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Talking to Arnold Spirit on My Faux Talk Show

This is yet another writing class assignment that I turned in a week or so ago. I got it back, and... duhn, dah, DAHHH!! I got an A! Woohoo!

Anyway, it's a creative response to the book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is a story about an Indian boy named Arnold Spirit who gets out of the Spokane Indian reservation in Washington instead of being stuck there for the rest of his life.

And without further ado...

The overhead lights burned hotly into my forehead as I shuffled calmly through the papers in my hand. The studio was set up like an elegant living room, a place where not only I could feel comfortable, but where my interviewees and audience could relax as well. A beautiful, ornate Persian rug graced the wood laminate floor below me, making the cream-colored armchairs - on one of which I was sitting - pop out to the observing eye. A false wall was standing several feet behind me, painted a warm, hunter green and sporting a few classy black and white photos of the city of New York. It wasn't home, but it was close enough.

“Ok,” said the camera man, “We’re on in five, four, three, two…” He mouthed one as he counted down with his fingers and then pointed at me, and I smiled brightly at the lens. The red light at the top of the camera turned on, and I inhaled. Just another day at the office.

“Welcome back, everybody,” I said cheerfully. “Before our commercial break, I mentioned that we had a special guest on the show today. Well, I’d like you to join me in welcoming our guest and my very good friend, author of the new breakout novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Arnold Spirit!”

As the studio audience erupted in cued applause, I stood up and extended my hand to the young man who was entering from offstage right. He walked toward me with strength and purpose with his head held high, but his eyes looked uneasy behind his thick, black glasses, unused to the large crowd that sat in front of him. His thick, dark hair was slicked back against his head, and he was wearing a freshly pressed, three-piece pinstripe suit with shining black shoes. As he walked forward, I couldn't help but notice the slight stiffness in his step, as if he was unaccustomed to such elegant clothing.

I shook his hand, and we sat down. He smiled faintly as I began the interview.

“Thank you so much for joining us today,” I said as Arnold situated himself on the oversized armchair designated specifically for my guests. He looked somewhat stiff trying to find a comfortable spot, but after a moment he relaxed.

“Sure,” he said, his smile brightening ever-so slightly. “Thanks for having me.”

“Now, from what I’ve been hearing, you’ve had some pretty serious success in the last year or so.”

“Yeah, I have. It’s amazing, really.”

“Well, tell me about it.” I leaned in slightly, propping my chin on my hand and focusing my eyes on his. Perhaps the eye contact would distract him from the crowd sitting just feet away from us. “Start with the comics.”

“I’ve drawn comics for as long as I can remember. It was…” he paused to collect his thoughts, “my way to communicate with the world, if that makes sense.”

“Of course.”

“Anyway, I started this comic book when I was in college, and I sent it in to a few places. The initial storyline was picked up, and it took off. Now it’s a multivolume franchise.”

“And it’s been picked up for a movie.”

Arnold’s face brightened. “Yeah, that’s the real trippy part.”

“You're not only a comic book artist, though. I recently finished reading your novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and I must say that it was an enthralling read.” I held up a copy of the novel, making sure that the entire audience was able to see it.

“Thank you. Really." Arnold's shoulders relaxed slightly.

“You go into detail about your family life and the struggles there, and the way you put everything is just so moving. I feel as if I lived it with you." Turning to the audience, I said, "Arnold was born and raised on the Spokane reservation in Washington, and his book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is all about his life there. His life, his family, trials, and tribulations. Really and truly and excellent read."

“Thank you,” he blushed but maintained eye contact with me, “I wrote it as if I had written it when I was 14, and putting myself back into that place in my life actually helped me to sort through a lot of that baggage.”

“So it was a healing process for you?”

“Oh, most definitely.” Arnold shifted in his seat, inadvertently raising his left pant leg to reveal a blue argyle sock. “I had to confront those demons from my past in order to move forward with my life.”

“When you say ‘demons,’” I said, “are you referring to anything in particular?”

“Yes and no. My parents came from poor people who came from poor people who came from poor people, all the way back to the very first poor people.” The crowd chuckled lightly. “But it wasn’t just my parents. It was pretty much everyone on the reservation. The people that I grew up with didn’t really encourage branching out and bettering oneself in order to succeed in life. It’s really hard to overcome that.”

“And yet here you are,” I said. “What would you have to say about the education system in Wellpinit while you were growing up?”

“It was awful. I remember one day that I opened up one of my school books, and my mom’s name was written on the inside cover, meaning that the book had been used at my school for twenty plus years. I got so mad that I chucked the book at my teacher.” The crowd laughed again, more heartily this time, and Arnold continued, a grin plastered on his face. “That was actually the teacher that first encouraged me to get out of the reservation. It was because of him that I applied to Rearden High.”

“That must have been so frustrating, knowing that your educational system was that far behind the curve."

"It was, hence throwing the book." More scattered chortles.

"Tell us about Reardan.
That was a predominantly white school back then,” I said. “Was it difficult going to school as the only American Indian?”

“It was hard, but it got better after a little while.”

“Frequently in your book, you talk about how your father was absentee quite a bit and how his alcoholism affected you. Do you have any ill will toward your father?”

Arnold furrowed his brow and shook his head. “No. He’s my dad, you know? Every parent does something to screw up their kid, even if they’re the best parent out there. My dad may have been a drunk, but he did the best he could with what he was given, and he wasn’t given a lot. In the end, part of me is kind of proud of him.”

"What do you mean?" I asked. Pride was not what I had been expecting, not after everything his father put him through.

"I'm both successful and happy now," he said. "He must have done something right, right?"

"But wouldn't you say that's because of you and your efforts? As I was reading, it seemed to me that your growth was only hindered by your father's alcoholism."

"Parts of it were, but Dad wanted me to get out of the rez. He knew I would get stuck there and end up just like him if I stayed, so he was as supportive as he could have been."

"You wrote that there were times where you would have to walk the twenty-two mile trek home by yourself because your father forgot to pick you up or didn't have the money to buy gas because he spent it all on alcohol."

"Yes," he said, "and that did happen, but it's in the past, you know? This was one of the demons I was talking about earlier. I had to deal with the fact that I had some emotional scarring due to my father's alcoholism, and writing my story really helped me along."

"I don't want to spoil too much of the story for our audience, but let's talk a bit about your sister, Mary Runs Away. In the book, she does end up leaving the reservation, but I can't quite make up my mind whether that was a good thing or not."

"Oh, it was a great thing. She escaped just like I did. It may not have turned out as she originally planned, but she left. She left, and she started writing her own novel. It was extremely brave of her." Upon speaking of his sister, Arnold's eyes lit up, but they contained a freckle of sadness, of loss.

"At the end of the day, would you change anything about your life? Your sister, your parents, anything?"

"Not a damn thing." Arnold paused, embarrassed. "Can I say that on live television?"

The audience laughed along with me. "I don't think it matters now."

Standing up, I extended my hand to Arnold who also stood. "Thank you again, Arnold, for joining us. I can't even begin to explain how much your story means to me and how strongly your voice spoke through its pages." I turned to the audience and raised the memoir once again. "If you haven't read this book, go to your library, your local book store - anywhere - and read it. In fact, studio audience, if you look down below your chairs, you'll all see that you all have a free copy of Arnold's book, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, waiting for you to take home and read!"

Thunderous applause and cheering exploded from the seats, causing the entire studio to vibrate with excitement. They always loved getting free stuff.

"When we come back, I'll show you a new way to recycle your old newspapers!" The camera panned back, and I walked off the set with Arnold.


And there we have it! This one was a bit long, so I'll make this short and sweet.

If you made it all the way to the end, you rock.



Beth said…
That was cool. I don't even know a thing about the book, and I enjoyed the way you did that. 'Twas epic. (yay random ye olde english?) Anyway.... It's awesome.

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