#FastFiction - Dec 16

When Seal Cove School burned, I was there. It was 1992 and Uncle Taio was playing the reigning Marble Chap, Phoenix. Phoenix was a year younger than us; seven, but man could he throw a marble. Like the thing was meant to make contact and he was just the conduit. Your Uncle was no slouch, himself. He was actually the one who brought marbles back, if you can believe it. Around that time his own Uncle had given him a box of his old toys, Star Wars stuff, GI Joe, and two full Crown Royal bags of marbles. Internet was real new at that time so we had to ask around how to play. And, as it turned out we played a variation on this Ugandan type of Marbles save in our game if you got in the Pit you could throw your marble at another guy’s and if you hit it you kept it. Unless you called ‘No Keepees’ before you started the game. Taio had some of the most beautiful marbles you could imagine- old, maybe older than double our ages at the time: tonnes of Cat’s Eyes, some Fox Bloods, a crapload of Benningtons, and Crocks; white with splashes of colour. But Phoenix, well Phoenix’s dad worked as a Machinist and he would bring home Steelies of all kinds. And the Crown Jewel was this one Steelie that was about the size of my fist, doubt it was regulation, but we played with it. No name for it since it was 10 times bigger than a King Cob so we dubbed it the Prime Minister. As much as we wanted those Steelies, Phoenix wanted Taio’s legit marbles. I remember it was recess when the game was called, I had dug the Pit, and measured out from the Pit to the Throw line. Phoenix’s Second checked my work- I was Taio’s Second, of course. The whole game had escalated in gym class when Phoenix was talking some crap to someone and Taio stepped in- he always did when someone was getting picked on- and Phoenix just… blurted it out. So there I was, between Taio and Phoenix who shook hands, never taking their eyes off each other, and I asked, “Keepsees, or No Keepsees?” The sweat on their brows, the tense quiet in the Seal Cove Undercover area. Most of our class was there- even the girls, and even the other Third Grade Class, as well; Mrs. Whites’. They both said Keepsees and the game began, but that is not what you are asking me about- that is just the start, you want the end. Well, I can tell you straight up, your Uncle Taio played his best game, that day, and honest to God, he won. But, as Taio was collecting his winnings, that little shit- that little son-of-a… That Phoenix, calls out, “No Keepsees.” Oh man, that pause of WTF, and then came the yelling. Then the shoving. And then the insanity- without implicating too much, your Uncle and I were not present when the fire was set, but as we pushed through the hundreds of kids pounding on each other like it was some Roman Game- we heard the first explosion and looked back to see most of the Primary side of the school was gone. So no, no- I won’t teach you how to play marbles. I can’t, I swore to never touch one again, and I have done as such since then. No- you will have to learn it on the street like we did. Just... be careful. Please.

James C.