Dirty Joe, an Indian known on the reservation “because he cruised the taverns at closing time [and] drank all the half-empties,” passes out on the ground, intoxicated, “in the middle of a white carnival.” Victor and his friend Sadie stand over Joe’s body, unsure of what to do with him. If they leave him where he lies, they know, he will “go to jail for sure.” White passersby stare, gawk, and laugh at Dirty Joe. Victor hears a scream behind him; he turns around and sees a miniature roller coaster called The Stallion, and he and Sadie decide to put Dirty Joe on it—though they know it’s “a real shitty thing to do.”
Victor and Sadie, though familiar with Dirty Joe, have little empathy for him, and feel no remorse in concocting a plan that will humiliate him for the sake of their own amusement. This breakdown of community also occurs in a primarily white space, where Sadie, Victor, and Dirty Joe are all already isolated.
Victor and Sadie carry Joe to the coaster and pay off the “carny” operator to let Joe ride around all day. As Joe goes around and around, Victor and Sadie laugh and enjoy themselves. White bystanders, “jury and judge,” look on in disbelief.
Victor and Sadie, along with the white bystanders from whom they are normally isolated, bear jovial witness to Dirty Joe’s pain and humiliation.
Victor, “realizing what [he] ha[s] done,” tells Sadie that they should leave. She suggests they collect Joe from the roller coaster, but Victor insists that there’s no time. As they hurry out of the carnival, a small redheaded boy points his finger at Victor and mimes shooting a gun, shouting “You’re dead, Indian.” Victor looks back at the coaster and sees that Dirty Joe is awake. Victor watches as Joe stumbles off the ride and throws up onto the loading platform. The ride’s operator pushes Dirty Joe into the grass, and a crowd gathers around him. The operator points out Victor, and beckons him.
Victor’s surrender to his conscience does not extend to actually helping Joe; instead, he and Sadie leave him behind, isolated and in pain. The child who taunts Victor further stokes his guilt, and reminds him that he is still on the outside. His humiliation of Dirty Joe has not made him any more a part of the white world, though it’s an act of betrayal that has arguably isolated him, at least emotionally, from his Spokane community.
Victor runs, pursued by a security guard, and finds himself in a fun house. There he catches a glimpse of himself in a distorted mirror, and sees himself as an “Indian who offered up another Indian like some treaty.” Victor feels “the folding shut of the good part of [his] past.”
Victor sees his distorted reflection and understands it as his true one; he has made himself unrecognizable through the perpetration of such a traitorous act against one of his own. Alexie also once again connects individual suffering in the present to historical and cultural suffering, as Victor’s betrayal of Dirty Joe is like a “treaty” betraying other Native people to white people.