I wanted to run faster than the speed of sound, but nobody, no matter how much pain they're in, can run that fast. So I heard the boom of my father's rifle when he shot my best friend. (2.59-2.60)
Arnold is always losing people, especially those closest to him. Notice how Arnold calls Oscar his best friend. Who else does he call his best friend?
I think Rowdy might be the most important person in my life. Maybe more important than my family. Can your best friend be more important than your family? (3.123)
What do you think of Arnold's question? Can your best friend be more important than your family? Why?
Rowdy is the toughest kid on the rez. He is long and lean and strong like a snake.
His heart is as strong and mean as a snake, too.
But he is my best human friend and he cares about me, so he would always tell me the truth.
And he is right. Nobody would miss me if I was gone. (3.7-3.10)
Rowdy is Arnold's best friend on the reservation, but he's not always the nicest guy, let's be honest. Though Rowdy often protects Arnold, does he also treat Arnold poorly? Why is Rowdy so mean and violent sometimes?
"Why are you leaving?"
"I have to go. I'm going to die if I don't leave."
I touched his shoulder again and Rowdy flinched.
Yes, I touched him again.
What kind of idiot was I?
I was the kind of idiot that got punched hard in the face by his best friend.
Bang! Rowdy punched me.
Bang! I hit the ground.
Bang! My nose bled like a firework. (7.64-7.72)
Arnold tells Rowdy that he is leaving the reservation. He asks Rowdy to come with him, but Rowdy refuses. Why? And why does Rowdy punch Arnold?
I wished Rowdy was still my friend. I could have sent him after Roger. It would have been like King Kong battling Godzilla.
I realized how much of my self-worth, my sense of safety, was based on Rowdy's fists.
But Rowdy hated me. And Roger hated me.
I was good at being hated by guys who could kick my ass. It's not a talent you really want to have. (9.3-9.6)
At the high school in Reardan, Arnold must learn to function without the protection of Rowdy. He must learn to fight his own battles. Do you think Arnold is better off standing up for himself?
And so we did become friends. Not the best of friends. Not like Rowdy and me. We didn't share secrets. Or dreams.
No, we studied together.
Gordy taught me how to study.
Best of all, he taught me how to read. (12.170-12.173)
Arnold befriends Reardan High School's resident boy genius: Gordy. Gordy teaches Arnold a number of things, including how to read, how to study, and how to embrace the joy of knowledge. How is Junior's friendship with Gordy different from his friendship with Rowdy?
"Oh, yes, we are. Weird people still get banished."
"You mean weird people like me," I said.
"And me," Gordy said.
"All right, then," I said. "So we have a tribe of two."
I had the sudden urge to hug Gordy, and he had the sudden urge to prevent me from hugging him.
"Don't get sentimental," he said.
Yep, even the weird boys are afraid of their emotions. (18.29-18.32)
Gordy and Arnold discover that they are both outcasts, so they decide to declare themselves a tribe of two bookworm weirdoes. (Aww.) What tribes do you belong to? Who is in your tribe?
Instead, it was Gordy who defended me.
He stood with his textbook and dropped it.
He looked so strong. He looked like a warrior. He was protecting me like Rowdy used to protect me. Of course, Rowdy would have thrown the book at the teacher and then punched her.
Gordy showed a lot of courage in standing up to a teacher like that. And his courage inspired the others.
Penelope stood and dropped her textbook.
And then Roger stood and dropped his textbook.
And then the other basketball players did the same. (24.47-24.55)
Arnold's friends in Reardan defend him from the teacher Mrs. Jeremy, who complains that Arnold has been missing too much school. Arnold, of course, hasn't been playing hooky. He's been attending funerals.
Rowdy and I played one-on-one for hours. We played until dark. We played until the streetlights lit up the court. We played until the bats swooped down at our heads. We played until the moon was huge and golden and perfect in the dark sky.
We didn't keep score. (30.201-30.202)
As the novel concludes, Rowdy and Junior are no longer enemies. They are more like friends. Still, can things ever be the same between the two of them? What do you think will happen to Arnold after high school? What about Rowdy?
"I'm not nomadic," Rowdy said. "Hardly anybody on this rez is nomadic. Except for you. You're the nomadic one."
"No, I'm serious. I always knew you were going to leave. I always knew you were going to leave us behind and travel the world. I had this dream about you a few months ago. You were standing on the Great Wall of China. You looked happy. And I was happy for you." (30.182-30.184)
Arnold and Rowdy reconcile as Rowdy has come to terms with Arnold's decision to leave the reservation. It means so much to Arnold that Rowdy can accept Arnold's dreams – and even be happy for him. Why, though, does Rowdy call Arnold a "nomad"?