Thorson fingered his winnings. Within just an hour he’d accumulated three times his stake. His competitors shuffled anxiously around him. They can wait, I’m in command, now. He readjusted the rolled-up sleeves of his green plaid shirt, stretched out the kinks in his neck and placed one knee in the dirt beside the mostly-round string circle.
Clink went his steely against an outer milky. The targeted white marble pinged off the heavier steel ball-bearing and shot out of the circle. Thorson’s steely king remained within the arena. He collected the white marble and settled back in.
The nine year-old lined up on Jenkins’ shooter, an aggie the size of a quail’s egg. The large brown and red, swirled-glass marble lay within a nest of lesser targets. If Thorson could smack Jenkin’s heavy out of the circle, the remainder would be sacrificed and he would win the game—as he had the previous five.
The crowd held their collective breath; this was the kill shot.
“Shut-up, Wills. I’m concentrating.” Thorson cast a dominating glance at the skinny kid standing opposite. Wills had lost his stash first thing and had chaffed at Thorson for the last half-hour.
“That’s a cheater, and you guys know it.” Wills got the others, who’d also lost to Thorson, grumbling about the boy’s steely; a gift from his father who worked the shipyard. “Set the rules up front, Trev, else your friends will think you a thief,” Thorson’s father had warned.
While the grumbling continued, Trev Thorson lifted his polished steely from where it sat within the circle, cocked his thumb, aimed and fired. The massive steel ball possessed the mass, and with a skilled thumb, the momentum to knock any marble from the ring. It flashed in the gaps of sunlight that peeked between the boys’ shadows as they stood around home-plate at the elementary school’s ball field.
The metal marble clinked confidently against Jenkins’ aggie. But off center. The glancing blow knocked the other boy’s shooter into a cluster of lambs waiting for Thorson’s wolf. There the beautiful glass marble, larger than the ball-bearing, clacked against the group and spun to a stop—within the circle. Thorson had failed to clear it from the play area.
His own steely stopped dead only four inches from the string. His turn was up.
The boy’s cheered and patted Jenkins on the back.
“You got him now, Jenk.” “Kill that metal monster.” “Hit him hard, he won’t go without a fight.”
The other boy, Jenkins, had been the reining champion. His own collection of nearly a thousand marbles, remained within his closet at home. He’d learned long ago to only bring to a match what he was prepared to lose. He knelt, plucked his aggie shooter from the flock and flicked the glass eye at the shiny metal ball. A solid strike that sent it lumbering out of the ring. The boys cheered again until they realized the aggie had also plinked out beyond the circle.
The rule was your shooter must remain within the arena to claim victory.
Thorson’s sign blew dust up to settled like history on the remaining marbles. The pair must start the game again.
“Stand back,” Thorson said firmly, “it’s time I cleaned this up.”