Flight Summary and Analysis of Chapters 4-6


Chapter 4

Zits wakes up in a motel room, not knowing either where he is or how he survived the gunshot. He wants to believe it was all a nightmare, but knows better; he can still smell the gunpowder. Guilty over killing so many people, he wonders whether he is truly evil, and decides that Justice has tricked him. However, he remains confused as to how he has been healed, and why he feels no pain.

In the other motel bed is a white, muscular man wearing a blue shirt and jeans, and brandishing a gun. (This is Art, though we and Zits do not learn his name until later.) Zits worries he has been arrested, but the other man tells him to get ready for their work. Confused, Zits asks where they are, but Art simply pulls him to his feet, calls him Hank, and hands him a .357 Magnum. It feels to Zits like a scene from a movie.

He looks in a mirror, and is surprised to see a stranger's face. He now appears to be an older white man, with blonde hair and blue eyes, a “guy [who] hasn’t had a zit in his whole life” (39). He wonders whether doctors have reconstructed his face, but that does not explain why the other man calls him Hank. His theory is doubly disproven when he notices he is shorter and more muscular than before, and that his penis is bigger.

Art becomes concerned by Zits's distress. He threatens, “We’re not leaving this room unless you say you’re okay” (41). Zits pretends to be fine, but looks in his wallet to learn that he is Hank Storm, a 35-year-old FBI agent. As Zits realizes that Art must be his partner, he follows the man out, assuming they are heading out to “save the world” (42).

Chapter 5

Outside of the motel room, Zits sees more stars in the sky than he has ever seen before. From both the motel sign and Art, Zits learns that they are at the Red River Motor Inn, on the Nannapush Indian Reservation in Idaho. When Zits mentions that many Indians live nearby, his partner wishes aloud that “Custer would have killed a few more” (43). Zits wisely chooses to withhold information about his Indian heritage as they drive together to an old shack in the middle of nowhere.

Zits makes a passing remark about how the remote area must have poor cell phone reception. Confused and concerned, Art replies that he have never heard of a cell phone. Art is doubly concerned when Zits asks his name, and worries that Hank has had a stroke which has made him forget both his identity and the nature of their task. Art gives his name for the first time, and then demands Hank stay focused. They load their guns as another car pulls up beside them.

Zits recognizes the two men in the other car as Horse and Elk, activists from IRON (Indigenous Rights Now!). Zits knows them from a documentary he once saw on television. He explains that IRON protected traditional Indians from the centralized tribal government, which was called HAMMER. Zits remembers that the members of HAMMER were secretly working with the FBI, and were killing members of IRON. The problem is that all of this took place in the mid 1970s.

Zits starts to panic, worrying that whichever doctors healed him after the bank also put him into a time machine. He then worries he has been sent to hell.

Art notices his panic, and demands he calm down or else Art will kill him. Zits can tell that Art truly cares for Hank, but also that he will actually kill him if necessary.

From the other car, Horse and Elk greet Art and Zits. Zits realizes they must be acting as double agents, traitors to IRON. The men exit their cars, and Horse and Elk open their trunk to reveal a young Indian man, about twenty years old. He is bloodied, gagged, and broken, and his hands are tied behind his back, with several fingers ripped off of his right hand.

Elk explains that this man - named Junior - is not cooperating with them. Art is both pleased and disgusted to see that all of Junior’s front teeth have been knocked out. Elk and Horse hold Junior's arms behind his back while Art interrogates him, but Junior refuses to say anything. Art points his gun at Junior’s forehead, and Zits realizes that these men are sadists. When Junior curses at Art, Art kills him with a shot to the head.

At the violence, Zits vomits. Elk, surprised, then alludes to Hank Storm’s past crimes, indicating the he has murdered before. Though initially disgusted, Zits remembers his violence in the bank and realizes that he is "not any better than these men” (52).

Art wants to leave Junior’s body to rot, but Horse and Elk insist on properly burying him since Junior was a traditionalist. Zits is surprised by their sudden respect for Junior, and then shocked when Art demands Zits (as Hank Storm) fire into Junior's corpse. He tries to refuse, claiming it would counter Native American beliefs, but Elk reminds Hank that he is white and hence not beholden to such expectations. Zits panics, worrying he is not actually real, and then shoots Junior's body in the chest before suddenly passing out.

Chapter 6

Zits wakes in a hospital room, hoping he has returned to his own body. When he sees Art sitting across from him, he worries he might actually be Hank Storm, and that his life as Zits was the dream.

Art then tells Zits (Hank) that he has been struggling with a virus since passing out. Zits wants to discuss the atrocity they committed, but Art insists that they are soldiers who must sometimes do evil thinks in the service of their duty.

Hank’s family - three boys and a wife - suddenly enter into the room. Zits kisses Hank’s beautiful wife, and wonders whether she knows that her husband is a killer.


Each of Zits’s transformations begins when he wakes in a new time period. His transformations always end when he closes his eyes. This repetition works as a literary device which both notifies the reader of the shift, and book-ends each episode. Further, this sense of 'waking' suggests that the episodes are potentially dreams or hallucinations.

As befitting the magical realism of the novel, Alexie never explains the logic of the shifts. The effect is that the reader remains as confused as Zits is. As the protagonist questions not only the physical reality but also the moral questions raised thereby - is this penance? arbitrary? allegory? - the reader is left with only his/her own interpretations. Regardless of how one answers these questions, the time travel certainly feels reel to Zits.

One effect of living in another body is that it offers Zits some perspective on his own life. In the same way that the reader is able to empathize with Zits because of the first-person narration but able to judge him from outside, now Zits is able to hear his own thoughts but consider them from other perspectives than that of his adolescent anger. When he wakes as Hank, Zits feels remote from Justice's influence, and is able to recognize the atrocity of the Ghost Dance.

Similarly, Zits is able to realize that an improved physical appearance does not necessarily strengthen one's character. He is pleased to see Hank's attributes - blue eyes and blond hair (which are frequently mentioned as signs of beauty in the novel), and a larger penis - and most of all that he is now clearly white, meaning little confusion about racial identity. Further, Hank has significant power as an FBI agent. Because of all these positive qualities, Zits assumes that he is meant to "save the world" as Hank.

Of course, Hank is not a white knight, but a vicious soldier. The section ends when Zits achieves what should ideally solve all the problems he addresses in the early chapters: he has a beautiful wife, a powerful position, and white skin. However, he is ultimately disgusted by what comes with these 'virtues.' And most importantly, by reflecting on his feelings about Hank's vices, he recognizes the extent of the crime he committed in the bank.

Alexie uses the time shifting device to explore not only Zits, but the history of Native Americans in the United States. This incident discusses a fictitious group of indigenous activists called IRON, but the group is based on the actual civil rights group, the American Indian Movement. This incident - the murder of Junior - refers to the historical Wounded Knee Incident, which took place in 1973 near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Activists of the American Indian Movement occupied the town of Wounded Knee for seventy-one days in protest of tribal corruption, which was plaguing many Indians.

What the incident reveals is the complexity of the Native American struggle. Horse and Elk are described as heroes of their people, but have sold out to the government. Zits is shocked by Junior's bravery, and Alexie uses parallelism to reveal what Zits learns. Both Zits and Junior have replied "Fuck you" to those they considered oppressors thus far. But where Zits egotistically refused to speak to his newest foster mother, Junior is standing up for himself, his family, and his people. Though both are unwilling to compromise their beliefs, Junior has a fierce integrity whereas Zits acts without considering his actions. By considering himself - as both Indian and person - in the light of this incident, Zits learns that true integrity is both more difficult than simple rebellion, and more worthwhile in terms of its virtue.