Study Guide

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Chapter 30

By Sherman Alexie

Chapter 30

Talking About Turtles

  • Arnold writes about how beautiful the reservation is, with all of its pine trees, so tall and so old. He's climbed plenty of them.
  • He tells the story of how, when he and Rowdy were ten years old, they climbed one of the biggest pines out by Turtle Lake.
  • Back then, they shared all their dreams: dreams about having air conditioning and playing for the NBA.
  • Arnold tells us how that day they had decided to go swimming at Turtle Lake. He was afraid he'd sink and drown because no one had ever been to the bottom. The lake was probably made by a volcano. It was "forever deep" (30.51).
  • Many people told stories and myths about Turtle Lake.
  • Arnold's dad had even seen a horse drown in the lake. According to legend, "Stupid Horse" (that's what they named the horse—seriously) drowned in Turtle Lake, but his body washed up on the shore of another lake about ten miles away. The people burned the body of Stupid Horse, but after they did the water on Turtle Lake caught fire. Freaky.
  • Days later they all found Stupid Horse washed up on the shore on Turtle Lake again. No one messed with that corpse again. It rotted on the shore for weeks. No one swam in Turtle Lake after that.
  • Back to 10-year-old Rowdy and Arnold: on their way to Turtle Lake, they see a big, tall, beautiful pine. Rowdy suggests they climb the tree. Junior is reluctant, but they do anyway. It is amazing and beautiful and terrifying. They can see the whole reservation.
  • Eventually Rowdy farts, though, and they get down out of the tree.
  • Arnold still can't believe he climbed that tree—or transferred to Reardan, or any of the amazing, beautiful, terrifying things he's done.
  • Back to the present: After school ends for the summer, Arnold feels hopeful about the future and misses his white friends.
  • One day, he is sitting in the living room when Rowdy stops by. They banter a little, and then Rowdy asks if Arnold wants to shoot some hoops. Though he hesitates at first, Arnold says yes.
  • They shoot the ball for a bit, then decide to go one-on-one.
  • During the game, Arnold asks Rowdy to come to Reardan with him next year. Rowdy says no.
  • Rowdy says he was reading a book about old-time Indians, and how they used to be nomadic. He thinks Arnold is nomadic.
  • Rowdy tells him he had a dream where Arnold was standing on the Great Wall of China. Rowdy said he was actually pretty happy for him. Arnold cries.
  • Rowdy makes Arnold promise to send him postcards.
  • Arnold will always miss Rowdy, and he will always miss his family. He hopes he can forgive himself for leaving them—and the reservation—and that they can also forgive him.
  • Rowdy and Arnold continue playing one-on-one. They don't keep score.