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The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
This was a very unusual short story. The length was less than one thousand words and in spite of its size it proved to be a powerful and concise tale.
The title created specific images that didnít manifest in the story. There wasnít a fistfight. A white man with a mask was not present, nor a dull monotone Indian man. Yet, in the end, the title made sense.
The story was narrated by a Native American man who visited a 7-11 store during the graveyard shift. As soon as he entered the store, he had an opinion about the cashier, the store and the products available to him.
He speculated on the clerkís attitude and found subtle ways to make him uncomfortable for fear of a possible crime.
He danced somewhere between bracing himself for a racial confrontation and mockery of the world he lived in. He was in a near constant struggle common to minorities in America. This struggled produced a dark ironic wit that weaved throughout the story.
I laughed. I couldnít help myself. I knew racism was the heart of the sarcasm. I laughed, anyway. The racism was not solely on the Caucasian clerk but rampant in the Native American man, too.
The humor was very close to dangerous. In it you sympathized on one side, and related on the other. It was the kind of humor that preserved sanity because itís real humor, not jesting or hilarity but something you take a honest part in, in every day life.
We all do it. We laugh at shoes, hairstyles and noses on a regular basis. We laugh at grocery stores, in waiting rooms and at yard sales. We laugh at the tall, the short, the fat and the hairy. We laugh dangerously.
And when we are done, we tramp through life as if we never entertained an inappropriate thought or would we think of doing so in the future.
So . . . the Lone Ranger and Tonto may have gotten along on the silver screen in fantasy land but they appropriately tussled on equal ground for a better place . . . at least in their minds. Neither side triumph.
I guess we will all battle in Heaven when it is our time.
Sherman Alexie was raised on a reservation in Washington State. He writes stories, poems and screenplays using his experiences as a Native American in modern day America.
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