Chapter Two - Title Unknown
The sun hovers majestically, yet unobtrusively, in its cerulean sea quietly observing the excitement below.
The air hums with nervous expectancy and vibrates off the crowd of children, twittering and tittering as they watch Aaron and Taelyn fumbling and bumbling with the strings of their marble bags. Finally untangling the strings, their hands jackknife quickly into their small, respective bundles of marbles, as they begin searching for the right marble.
Taelyn can feel the difference in the weight of the marbles. The Cat’s Eyes are the lightest, their pupil-less red, or yellow, or blue, or green or white curves hang suspended in the clear glass orbs. Galaxies are slightly heavier than Cat’s Eyes and either dark blue or black glass orbs with silver specs, like a clear night sky full of twinkling stars. Creamies are white with blue or green waves undulating through them and are the heaviest of the small marbles. Steelies, if you’re lucky enough to have one, are much larger and heavier than the other marbles and are simply large orbs of steel.
Taeylyn’s won the thirty marbles she’s currently digging through in her marble bag. Most of them are Creamies and Galaxies. She started off winning Cat’s Eyes and then used her Cat’s Eyes to move on to winning Galaxies and then Creamies. And then she won her prized Steelie. She’d won all of the marbles in her bag throughout the school year.
Her fascination with marbles had all started when she found that fated Cat’s Eye one day at the beginning of the year after school in the abandoned concrete schoolyard, while Eddie was chasing Riley who was, against the rules, riding his secondhand, paint chipped, blue, no-name bike on the grass of the soccer field. Riley was impatiently yelling at her to hurry up, while at the same time taunting Eddie.
The Cat’s Eye was in a far corner lodged in a cement crack partially hidden by a piece of sharp, faded pink plastic, most likely from a stepped-on skipping rope handle. She’d only found it because she’d lost her prized retractable pen that had four ink colours. She’d thought her prized pen had dropped out of her pocket when she’d been playing handball with Riley before school earlier that day. She never did find her prized pen, but her new find was even better!
And she began practicing with her Cat’s Eye using small rocks as her target, feeling her way into her unique style of shooting. She’d spent a good amount of her time watching the other players and their shooting styles too. There were three types of shooting styles and finding the one that suited her had taken some experimenting.
One style was you used the meaty outer part of your hand, just below the wrist, and rested this part on the ground, to steady your hand, and then pressed your middle finger against your thumb and flicked the marble in a horizontal motion.
The second style was similar to the first one except you pressed your index finger against your thumb and flicked.
The third type was you hunkered yourself in front of your marble, your butt a few inches from the ground, knees bent, hung your arm down in front of you, between your knees, and positioned your thumb directly in front of your marble, and flicked your thumb against your index finger, your thumbnail making contact with the marble.
Taeyln found her aim was the most accurate when she practiced using the first method.
She’s currently pondering what marble Aaron will use as her target as she’s digging in her marble bag. Chances are Aaron is going to use a Galaxy. He’s the Challenger which means she has to shoot at his marble first. If her marble doesn’t end up within the circle surrounding his marble then he wins her Steelie automatically. If she hits his marble but doesn’t send it out of the circle, then he gets a chance to shoot at her marble. If she wants to keep her Steelie, and win his, she has to hit his marble and send it out of the circle, and her marble has to stay in the circle.
This means she needs to use a marble that’s light, but heavy enough to knock his marble out of the circle. And that means she has to find her lucky Creamy. Her best shooting Creamy has a periwinkle wave that weaves snake-like through the white marble.
Meanwhile, the ridge of freckles scattering across Riley’s nose and cheeks are bouncing around erratically, a side effect of him vibrating in place standing beside Taelyn. The sunlight is dancing off of his red-brown buzz cut.
“Which one you gonna use Taelyn?! Which one?!” Riley asks excitedly.
Taeyln’s eyes concentrate on Riley and finally she finds it and extracts it out of her marble bag, holding it between her thumb and forefinger in front of Riley’s eyes.
“This one,” she calmly tells Riley.
“Right! Awesome! The lucky one!” Riley exclaims loudly.
Although she looks calm on the outside, Taelyn’s feels like her stomach is performing backflips and she’s feeling slightly queasy. She’s trying to calm herself by slowly and silently repeating the words, “You can do this, you can do this, you can do this.”
“I’ll hold your marble bag!” Riley offers as he reaches out to take it.
“Thanks,” Taelyn replies, handing it to him, and she takes a deep breath and begins walking toward the Playoff Area where The Last Big Marble Game of the Year will soon begin. Riley follows after Taelyn.
Aaron has already placed his marble in the circle and is crouching behind it, a black Galaxy, one arm nonchalantly resting over a knee. His Galaxy is winking and blinking at everyone, excited to escape the marble bag and now be the centre of attention.
Taelyn kneels down and carefully, almost reverently, places her Creamy on the line three feet away from Aaron’s Galaxy. The sounds of excited chatter and jostling fall away as Taelyn positions herself and begins to focus only on Aaron’s Galaxy.
Taelyn uses her middle finger to push her glasses up on her nose.
From a far off place she vaguely hears the sound of feathered wings flying through the air, as a Magpie flies silently overhead and perches on the ledge of the school roof just behind Aaron. The Magpie’s eyes dart quickly between the children and the Galaxy marble, it’s head cocking one way and then another, as if it can hear something.
And everything begins to fall away as her focus intensifies. The chatter dims to a low, almost nonexistent hum, until a loud noise interrupts her concentration.
“COME ON ALREADY!” Aaron shouts loudly, as he impatiently rakes his hand through his hair.
Some of the children mimic Aaron.
“Ya, hurry up already would ya?”
“Are you going to shoot already?”
“What’s taking you so long”?
Taelyn looks at Aaron, a half smile on his face and his eyes narrow, daring her.
This is a tactic he uses. He tries to throw the shooter off balance by yelling at them and rushing them. The majority of the time it works. His opponents get flustered and then rush their shot and miss.
Taelyn ignores him, looking back down at the Galaxy, taking her time. She slowly closes her eyes, then begins inhaling deeply and slowly. When she’s inhaled as much as she can she holds it, opens her eyes and slowly leans over, never taking her eyes off of the Galaxy. Then she starts exhaling slowly and when she’s three-quarters of the way through her exhale; she flicks her middle finger against her thumb and her Creamy begins its rapid, jarring journey toward the Galaxy, bumping and jumping over the pits in the cement!
All eyes are on the Creamy.
Except the Magpie’s… the Magpie is covetously eyeing the Galaxy.
The Creamy is darting forward, its path true, but halfway to the Galaxy it bounces over a pit in the ash grey cement, hanging in mid-air and pondering whether to veer right or left! The crowd emits a unanimous gasp! It looks like the Creamy might completely go off track and miss the Galaxy by a long shot, not even staying in the circle!
The Creamy veers left in the air and as it lands another pit in the cement ricochets the Creamy back on track, sending it back on its path heading straight for the Galaxy! The crowd exhales exuberantly!
Then… three inches from the Galaxy, the Creamy hits another pit in the cement and jumps into the air! Another collective gasp goes up as the Creamy soars through the air, seeming to defy gravity, and drops in front of the Galaxy, knocking it in a way that sends the Galaxy shooting out of the circle and resting just outside the line, spinning in one place!
Blinking, Taelyn looks from the Galaxy to Aaron. His eyes and eyebrows are hiked far up on his face and his mouth is shaped like a large “O” as he stares at his Galaxy. Uncomprehendingly, he tears his eyes from his Galaxy and looks over at Taelyn, closing his mouth quickly, his eyes and eyebrows lowering to match the direction his lips have now taken.
“YAAAAAAHH!” Riley screams excitedly.
“You did it Taelyn! You won!”
Taelyn looks behind her at Riley, her eyebrows almost melding into her forehead, mouth half open and smiling big and wide. She can hardly believe it! She won!
She looks back at Aaron. With a disgusted, “Hmph!” sound coming from his nose, he stands up and walks to his marble, stoops over to pick up his Galaxy and puts it back in his marble bag, his movements brisk and impatient. Taelyn lowers her eyebrows, tones down her smile and stands up, walking toward her Creamy. After she picks it up and places it in her marble bag she looks up and Aaron is standing in front of her.
“Lucky shot freak,” he says with expressionless eyes.
Taelyn pushes her glasses up on her nose again.
“I won fair and square Aaron,” Taelyn replies, her eyes squiting, stung at the name he called her. He calls her this name a lot and makes no bones about the fact that he thinks she’s weird because; her best friend is Riley, who is in a grade lower than her, and her other friend, Eddie, doesn’t go to school, she only ever wears jeans, t-shirts and running shoes and half the time she doesn’t brush her shoulder length, thick hair before school (plus she never dresses or nice clothes or wears her hair different or with fancy barrettes or anything), AND she wears glasses… broken glasses at the moment.
Aaron looks at the crowd of children watching him as he silently contemplates the ramifications of not handing over his Steelie. This would be a huge breach though. No one would play marbles with him over the summer or next year if he didn’t. Word would spread like wildfire.
Reluctantly he reaches into his marble bag and after feeling around for a moment, extracts a Steelie. Taelyn holds her hand out, palm up. She notices a glint in Aaron’s eye and then he throws the Steelie into the field.
“Go get it freak!” he yells, then laughing he looks back at his friends, who begin laughing too. Then he turns on his heels and walks towards his friends.
“I’ll get it Taelyn! I saw where it went!” Riley shouts, as he takes off running in the direction of the previously airborne Steelie.
The Big Game is over. The crowd of children run, skittering and scattering in all directions. Some heading to the bike racks, some walking across the field toward their homes or friend’s homes. Taelyn shakes her head and turns to follow Riley.
The Magpie flies silently overhead, heading toward its nest.
(Photo credit to https://www.backyardbuddies.org.au/backyard-buddies/magpies)