Running The Table, the Story of Tama Thunder "The Indian Princess" by Jackie Shirley - Read Online
Running The Table, the Story of Tama Thunder "The Indian Princess"
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Tama Thunder is not your average 1970s teenager. She has olive colored skin, the result of a full-blooded Comanche Indian father, and her favorite pastime is hustling the boys in the male dominated pool rooms. After graduating from high school, the beautiful Native American teenager begins her quest to rock the world of pocket billiards.
Tama Thunder becomes a case study of the hustler hustling the hustlers. The overconfident male hustlers are embarrassed to discover that a young girl has mastered the skills of the seasoned professionals.
At the young age of 22, Tama Thunder is the best women pool player in the world, and she is the most prolific female pool hustler of the 20th century.
From the opening pages, the ambitious teenager will delight you with her zest for life. Tama Thunder is a perfect example of what natural talent, combined with hard work and dedication can accomplish.

Publicado: Jackie Shirley el
ISBN: 9781310881725
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FOREWORD

The story of Tama Thunder is fiction. Her name is pronounced with a long A sound and accent on the first syllable (TAY – muh). Blessed with a fierce determination and the desire for absolute perfection, the young Native American girl dramatically awakens the world of pocket billiards to how well a woman can play the game. Tama’s adventures become legendary as she hustles the hustlers in the bars and pool rooms across the country. The colorful characters in Tama’s story, of which there are many, are also fictitious.

Because I wish to educate as well as entertain, I have explained the different games of billiards in some detail. I have also included a glossary at the back of the book to assist my readers who are unfamiliar with the terminology used in pocket billiard.

As history has taught us, the fiction of today is the foundation for the truth of tomorrow. When the young girl who lives down the street picks up a cue for the very first time, who’s to say she won’t go on to become the next pocket billiards champion of the world?

CHAPTER 1

Fall had arrived and the bar on the outskirts of the small Midwestern town was crowded and noisy. The drinks flowed freely and the bar had the atmosphere of a New Year’s Eve party. This was middle-class America, with a work hard-play hard attitude that had been instilled in its residents from birth.

Heads turned as a young woman entered the bar carrying a cue case. Dressed in tight jeans and a snug-fitting jacket, the dark-haired beauty scanned the area until she spotted two men playing pool on a bar-sized table. Tama broke into a smile when she saw one of the players stuff a bill into his pocket. "Right up my alley," she murmured.

Ignoring the stares, she walked briskly across the room and sat down at an empty table. Oblivious to the music and the laughter, she concentrated on the nine-ball game being played between an obvious novice and a middle-aged man named Jimmy Spence. Jimmy was a small-town sharpie whose playing skills were far superior to the weekend bar player. Over the years, Jimmy had accumulated a beer belly, thinning hair, and an obnoxious attitude that irritated the locals. Tama ordered a Screwdriver and watched with interest as Jimmy pocketed the nine-ball for another five-dollar win.

Who’s next? Jimmy shouted, cackling and doing an annoying little victory dance.

Another local stepped forward and placed his quarter in the coin slot. Jimmy grinned at the new challenger. Impatiently, he chalked his cue as the man racked the balls. Three games later, Jimmy stroked the cue ball with low English and pocketed the winning nine-ball, beating the challenger three games in a row.

Rack ‘em up, said Jimmy, chuckling to himself that the locals were such easy marks.

I’ve had enough, said the dejected player as he placed another five-dollar bill on the rail of the table.

No one stepped forward, so Jimmy tried to drum up another customer by goaded those seated at the nearby bar. Being disliked was part of his hustle.

What’s with you guys? Afraid your Mommy will find out that you’ve been gambling and she won’t give you your allowance next week?

You’re too tough, said one of the guys at the bar.

Bunch of candy asses, Jimmy muttered. He was all smiles as he reached into his pocket to count his winnings for the night, and then headed for the bar to order a beer. He hadn’t finished the first swallow when he heard the sound of pool balls being released at the pool table. Jimmy glanced over his shoulder and spotted a young woman racking the balls.

That broad doesn’t look old enough to drink, but she’s got a hell of a body, he remarked to the bartender.

The bartender nodded his head. That’s the way they build them nowadays. Judging from her skin color and long black hair, I’ll bet she’s a Native American.

There was dead silence around the pool table area as Jimmy walked up to the young challenger.

Are you old enough to be in this bar? he asked.

She batted her long eyelashes. I’m twenty-one.

You certainly don’t look twenty-one. Are you an Indian?

Yes, I’m three-quarters Comanche. Got a problem with that?

Jimmy grinned. Not at all, but I’ll bet you don’t know that we play nine-ball for money here.

The young woman flashed him a devilish smile. I’ll try not to embarrass you in front of you friends.

Jimmy’s grin widened as he walked back to the bar to retrieve his beer. Convinced that he was about to win some easy money, he couldn’t resist bragging to the regulars seated at the bar. Listen up, guys. After I take Pocahontas’ money, I’ll show you how a real man operates when it comes to picking up women.

The bartender laughed. Maybe you better stick to playing pool, Jimmy. That girl looks like she’s way out of your class.

Jimmy chuckled as he walked toward the pool table. What’s next, he wondered, a seven-year old that has to stand on a stool to reach the balls?

Jimmy made two balls on the break and proceeded to run the table until he came to a difficult shot on the eight ball. Damn it! He’d missed the eight ball and left the young lady with an easy run out on the eight and nine. Jimmy noticed that the young challenger guided her cue with a beginner’s open-hand V-bridge as she pocketed the two remaining balls for a five-dollar win.

Hey, Jimmy, how’s it feel to get beaten by a girl? yelled someone from the bar. Maybe she’ll spot you the eight ball on the next game?

The spectators seated at the bar broke into laughter as Jimmy angrily reached into his pocket for a quarter. Goddamn jerks, he muttered as the balls released for the next game.

Their curiosity aroused, several men gathered around the pool table area as the young woman waited for Jimmy to rack the balls. Tama broke the balls and made the seven-ball on the break. She pocketed the first four balls before missing a long shot on the five-ball.

This game’s mine, Jimmy said as he proceeded to run the remaining balls to win his five dollars back. Six games later, they were dead even.

You’ve been getting all the breaks, Tama said. You’re shooting way over your head and you think you’re a big shot. Let’s raise the stakes. I have a feeling that things are going to change.

A smile broke across Jimmy’s face as he chalked his cue and stared at her. You shoot pretty good pool for a female, especially one as young as you are. Course, I’m not opposed to taking charity. What kind of stakes did you have in mind?

Tama paused. I was thinking along the lines of twenty dollars a game. I have to warn you, though; I shoot better when I’m under pressure. You aren’t afraid of losing with everyone watching, are you?"

Jimmy took the bait. You’re on, sweetheart. Rack the balls.

Jimmy won the first two games, putting him forty dollars ahead. You’re in way over your head, he said, taunting the young girl as he pocketed the twenty-dollar bill.

Jimmy was up eighty dollars when she turned the tables and won three games in a row, the last game with a lucky shot on the nine-ball. Stick that in your ying-yang, she crowed.

Thirty minutes later, Tama made another lucky combination on the nine-ball and pulled twenty dollars ahead. She was grinning as she faced Jimmy. I thought I might end up embarrassing you in front of your friends.

Jimmy became more and more irritable. His winnings had disappeared and he was sixty dollars down. To make matters worse, the spectators were cheering every time he lost a game.

Tough luck, Jimmy, yelled a spectator. Maybe the young lady will take pity on you and shoot left-handed.

Damn it, Jimmy cursed under his breath, inserting another quarter into the slot and slamming the balls onto the table.

When Tama’s winnings reached the hundred-dollar mark, she laid her cue on the table and faced Jimmy.

You’re just not in my league, she said in a sympathetic tone. I feel bad taking advantage of you and I can’t take any more of your money. There was an outburst of laughter from several spectators.

Jimmy went berserk, slamming his cue on the table. You little bitch, who the hell do you think you are? You got lucky on a couple of games and now you think you’re a pro? If we took luck out of the game and changed it to call shot on the nine-ball, you wouldn’t stand a chance. I’ve got two hundred bucks left. You want to raise the stakes and play call shot?

Tama paused as if she was trying to make up her mind. Make it a race to eight games for the two hundred and it’s a deal… unless, of course, you’re afraid of being beaten by a girl?

You’ve got a deal, sweetheart. I’ll wipe that smile off your face and show you who the better player is.

Both players placed two hundred dollars on the bar and the bartender agreed to hold the bets. Tama returned to her table and retrieved her cue case. The case contained a custom-made cue that caught the attention of everyone watching the game. It was inlaid with strips of ivory and six large diamonds encircling the bottom portion of the gold-trimmed handle. Jimmy didn’t know what to think as he stared at the beautiful cue. They lagged for the break and Tama won.

Tama re-chalked the house cue, then proceeded to break the rack with such force that it sounded like a gun shot. Jimmy flinched and stood wide-eyed as she made three balls on the break and left the cue ball in the center of the table. Shooting at the one-ball, the young woman’s open-hand V-bridge suddenly turned into a closed bridge as her forefinger encircled the shaft of the cue.

From that point on, it was like watching a ballet dancer as she moved gracefully around the pool table with the concentration of a world class chess champion. Her stroke became unbelievably smooth and she was guiding the cue ball with the accuracy of a focused laser.

The buzz around the bar sounded like a beehive as Tama proceeded to run three straight racks like it was child’s play. On the fourth game, she played a safety and left Jimmy hooked on the object ball. She backed away from the table smiling. Jimmy looked like a caged pit bull.

After Jimmy’s futile attempt to kick at the ball, the young woman ran the table and then ran two more racks, raising the score to six to zero. The spectators were mesmerized watching the beautiful, young Indian girl with the diamond-studded cue. It was simply unbelievable that she was thrashing their local pool shark. When she reached her eighth game for the two hundred-dollar win, one of the spectators yelled out.

Hey Jimmy, you didn’t do that bad. You did manage to win one game.

Jimmy resembled a double-wide after a tornado. Stick it up your ass, he snarled as he unscrewed his cue. The laughter and the applause had risen to a small roar as Jimmy hurried toward the front door. The great Jimmy Spence had become the laughing stock of the bar because he’d been out-hustled by a young woman who looked more like a high school cheerleader than a pool hustler.

Tama unscrewed her diamond-studded cue and walked up to the bar, placing a bill on the counter. I think it’s only fitting that Jimmy should buy you boys a drink, she said.

Are you new in town? one of the guys asked.

Just passing through. I have to be in Chicago tomorrow morning to meet someone very special.

When asked her name, she smiled and replied, My name is Tama ... Tama Thunder ... but they call me the Indian Princess.

CHAPTER 2

Tama Thunder was born in Chicago in 1955. With the exception of the Cold War, the 1950s were a laid-back period in American history. Gas was twenty-seven cents a gallon and you could purchase a new three-bedroom home for $10,000. Television viewers were introduced to American Bandstand and young people were dancing to the upbeat tempo of Rock and Roll, the newest sound in music.

In 1957, the Thunder family moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan. Tama’s father went to work as a supervisor for an automotive parts supplier and times were good for the Thunder household. Kalamazoo is a nice college town, located halfway between Detroit and Chicago on Interstate 94. The summers are pleasant and the autumn weather is exceptionally beautiful, though the winters can be long and harsh. A snowbrush is standard equipment in every car.

Tama’s father, Roy, a full-blooded Comanche Indian, had an outgoing personality with an infectious laugh. At six-foot-five, two hundred sixty pounds, Roy was a big man, but to everyone who knew him, he was a gentle giant.

Tama’s mother, Joan, was half Comanche and half Irish. She was a soft-spoken woman, but occasionally her Irish temper would surface with a vengeance.

Tama’s bronze-colored skin and jet-black hair left little doubt that she was Native American. She was the only Indian in her class and she was proud of the fact that she was three-quarters Comanche. She had a normal childhood, but she became aware at an early age what it was like to be the butt of Indian jokes.

Hey, Tama, did you ride your horse to school today? one of her female classmates joked.

Go ahead and laugh, Tama said. You’re just mean and your stupid jokes prove it. Tama always stood up for herself and never let her classmates’ obnoxious remarks get under her skin.

The Thunders’ home was in a middle-class neighborhood and Tama’s father took pride in his well-manicured lawn. He was also proud of his finished basement that featured wall-to-wall carpeting and floor-to-ceiling wood paneling. Roy told his wife, As soon as the base is finished, the first thing I’m going to do is have a pool table installed.

Roy Thunder used to be a part-time hustler, but his game diminished considerably after he settled down to raise a family. He still liked to shoot pool, but he limited his gambling to playing for beers at the local V.F.W.

When Tama was still a little girl, Roy thought it was amusing to watch her stand on a stool and roll the pool balls around with her hand.

Look Daddy, she’d say. It’s like magic the way they bounce off the rails and run into each other. It was obvious to Tama’s parents that their daughter had taken a special interest in the pool table.

At the age of seven, Tama was given her own cue. The first thing her father taught her was how to form an open-hand V-bridge. Tama watched carefully as her father placed his left hand flat on the pool table, raising his knuckles slightly and pointed his thumb upward. Tama placed her left hand on the pool table and mimicked her father.

Like this? she asked.

Yes, that’s right. Now hold onto the cue with a firm, but light grip. When you strike the cue ball, you must always remember to follow through and never jab at the ball. Just think of the cue ball as a ball of Jell-O. You’re going to push the cue-stick through it and make a nice smooth hole.

Tama’s squeal could be heard all the way upstairs when she pocketed her first ball with her new cue.

What’s going on down there? asked her mother, standing at the doorway to the basement.

Daddy’s teaching me how to play pool, Tama yelled.

From the very beginning, there were telltale signs that Tama had an extraordinary talent for playing pool. Most little girls’ favorite toy was a doll. Tama’s favorite toy was her pool cue.

Tama’s first game was eight-ball, a game in which one player pockets the solid balls (1 through 7) and the opponent pockets the striped balls (9 through 15). To win the game, the player must pocket all their balls and then pocket the eight-ball. With the exception of the eight-ball, the player is not required to identify the pocket into which they intend to shoot their balls.

Next was nine-ball, a game in which the balls numbered one through nine are pocketed in rotation. The winner of the game is the player who pockets the nine-ball. That means that a player can pocket numbers one through the eight, yet still lose the game if their opponent pockets the nine-ball. It’s also possible for a player to win the game by pocketing the nine-ball out of rotation. For example, if a player strikes the object ball (lowest-numbered ball on the table) and the nine-ball is knocked into a pocket, then that player is declared the winner of the game. If a player breaks and runs the table (that is, sinks all the balls), it’s referred to as running a rack.

When Tama was nine, Roy taught her the fundamentals of straight pool, a game in which each ball is equal in value and counts as one point. You may shoot at any ball on the table, but you have to call the pocket into which you intend to shoot the ball.

In straight pool, the last remaining ball on the table is referred to as the break ball. Before pocketing the break ball, the fourteen pocketed balls are re-racked on the spot at the foot of the table. The player then has to pocket the break ball and carom the cue ball into the racked balls. If done correctly, the cue ball breaks the balls apart and allows the player to continue the run. If a player doesn’t have a makeable shot, a common practice is to play a safety. A safety means that a player tries to place the cue ball so that their opponent is faced with a difficult shot.

Joan Thunder could see that Tama’s interest in pool was more than a passing fancy. She knew that the sport wasn’t considered to be very ladylike, but it was obvious that her daughter loved the game. Tama thought nothing of practicing for hours at a time.

You’re spending an awful lot of time at the pool table, her mother said.

I know, Mama, but it’s fun and I’m getting good at it. Someday I’m going to be as good as Daddy. Just you wait and see.

To Tama’s delight, her skills improved dramatically as her position play improved. Tama had several books on pool and her parents took pride in the way she absorbed each and every page.

Watch this, said Tama as she played a carom with the cue ball and knocked in two balls with one shot.

Pretty sharp, pretty sharp, her father said, giving her a bear hug.

Tama’s talents weren’t just limited to the pool table. By the age of ten, she could beat both of her parents at checkers and gin rummy. Roy and Joan were extremely proud of their daughter. She was their little Indian princess and they did everything in their power to make her feel important.

By the time Tama was twelve, she had become a formidable contender on the pool table. Tama was already five-foot-five and the power behind her stroke was awesome. At the same time, she had a very delicate touch for controlling the cue ball, making the game look easy. Tama’s favorite pool book was one on trick shots. She captivated her father’s friends as they watched her demonstrate her advanced skills.

Tama’s father always took her to pool exhibitions whenever one was in the area. By the time she was fourteen, Tama had seen world-class champions such as Willie Mosconi and Jimmy Caras.

I can’t believe how the professionals can control the cue ball, Tama said. It’s as if they can will the cue ball into obeying their every command. Mark my words. Someday I’m going to be the best woman pool player in the world.

There wasn’t much of an outlet for Tama’s pool skills. Unlike other sports, there was no competitive competition. The best she could do was embarrass the boys at the local pool rooms, playing loser pays for the table rental.

She told her mother, Occasionally, I’ll play eight-ball or nine-ball for a buck a game, but it’s like taking candy from a baby.

Are you holding back on your game? Joan asked.

Of course! I have to disguise my game by missing shots intentionally. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but my biggest thrill is beating one of the local guys who thinks he’s a hotshot with a cue.

Maybe you’re just a natural born hustler, her mother laughed.

As she grew older, Tama branched out and began hustling the college students. To her delight, there was always someone who thought he was a sharpie at the pool table.

You shoot pretty good for a girl, but you’re a lucky player, the sucker would say after Tama beat him another game.

I guess I was just born lucky, Tama would remark, batting her long eyelashes and trying to look innocent.

Some male players were like money in the bank because to beat them in public was like insulting their manhood. Don’t run off little lady, one of the defeated players would say as he took up a collection from his friends to try to get his money back. Due to their huge egos, the male players refused to believe that a young Indian girl was capable of beating them.

Occasionally, Tama’s father would let her play seven-card stud poker in the basement on the weekends. Young lady, said one of the regular players, you’re just as clever with a deck of cards as you are with a cue.

Tama never had to worry about earning an allowance. Between hustling pool and playing an occasional game of stud poker, it was like having a money tree in the backyard. When Tama began her senior year in high school, she had a reputation as a pool hustler and someone who would stand up for herself. One of Tama’s classmates put it in simple terms.

I can’t believe that someone so attractive and so innocent-looking can be such a fierce competitor.

Tama still heard the Indian wisecracks, but she was full of self-confidence and she didn’t give a damn what other people thought.

Tama was attracted to one classmate in particular—Frankie Johnson, whose father owned a small garage in her neighborhood. Frankie always had to work after school and didn’t have much time for sports or other school functions. Occasionally, she’d see Frankie staring at her from a distance when she was playing pool. Tama put forth a big smile whenever she saw him in class, but he always shied away from her. He’s just bashful, she told herself.

Aside from Frankie’s pleasant disposition and easygoing manner, Tama was attracted to his smile. She thought he had the most beautiful smile she had ever seen. One afternoon when she was sitting next to him in study hall she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Tell me, Frankie, do you date much?

Frankie looked surprised and paused for a moment. Not really. I put in a lot of hours helping my dad…and I’m not exactly God’s gift to women.

I’d go out with you, Frankie, unless you don’t go to drive-ins with girls.

Frankie smiled. How about Saturday night? I’ll pick you up at seven o’clock.

It’s a date, said Tama, surprised that Frankie had agreed so quickly.

Frankie arrived at Tama’s front door the following Saturday at exactly seven o’clock. Tama opened the door and grinned. You’re right on time. Follow me, I want you to meet my parents.

Frankie was wearing a pleasant smile as Tama introduced him to her parents. Tell me, Roy asked, are you going to go into the garage business with your dad after you graduate from high school?

No, sir. I’m going to go to the University of Michigan to study engineering.

That’s pretty ambitious. I’m curious, Frankie, what would you think if I offered you a beer before you kids head off to the drive-in?

I’d turn it down, sir.

You don’t drink?

Yes, sir, I do, but I don’t think it would be proper under the circumstances. Besides, drinking and driving don’t mix.

Tama’s father beamed as he put his arm around Frankie’s shoulder. I like this boy, he said. He’s honest and up-front. He reminds me of myself when I was his age.

Joan chuckled softly. Oh, sure. If Frankie were like you, Tama would probably end up coming home drunk with no clothes on.

Tama’s father blushed when Tama and Joan broke into laughter. Frankie didn’t know if he should laugh or not, although he did think it was quite funny.

You see what I have to put up with, Frankie? Tama’s father asked. I live with two women whose biggest thrill in life is finding a way to embarrass me. Roy joined in the laughter as Tama and Frankie headed out the front door.

Opening the car door for Tama, Frankie commented, I really like your parents.

I think they like you, too. I’m sure Dad’s impressed with the fact that you’re going to go to college. Tama snuggled up close to Frankie as they made small talk on the drive across town.

Frankie sat with his arm around Tama through the first movie. She found herself becoming more and more attracted to Frankie and she was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to kiss her. Ten minutes into the second movie, Frankie surprised her by caressing her cheek and whispering into her ear.

You are so beautiful, Tama. If you only knew how many times I’ve lain awake at night, dreaming of holding you in my arms. I’m almost afraid to blink because you might disappear, then I’d know that this was just a dream. Tama closed her eyes and sighed as Frankie took her into his arms and kissed her.

On the drive home, Tama leaned her head against Frankie’s shoulder. She had no regrets whatsoever that she had gone out with Frankie. She was already looking forward to their next date.

When they arrived at Tama’s house, Frankie walked her to the front door and placed his arms around her neck. I’ll call you tomorrow, he said.

Tama smiled. I’ll look forward to it.

Frankie took Tama in his arms and kissed her goodnight. She stepped inside the doorway, but kept the door ajar until Frankie drove away. Closing the door behind her, she told herself that it had been a night to remember and she looked forward to seeing him again.

CHAPTER 3

Tama was playing less and less pool by the time she reached her senior year in high school. You don’t practice much anymore, her