thirty adult Spokanes off the court before any of them assaulted a
teenage white kid.
Rowdy was given a technical foul.
So we shot two free throws for that.
I didn’t shoot them, of course, because I was already in Eugene’s ambulance, with my
mother and father, on the way to Spokane.
After we shot the technical free throws, the two referees huddled. They were two white
dudes from Spokane who were absolutely terrified of the wild Indians in the crowd and were willing
to do ANYTHING to make them happy. So they called technical fouls on four of our players for
leaving the bench and on Coach for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Yep, five technicals. Ten free throws.
After Rowdy hit the first six free throws, Coach cursed and screamed, and was thrown
out of the game.
Wellpinit ended up winning by thirty points.
I ended up with a minor concussion.
Yep, three stitches and a bruised brain.
My mother was just beside herself. She thought I’d been murdered.
“I’m okay,” I said. “Just a little dizzy.”
“But your hydrocephalus,” she said. “Your brain is already damaged enough.”
“Gee, thanks, Mom,” I said.
Of course, I was worried that I’d further damaged my already damaged brain; the doctors said I was
Later that night, Coach talked his way past the nurses and into my room. My mother and
father and grandma were asleep in their chairs, but I was awake.
“Hey, kid,” Coach said, keeping his voice low so he wouldn’t wake my family.
“Hey, Coach,” I said.
“Sorry about that game,” he said.
“It’s not your fault.”
“I shouldn’t have played you. I should have canceled the whole game. It’s my fault.”
“I wanted to play. I wanted to win.”
“It’s just a game,” he said. “It’s not worth all this.”
But he was lying. He was just saying what he thought he was supposed to say. Of course, it was not
just a game. Every game is important. Every game is serious.