Pinball Crazy Horse, Pinball Geronimo, Pinball Tommy Runner
No way there was a Wild West pinball machine in the Spokane Indian Reservation community center. No way there was a pinball machine with gunfighter art in Wellpinit, Washington, the heart of our reservation. I know you’re thinking that I invented this scenario. But I swear there was a Wild West pinball machine on the rez in 1976 and Tommy Runner was the Indian warrior kid who never went tilt. He'd play for hours on one quarter. He was gifted and mean and died young.
Tommy Runner wasn’t his real name. I’m keeping his real name secret if not sacred.
One day, as I watched Tommy Runner set another rez record for high score, he said my name.
"Junior," he said.
And when I said, "What?" he slapped the bottom of my chin and made me bite my tongue. Embarrassed and bleeding, I walked toward home. And, all along the way, I spat into the dirt and hoped that monsters would blossom from my blood to take revenge on Tommy Runner.
He was sixteen. I was only ten. I hated him.
But now, as an adult, I know that every piece of anger has a creation story. So when I think about cruel and doomed Tommy Runner, I wonder which adult hurt him first and taught him how to hurt the rest of us.