It is New Year’s Eve, 1976 on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Nine-year-old Victor wakes up after having a nightmare. His parents are hosting a party. Victor’s uncles Adolph and Arnold brawl in the yard. As he watches the fight from the window, Victor thinks about the “tiny storms” (5) that have marred his childhood - difficult moments like the year his parents could not afford Christmas presents, and the time a man drowned in a puddle after passing out drunk. However, Victor has survived so far with the help of his mother and the strength he’s taken from the occasional happy moment, like eating dinner with his family at the restaurant Mother’s Kitchen in Spokane.
A hurricane touches down on the reservation, but Victor is more disturbed by the bad memories that the weather seems to bring up for the party guests, who become sick and even violent as they continue to drink. Victor climbs into bed with his parents, who are both passed out. The next morning, the hurricane is gone and life goes on as before.
This story introduces Victor, a character who appears in many stories in the collection. He grows from child to adult on the reservation, and his story is similar to Alexie’s in that he is one of the few people on the reservation to leave and attend college. Like Alexie, Victor will also have a brief, problematic relationship with alcohol before becoming sober as a young adult. In “Every Little Hurricane” - as well as the other stories where Victor appears as a child - Victor functions as an innocent observer. By narrating this and other stories from the perspective of a child, Alexie emphasizes the ways that problems on the reservation are harming not only the present residents but also the tribe’s future.
Love - especially complicated love - is a recurrent theme in The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. In “Every Little Hurricane”, Alexie depicts familial love as deeply two-sided. On the one hand, Victor’s family has seen each other through many difficult times and has worked together to overcome racism and grinding poverty. However, they also hate each other at times. Alexie illustrates this complex dynamic through Victor’s uncles, Adolph and Arnold. “[Victor] could see his uncles slugging each other with such force that they had to be in love”, he writes. “Strangers would never want to hurt each other that badly” (2).
The title of “Every Little Hurricane” refers to several moments throughout the story. The most literal interpretation of the title is as a reference to the steadily worsening weather on New Year’s Eve. The strength of the hurricane, and its eventual dissipation, reflect the economic and relationship problems that Victor’s family suffers. However, the story also refers to the fight between Victor’s uncles as a “little kind of hurricane” (3). This description evokes the destructive power of Adolph and Arnold’s fight, but also emphasizes that it is a small hiccup in the context of their lifelong relationship.
In the introduction to the 10th anniversary edition of this collection, Alexie claims to have problems writing physical description. However, he establishes setting in other ways throughout “Every Little Hurricane”. For example, rather than explicitly describing the poverty of Victor’s family, Alexie recounts a time that Victor’s father could not afford Christmas presents. One effect of the poverty on the reservation is an abundance of untreated health problems, and Alexie lets the reader know this by mentioning Victor’s cavity. As the first story of the collection, "Every Little Hurricane" introduces many of the work's overall themes and motifs - family, innocence, life on the reservation, problems with alcohol and resilience.