Reservation Blues

A Spokane Indian and the guitar player in Coyote Springs. Junior Polatkin is his best friend. Victor is a bully and a drunk, whose rude behavior is partially a result of his upbringing—his father left at a young age, and his white stepfather mistreated him. Both events are individually tragic, but also part of a large pattern of suffering. In a dream, we learn that Victor was also abused by a Catholic priest as a boy while at summer camp, which might have contributed to his deep mistrust of authority. Before joining the band, he depends upon Junior for money, riding beside him in the water truck. With the magic of Robert Johnson’s guitar, he becomes by far the best musician in the band. At the same time, however, he begins to hallucinate, seeing white women where there are none, and, ominously, dreaming that the guitar is asking him for a sacrifice just before Junior’s suicide.

Victor Joseph Quotes in Reservation Blues

The Reservation Blues quotes below are all either spoken by Victor Joseph or refer to Victor Joseph. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Grove Press edition of Reservation Blues published in 1995.
Chapter 2 Quotes

They did go home with Junior and Victor one night, and everybody on the reservation knew about it. Little Indian boys crept around the house and tried to peek in the windows. All of them swore they saw the white women naked, then bragged it wasn’t the first time they’d seen a naked white woman. None of them had seen a naked Indian woman, let alone a white woman. But the numbers of naked white women who had visited the Spokane Indian Reservation rapidly grew in the boys’ imaginations, as if the size of their lies proved they were warriors.

Related Characters: Junior Polatkin, Victor Joseph, Betty, Veronica
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 4 Quotes

Junior and Victor shrugged their shoulders, walked into Thomas’s house, and looked for somewhere to sleep. Decorated veterans of that war between fathers and sons, Junior and Victor knew the best defense was sleep. They saw too many drunks littering the grass of the reservation; they rolled the drunks over and stole their money.

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire, Junior Polatkin, Victor Joseph, Samuel Builds-the-Fire
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 5 Quotes

“I mean, I think they’re all using each other as trophies. Junior and Victor get to have beautiful white women on their arms, and Betty and Veronica get to have Indian men… Look at them. They got more Indian jewelry and junk on them than any dozen Indians. The spotlights hit the crystals on their necks and nearly blinded me once. All they talk about is Coyote this and Coyote that, sweatlodge this and sweatlodge that. They think Indians got all the answers.”

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Junior Polatkin, Victor Joseph, Betty, Veronica
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

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Chapter 8 Quotes

Victor roared against his whole life. If he could have been hooked up to a power line, he would have lit up Times Square. He had enough anger inside to guide every salmon over Grand Coulee Dam. He wanted to steal a New York cop’s horse and go on the warpath. He wanted to scalp stockbrokers and kidnap supermodels. He wanted to shoot flaming arrows into the Museum of Modern Art. He wanted to lay siege to Radio City Music Hall. Victor wanted to win. Victor wanted to get drunk.

Related Characters: Victor Joseph
Related Symbols: Horses
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Chapter 10 Quotes

WalksAlong didn’t respond, and Victor left the office, feeling something slip inside him. He stole five dollars from WalksAlong’s secretary’s purse and bought a six-pack of cheap beer at the Trading Post.
“Fuck it, I can do it, too,” Victor whispered to himself and opened the first can. That little explosion of the beer can opening sounded exactly like a smaller, slower version of the explosion that Junior’s rifle made on the water tower.

Related Characters: Victor Joseph (speaker), Junior Polatkin, David WalksAlong
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit an

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Victor Joseph Character Timeline in Reservation Blues

The timeline below shows where the character Victor Joseph appears in Reservation Blues. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...the new tribal slot machines and buys a microwave burrito at the Trading Post. Then Victor Joseph, who is tattered and angry, and Junior Polatkin, a “tall, good-looking buck with hair... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
Thomas tells them the guitar has a secret name, and Victor pulls him into a sudden headlock to make him reveal it. These tussles are common... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Suddenly, Victor smashes the guitar against the sidewalk, and then gives it to Thomas to play. Thomas,... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Junior is driving the water truck to the West End, avoiding potholes, with Victor asleep beside him, twisting and turning from a nightmare. Junior remembers the Psych 101 course... (full context)
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
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...house and pump some water into the well, looking at the dusty lawn. Simon, whom Victor calls the “crazy backwards driving old man,” offers them a drink, but all he has... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
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...a child. The guitar plays him a sad song, the same song for hours, and Victor and Junior hear it too, passed out drunk in the water truck. The guitar tells... (full context)
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Junior and Victor are passed out in the water truck. Junior dreams of his two brothers, his two... (full context)
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The sound of the guitar’s song washes over the reservation like rain, waking Victor and Junior, who, angry and hung over, drive toward Thomas to stop the music. The... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Victor and Junior arrive, and Thomas invites them to join a band, offering Victor the guitar,... (full context)
Chapter 2
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
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...is broken in romantic heartbreak, and the heartbreak of a broken treaty. Thomas, Junior, and Victor are rehearsing in an abandoned grocery store called Irene’s. The electric bass and drum set... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...confused by the Sex Pistols covers. The band is improving at a frightening rate, and Victor, especially, is becoming a devastatingly good guitarist. The band’s two most devoted white fans are... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Betty and Veronica go home one night with Junior and Victor, and little Indian boys swear they see the women them naked, as if “their lies... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...Indians from all over show up to watch rehearsals. Thomas decides they need a name. Victor suggests Bloodthirsty Savages, and Thomas counters with Coyote Springs. When Victor says “Fuck Coyote,” lightning... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
...and the members of Coyote Springs step up to the stage for the first time. Victor says he is ready to be immortal. They mess up their first count, but then... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...Thomas, is kind of cute. Chess and Checkers dance, even as the music deteriorates since Victor and Junior get drunk on free booze. The band takes a break, and Thomas discusses... (full context)
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Victor confuses Thomas and Junior by talking about seeing white women, when there are none in... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Victor’s guitar pulls him back on stage with Junior and Thomas, and Thomas announces that the... (full context)
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...that it “made up in pure volume what it lacked in talent,” and noting that Victor and Junior were “drunk as skunks.” The night of the show, Chess and Checkers helped... (full context)
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Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...they live with their parents, but Checkers tells him their parents are gone. They leave Victor and Junior to sleep in the car, and Checkers goes to bed, so Chess and... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...Sioux ride off in a panic. This reminds Thomas of the summer that Junior and Victor killed snakes by draping them over an electric fence, forcing Thomas to watch. Once Victor... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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The dream continues: now Thomas, Victor, and Junior are practicing, and Thomas says he hopes they don’t make it big, because... (full context)
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Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
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Thomas tells Chess that the band is better than they sounded last night, blaming Victor and Junior being drunk. He tells her he does not drink, and she smiles: this... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
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...and Checkers to join the band as singers. Chess is skeptical, unwilling to leave home. Victor objects to the idea, but when Thomas suggests they vote, Junior unexpectedly votes with Thomas.... (full context)
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...begging for more “music, hope, and joy.” After the show, Chess, Checkers, and Thomas find Victor and Junior naked and drunk in the back of the van with an equally naked... (full context)
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Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
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...inside, while Chess and Thomas sit on a bench and talk. Chess tells Thomas that Victor and Junior hanging out with white women feels like a betrayal. The race needs to... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
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...Washington. To get there they drive the faded blue van, which is old enough that Victor says they should get a new rig. Thomas tells him they must respect their elders,... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...headlights of the blue van illuminating an old Indian man passed out on Thomas’s lawn. Victor asks Junior which of their dads it is, and Junior replies that it can’t be... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...Horse.” He tells WalksAlong that the only way he’ll stop him is with a pistol. Victor, meanwhile, dreams of his stepfather, Harold, throwing his mother, Matilda into the trunk of his... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Suddenly (still in the dream) Victor’s head is shaved, and a huge white man in a black robe leads him down... (full context)
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...WalksAlong calls no foul. Back in the present Junior, who is across the house from Victor, dreams he is in the backseat of his parents’ car outside Powwow Tavern. He is... (full context)
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
...begins to chant that the end of the world is near, as he always does. Victor and Junior stumble into the kitchen, looking for food, but there is only applesauce. Victor... (full context)
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In the present, the van leaves and Checkers waves goodbye to everyone but Victor. She is planning to go to church, to meet Father Arnold and sing there. In... (full context)
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Victor and Junior drink coffee while Thomas and Chess discuss Seattle—how it’s named after an Indian... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
The song lyrics here refer to religious persecution by the “black robes” from Victor’s dream, with the refrain “My God has dark skin.” Back in the narrative, the van... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Checkers begins to tell Father Arnold about Junior and Victor having sex with Betty and Veronica. She explains that this makes her hate both white... (full context)
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Alcoholism and Patterns of Suffering Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
Victor, meanwhile, is dreaming of his summer at Mission School when he was nine—a Catholic summer... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
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...love her back. This is the reason, she thinks, why she had the fight with Victor: God was planning for her to meet Father Arnold. Back in the van, the band... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Victor is drawn to the drunks that frighten Junior and the others. Lester FallsApart, the “most... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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...the interviewer that he and Chess voted against the two white women, but Junior and Victor voted them in with a coin toss. He says he feels they are all using... (full context)
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
Thomas and Chess take turns driving the victorious band home, with Junior, Victor, Betty, and Veronica in the back seat. Chess asks Thomas if he’ll come with her... (full context)
Chapter 6
Community, Friendship, and Love Theme Icon
...Coyote Springs’ ability to represent the tribe. It takes issue with Betty and Veronica, names Victor and Junior as drunks, calls out Chess and Checkers for being Flathead (not Spokane) Indians,... (full context)
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Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
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Victor and Junior are drunkenly working their way through their share of the prize money, as... (full context)
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White Hawk, Victor, and Junior are taken to Spokane for medical attention. The Indian EMT lies to the... (full context)
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...woman thing.” Junior is “ethnically handsome,” making up for Thomas’s goofiness and the fact that Victor looks like “a train rain him over in 1976.” They list the band members’ particularly... (full context)
Race, Culture, and Identity Theme Icon
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...They spend this on Doritos and Hershey’s, and a stock of beer for Junior and Victor. The next day, Thomas receives a letter from Big Mom, telling him that without her... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...are told about her, but some refuse to believe that she even exists. Junior and Victor, who are “damn good at denial,” once saw her walk across Benjamin Pond, but erased... (full context)
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...that Robert Johnson is gone looking for wood to build a new guitar. She tells Victor that, if he wants, she can throw his guitar away for him. He says he’d... (full context)
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Victor doesn’t understand how Big Mom can help them play, since she’s “just some old Indian... (full context)
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At the end of a long day of rehearsal, Victor resists playing the chord again. Robert Johnson listens, wincing, from the bushes. Thomas tells Victor... (full context)
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In a letter, Junior thanks Big Mom for the drumsticks, and tries to apologize for Victor. He explains that Victor has always been his bodyguard, beating up anybody who touched him... (full context)
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...they may not—they would make their own choices. They all had said goodbye, and even Victor managed a “thank you.” At the airport, as they are boarding, Victor nearly refuses to... (full context)
Chapter 8
Hope, Despair, and the Blues Theme Icon
Storytelling, History, and the Spiritual Theme Icon
...band counts off as, somewhere, horses scream. At first, all is well, and then suddenly Victor’s guitar begins to rebel, bucking in his arms, and he feels a razor slice his... (full context)
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An article in the local paper shows Victor’s aggressive optimism on his way to the plane the day before, as well as David... (full context)
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Chess, Checkers, and Thomas wait in their hotel lobby worrying about Victor and Junior—they want to find them, but there are too many thousands of bars. Chess... (full context)
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...said she was too. After hours of talking, she kissed him. Back in the bar, Victor interrupts Junior’s reverie. A police report records that Thomas and Chess have reported the pair... (full context)
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Chess and Thomas enter yet another bar, asking the pretty waitress about Victor and Junior. She says she’s never seen a real Indian before, a “bow-and-arrow Indian”—only Indians... (full context)
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...few months into their relationship. In the present, in the sixth bar of the night, Victor laughs, drunk, as Junior announces his pregnancy to the room. “Am I the father?” Victor... (full context)
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...as the sun rises, Thomas and Chess return to the lobby and “discover America,” finding Victor asleep on a couch while Junior reads USA Today. The three of them carry Victor... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...plane crashing, and of the thin flute music he would follow into the next life. Victor had cried, silently, mourning the loss of his guitar. In the church, Checkers tells Father... (full context)
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The night before the episode in the church, Victor dreams of music that will not stop playing, while the band talks to the Tribal... (full context)
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Earlier again, as the band arrives at the Spokane airport, they wait for Victor’s luggage. Just before they decide to abandon it, a guitar case slides down the carousel.... (full context)
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...news, sits onstage, and starts to play the guitar, better than anybody ever. Now, watching Victor’s dreams, Johnson feels guilty about passing on the guitar. Big Mom keeps carving the wood,... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...backwards off the reservation, never to return, since Junior used his gun to commit suicide. Victor is angry with the reservation members, remembering how they watched as Junior did it. Lester... (full context)
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...and father. Big Mom and Father Arnold take turns leading the service, while Checkers, Chess, Victor, and Thomas watch. Lester and the three dogs are also present. The dogs howl, only... (full context)
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Victor drives to Turtle Lake and sits in the van. Junior appears to him with a... (full context)
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...and Thomas get ready to pray, for everybody, as Big Mom puts on a record. Victor goes to David WalksAlong looking for a job. WalksAlong is shocked to see him, after... (full context)
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We then see Victor’s résumé, which is littered with misspellings. Coyote Springs is gone. Victor wanders around the reservation... (full context)