Lipsha goes out to the Firebird. One headlight is pointing toward the sky, and there are already dents and nicks in the paint. He gets in and turns the key, driving “in a general homeward direction.” He opens the windows and feels the fresh breeze. He has a full tank of gas and nothing to do. Suddenly, a knocking sound comes from the back end of the car. Lipsha figures a tire iron is rolling around, so he continues to drive. The banging sounds pick up, and Lipsha pulls over. As the car stops, the knocking becomes panicked and violent.
Despite King’s desire to hold on to the Firebird, it does not appear as if he respected the car much, just as he didn’t respect June while she was alive either. The fact that Lipsha steers the car “in a general homeward direction” speaks to the power of tribal and familial connections, as they are both pulling Lipsha home.
Lipsha opens the trunk of the Firebird and Gerry Nanapush jumps out. He gets in the front seat, and Lipsha continues to drive. After a bit of silence, Gerry asks Lipsha to drive him to the Canadian border. He has a wife and daughter in Canada, Gerry says, and he would like to see them. Lipsha agrees and tells Gerry he is “home free,” but Gerry says he will never have a home again. Lipsha understands this is true; Gerry can never go anywhere he is known without constantly looking over his shoulder.
Erdrich juxtaposes Gerry’s loss of home with the general loss of Native American culture and lifestyle due to assimilation and westward expansion. Gerry isn’t the only one who can’t go home, as countless Native Americans have been driven from their ancestral lands and have no recourse to get it back.
Gerry asks Lipsha to tell him about the reservation, and Lipsha tells him all about Lulu and her new friendship with Marie. He tells Gerry about how Lulu has gained a reputation for being an “old-time traditional” Native American and argued “Chippewa claims.” She even had her picture in a Washington newspaper, Lipsha says. He asks Gerry if he had known June, and Gerry admits he had, and that he was in love with her. They talk a bit about June, and then Lipsha asks Gerry if he really killed the state trooper.
Ironically, Lulu achieves much of what of Nector did before his own death. She embraces her Native culture despite forced assimilation and even argues with politicians to save ancestral “claims” to Native land like Nector did when he saves their land from the termination policy. Lulu is capable of the same things Nector was, which is another testament to her strength as a woman.
Gerry tells Lipsha that no one really knows who killed the trooper, and Lipsha tells Gerry that he is running from the military police. Gerry isn’t surprised; he thought that Lipsha was running from something. Gerry asks if Lipsha has had his army physical yet, and Lipsha says he hasn’t. Gerry tells him not to worry. When Gerry enlisted, he was turned down because his heart is “slightly fucked.” Gerry tells Lipsha that Lipsha is a Nanapush. “We all have this odd thing with our hearts,” Gerry says.
Gerry and Lipsha’s shared heart defect is more evidence of their connection as father and son. Gerry claims that no one knows who killed the trooper because it really doesn’t matter who pulled the trigger. Gerry will be blamed for the trooper’s death regardless, which is further evidence of the widespread racism and discrimination that Native Americans face.
Lipsha and Gerry arrive at the border and shake hands. Gerry walks off into the darkness, and Lipsha turns off the Firebird’s lights, driving in darkness, until he arrives at the bridge crossing the boundary river near the reservation. Lipsha parks the car and looks over the edge to the dark water below. He thinks of his ancestors who offered tobacco to the water, and then he thinks about June. He knows now what she had done for him in giving him to Marie. The son June claimed, King, has suffered in ways Lipsha hasn’t, and Lipsha is grateful for Marie. He reaches in his pocket, where Marie’s hankie still sits, and climbs back into June’s car. “So there is nothing to do but cross the water and bring her home,” Lipsha says.
Lipsha’s ride to Canada with Gerry in the Firebird offers them valuable time to bond. It is likely that Lipsha will never see Gerry again, but the connection they have made has given Lipsha lasting closure and comfort. Lipsha also has closure regarding June and Marie, and he remains connected to Marie regardless of the fact that she is not technically his mother. When Lipsha claims it is time to “bring her home,” he implies that he is taking home both his new car and June, who has been trying to make it back for some time.