Essay title: Reservation Blues Paper
Tribal storyteller Thomas Builds-the-Fire takes him to the mountain cabin of a mysterious medicine woman known as Big Mom. Afterward, Thomas discovers that Johnson has left him his guitar. Thus inspired, Thomas hooks up with a couple of other tribal misfits: Junior Polatkin, who drives the reservation water truck, and Victor Joseph, who is simply a lout. (But "Junior could be an asshole, too, because Victor was extremely contagious.") Together they form a rock band. None of them has any musical talent, but this doesn't matter too much because Robert Johnson's demonically possessed guitar has the power to turn even Victor into an instant genius. There is a price: the guitar inflicts painful burns on the hands of anyone who plays it. With the Guitar from Hell and a repertoire of four and a half chords, the band begins a weird odyssey through a series of Indian-bar gigs and then out into the white world.
Along the way they pick up a pair of vocalists: the Warm Water sisters, Checkers and Chess, from the Flathead reservation. They also acquire a couple of white groupies, Betty and Veronica. Without ever quite lowering the mocking mask of fantasy, without ever descending to mere preaching or teaching, Sherman Alexie portrays the present-day Indian scene with painful accuracy. It's all here: the alcoholic parents, the old cars, the barely-edible commodity foods, the corrupt tribal politicians and the vicious bullies who act as their enforcers, even the demented world of Indian basketball. Over and against all this stands the enigmatic figure of Big Mom. Nobody knows how old she is; it is not even certain that she ages in any usual sense. Her memories seem to go back at least to the middle of the nineteenth century and the defeat of the Spokane Indians by white troops; her powers are legendary, though many of her own tribe refuse to believe even in her existence: "Junior and Victor once saw Big Mom walk across Benjamin Pond but.