Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie’s Story Broke My Heart

Facebook reminded me that I wrote this post on my then-blog eleven years ago when I lived in Taos, NM. The notification inspired me to reread Sherman Alexie’s short story, ‘Basic Training’ that appeared in Blasphemy. Ah, my reaction to his story was the same as it was in 2013. 

I don’t know author Sherman Alexie, but I do his writing. I have all his novels and have read them all, a few more than once. He deservedly won the National Book Award for his YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Yes, I am a fan.

His collection, Blasphemy, contains a few stories selected from other books like ‘The Toughest Indian in the World’ and ‘The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven’. Most are new.

I enjoyed reading the stories in Blasphemy. They are solid Alexie.

And then, I got to the second-to-the-last story, ‘Basic Training’, about a Donkey Basketball outfit. For those unfamiliar with Donkey Basketball, it’s like the regular game but the players do it while riding donkeys. Donkey Basketball teams travel from town to town, raising money for schools and good causes. They are a throwback to another era. Not many of them are left.

In ‘Basic Training’, Carter & Sons is one of the last Donkey Basketball teams. Business is bad and Emery Carter is unlikely going to pass the business onto his son, who has other plans. Emery Carter brings the donkeys to a game at the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana. Then, they are on their way to another.

I’m not going to spoil what happens next in ‘Basic Training’ but it has the kind of power that makes the reader feel incredible pain. At least it did me.

I don’t write authors, but I did Alexie. I told him “you broke my heart” and not much more than that.

No, I didn’t hear back from him. I didn’t expect it. But if I ever write something that moved someone as much as this story did me, I would want to know.