Summary: Chapter 11: The Child—Part 1

Cappy and Joe realize they never made a plan for getting rid of the rifle. Joe remembers the old Wishkob place. They borrow one of Randall’s old cars, drive there in the pouring rain, and hide the rifle under the front porch. Cappy lets Joe off at Whitey’s gas station. Whitey watches Joe closely as he tells him that Linden is dead from a clean shot to the head. Then Joe goes outside and vomits. Cappy comes in. Whitey feeds them sandwiches and lets them take some booze outside to drink. The boys consume a bottle of Four Rose and fall asleep. Joe staggers home, where his parents tell him about Linden’s murder. Joe says that he’s glad Linden is dead and that whoever killed him should get a medal. Joe thinks his mother can see the murderer in him. Joe falls ill, and while he recovers, the police investigate Linden’s murder. Whitey tells the police that Cappy and Joe were sleeping behind his station at the time of the shooting, and admits to giving them booze. Tribal policeman Vince Madwesin brings Geraldine a pickle jar, and Joe remembers leaving the jar at the golf course.

Summary: Chapter 11: The Child—Part 2

Joe rides out to the Wishkob place, where Linda tells him that she discovered and disposed of the rifle. Linda thinks her brother, Linden, murdered Mayla Wolfskin and buried her somewhere on the reservation. Judge Coutts talks to Joe about justice, and he admits that everyone feels safer because Linden is dead. Judge Coutts explains that, after talking it over with Geraldine, he’s decided to do nothing more about Linden’s murder. He even suggests that Linden might have been a wiindigoo, an evil spirit whose killing was justified under ancient tribal laws. But Joe and Cappy still have nightmares about what they’ve done. 

Later, Cappy receives a threatening letter from Zelia’s parents, who have moved their daughter to Helena in order to prevent Cappy from seeing her again. Joe, Zack, and Angus decide to drive to Helena with Cappy. They borrow Randall’s old car again and buy booze using a fake ID. Joe is sleeping in the back seat when the car flips over. Cappy dies in the crash, and a silver-haired policeman takes Joe to the hospital. Geraldine and Judge Coutts arrive at the hospital, and Joe suddenly perceives them as old. They don’t seem angry, but Joe realizes they know everything. The family drives home in silence.

Analysis: Chapter 11: The Child—Part 1 & Part 2

Chapter 11 brings the theme of law and justice to a head within Joe’s community. Joe and Cappy feel guilty and disturbed by their actions, but the people on the reservation seem to know who killed Linden and even seem to approve of the murder. The community members appear to go out of their way to protect the boys. For example, Uncle Whitey helps cover for the boys, and Linda gets rid of the gun. Even Judge Coutts tells Joe that he thinks Linden’s death was a wrong done to make a right and that he would legally protect the murderer if they were ever found. The community in this way adheres to the same sense of justice described in the multiple wiindigoo stories presented throughout the novel. Linden’s murder isn’t viewed as one man’s vengeance. Instead, it comes across as a consensual act which the entire community has deemed necessary. The reservation’s sense of justice, though, is at odds with federal law.

The final chapter captures the inevitable loss of one’s childhood. Joe and Cappy’s lives are irrevocably altered after killing Linden. While the community seems to celebrate, the boys cannot move on with their lives. Their increased drug and alcohol consumption further indicates that they lean harder and harder into what they perceive as adulthood, but they are still children who cannot cope with the reality of what they have done. Cappy’s death in the drunk driving accident is the final straw that strips the boys of their childhoods forever. Cappy’s childhood ends in death, and Joe’s ends in a transformation that affects him for the rest of his life. In observing that his parents seem older now, it becomes clear that Joe has been pushed into adulthood and the loss of his innocence. While he has strived to play the role of a protective adult for the duration of the novel, his final cross into adulthood carries with it a melancholic somberness.