The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

Thomas Builds-the-Fire Character Analysis

One of Victor’s childhood friends, Thomas Builds-the-Fire has the gift of storytelling, and his stories often seem to be visions of the past or the future. However, Thomas is described as “always talking to himself… [he] was a storyteller that nobody wanted to listen to.” Victor says that he has “never been very good” to Thomas, but that Thomas has “always” been good to him. When they are older, Thomas accompanies Victor to Phoenix in order to collect Victor’s father’s ashes. During their trip, the two reconcile, and Thomas forgives Victor his abuses in exchange for the promise that Victor will, just once, stop and listen to one of the many stories Thomas tells. After Thomas offends a member of the tribal council, he’s brought to trial, and ultimately indicts himself in crimes he may or may not have actually committed—crimes that may just have been stories he felt compelled to tell.

Thomas Builds-the-Fire Quotes in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven quotes below are all either spoken by Thomas Builds-the-Fire or refer to Thomas Builds-the-Fire. 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:
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Grove Press edition of The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven published in 2013.
A Drug Called Tradition Quotes

Your past is a skeleton walking one step behind you, and your future is a skeleton walking one step in front of you... Indians never need to wear a watch because your skeletons will always remind you about the time. See, it is always now. That’s what Indian time is. The past, the future, all of it is wrapped up in the now. That’s how it is. We are trapped in the now.”

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Victor, Junior Polatkin
Related Symbols: Dreams and Visions
Page Number: 21-22
Explanation and Analysis:

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This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona Quotes

The fireworks were small, hardly more than a few bottle rockets and a fountain. But it was enough for two Indian boys. Years later, they would need much more.

Related Characters: Victor (speaker), Thomas Builds-the-Fire
Page Number: 63
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 anim id est laborum.

“Wait,” Thomas yelled from his porch. “I just got to ask one favor.”
Victor stopped the pickup, leaned out the window, and shouted back. “What do you want?”
“Just one time when I’m telling a story somewhere, why don’t you stop and listen?” Thomas asked.
“Just once?”
“Just once.”
Victor waved his arms to let Thomas know that the deal was good. It was a fair trade, and that was all Victor had ever wanted from his whole life.

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker), Victor
Page Number: 75
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 anim id est laborum.

The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire Quotes

Your honor, if I may continue, there is much more I need to say. There are so many more stories to tell.

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker)
Related Symbols: Dreams and Visions
Page Number: 98
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 anim id est laborum.

Distances Quotes

Last night I dreamed about television. I woke up crying.

Related Characters: Thomas Builds-the-Fire (speaker)
Related Symbols: Dreams and Visions, Basketball and Television
Page Number: 106
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 anim id est laborum.

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Thomas Builds-the-Fire Character Timeline in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

The timeline below shows where the character Thomas Builds-the-Fire appears in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
A Drug Called Tradition
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas Builds-the-Fire has been compensated by Washington Water Power, who paid him off in order to... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
After driving a little ways, the two boys see Thomas standing by the side of the road; he has left his own party in order... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
...driving, Victor obliges. The boys reach the lake, and Junior’s vision begins; he can see Thomas “dancing naked around a fire.” He describes his vision-Thomas as “tall and dark and fucking... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
...empty fields near the lake, and Victor tells him to slow down. Both Junior and Thomas are consumed by their visions. Victor leans over to the driver’s seat to stop the... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
The boys walk down to the lake. Thomas puts his feet in the water, and Junior and Victor sit on the hood of... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas tells a story of three Indian boys drinking diet Pepsi out by Benjamin Lake, “wearing... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
After he is finished with his story, Thomas gets up and walks away. Victor regrets being cruel to Thomas as children; he notes... (full context)
This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
At the Trading Post Victor sees Thomas Builds-the-Fire, who is talking to himself “like always.” Victor recalls a time, when he and... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Thomas approaches Victor and apologizes for his loss. He tells Victor that Victor’s mother was just... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Victor remembers one summer when he and Thomas shared a bike. On their way to watch Fourth of July fireworks, Thomas told Victor... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...places the money into his wallet and heads out his front door in search of Thomas, who is waiting on his front porch. “I knew you’d call me,” Thomas says. He... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor remembers a time “when [he and Thomas] were fifteen; they had long since stopped being friends,” and got into a fistfight. Victor,... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
In the present, Victor and Thomas sit side-by-side in coach on their flight to Phoenix. A gymnast who’d been “first alternate... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
After arriving at the airport in Phoenix, Victor and Thomas take a taxi to Victor’s father’s trailer. When they get there, Victor apologizes for hitting... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Victor remembers a time when he was twelve, and stepped into an underground wasps’ nest. Thomas helped him to pull his foot out and run away, and Victor escaped with only... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
...not much in Victor’s father’s trailer worth keeping, since everything stinks, Victor says, of death. Thomas tells a story of Victor’s father. Once, as a young man, Thomas had a dream... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor is quiet, and then confesses to Thomas that his father never told him that story. Thomas tells Victor that his father, not... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor remembers a time when, as a child, Thomas jumped from the roof of the tribal school, flapped his arms, and “flew.” “For a... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...ashes don’t quite fit in one box, so Victor divides them into two. Victor and Thomas carry the ashes to the pickup truck and settle in for the long drive home.... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas recollects walking through the hallways of the tribal school all alone, day after day; “nobody... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Victor and Thomas arrive back home at the reservation “just as the sun ris[es].” Victor stops his truck... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Thomas accepts, and tells Victor that he will go back to the Spokane Falls and scatter... (full context)
The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas Builds-the-Fire sits in a Spokane tribal holding cell while Bureau of Indian Affairs officials, in... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
We learn that Thomas has been silent for almost twenty years, and only recently has begun again to “make... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
The BIA members discuss what charges should be brought against Thomas. Whatever they are, they must be “felony charge[s].” Meanwhile, Thomas sits alone in his cell,... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
At Thomas’s trial, the traveling judge tells Thomas that “the court must be certain” he understands the... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas mounts the witness stand, closes his eyes, and speaks. He begins to tell a story,... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
The judge asks Thomas if this story is “the extent of [his] testimony,” and Thomas replies that “there are... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas describes himself as an Indian named Qualchan, an escapee from Colonel Wright’s camp. Wright captures... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...and order is restored, and the judge calls for “administration of justice.” He calls for Thomas’s cross-examination, and the prosecuting attorney approaches Thomas. She asks him where he was on a... (full context)
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
An article in a local newspaper describes Thomas’s sentencing. “the self-proclaimed visionary of the Spokane Tribe,” it says, “was sentenced today to two... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
On the bus to the Walla Walla State Penitentiary, Thomas sits among “six other prisoners: four African men, one Chicano, and a white man from... (full context)
Distances
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas Builds-the-Fire describes a vision of the world in the aftermath of a cataclysmic event in... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
The Tribal Council, Thomas says, “has ruled that anything to do with the whites has to be destroyed.” The... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Thomas loves an Indian woman named Tremble Dancer—she is, he says, one of “the Urbans,” or... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas repeatedly “dream[s] about television [and wakes] up crying.” (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
The weather, Thomas says, is changing. The nights are cold and the days are hot. Dead bodies are... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
Thomas describes his affair with Tremble Dancer. They meet in secret to “climb the branches of... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
During the burning of another house, Thomas finds a painting of Jesus Christ. “Jesus is white,” Thomas says. During the burning, Thomas... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
At night, Thomas says, he can “hear the horses exploding [and] the screams of children who are taken.”... (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
...found to the tribal chairman, who describes it as “a white man artifact; a sin.” Thomas remembers watches—bygones, now—and how “they measured time exactly, coldly.” (full context)
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Thomas holds the transistor radio in his hands, examining its perfect surface. He turns the radio... (full context)
A Train is an Order of Occurrence Designed to Lead to Some Result
Violence, Poverty, and Loss Theme Icon
Memory, Bearing Witness, Storytelling, and Imagination Theme Icon
Cultural Pain vs. Personal Pain Theme Icon
Community vs. Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Hatred Theme Icon
On the morning of his birthday, Samuel Builds-the-Fire—grandfather to Thomas, and a visionary storyteller himself—dresses and readies for work. He is a maid at a... (full context)