Marvin the Marble Marvel


“Hi. You’re new here, aren’t you?” asked Carl.

“Yup,” Tony answered.

“Where did you go to school before?”

“Lincoln.”

“Lincoln Elementary? Across town?”

“Nope. Lincoln, Nebraska,” replied Tony.

“Oh. I was in Nebraska once, but I was just a kid, so I don’t remember much about it. You like it here?”

“It’s all right.”

“What did you do at recess in Lincoln?” Carl asked.

“Well … we played marbles.”

“Marbles! Terrific! Are you any good?” probed Carl.

“OK, I guess,” Tony answered modestly. “Do you play?”

“Not much. Mostly I play kickball. You’ll have to meet Marvin.”

“Marvin?”

“Marvin the Marble Marvel,” Carl explained.

“Is he any good?”

“Is he any good! That’s like asking if ice is cold. That’s him, over there,” said Carl, pointing across the playground.

“What grade’s he in, first?”

“No, third—like us.”

“He sure doesn’t look like a third grader. He’s so little,” Tony declared.

“I know,” agreed Carl. “But that doesn’t stop him. He’s the best marble player in the whole school. I can’t remember anyone ever beating him. Want to meet him?”

“Yup.”

Carl and Tony walked over to Marvin, and Carl introduced him to Tony.

“Hi!” Marvin said, grinning and pushing up his glasses. “Want to play?”

“I didn’t bring my marbles,” Tony answered.

“That’s OK,” Carl said generously, handing Tony a marble. “I’ll lend you Orangy.”

“Let’s play lag-outs,” Marvin suggested.

“OK,” Tony agreed, “but no snudging.”

“What’s snudging?”

“That means that your knuckles stay on the ground when you shoot,” explained Tony.

“Oh,” said Marvin. “It doesn’t matter. I shoot flingies.”

“Flingies?” asked Tony.

“Sure. Like this,” said Marvin, snapping the marble forward with his thumb and index finger.

“Oh, snappers,” Tony replied.

“Whatever,” Marvin said, “Hurry—the bell’s about to ring. We’ll play funsies. You shoot first.”

“OK. Thanks.” Tony shot his marble.

“We play no hits on first tries,” explained Marvin, rolling a green marble in the opposite direction. “Your turn.”

Tony aimed his marble carefully. An audible click was heard as Orangy collided with Marvin’s marble.

“Wow!” exclaimed Carl. “What a shot!”

“Good hit,” complimented Marvin, handing Tony his marble.

“You said funsies,” reminded Tony, giving both marbles back to their owners. “I’ll bring my marbles tomorrow.”

By the next morning the whole school knew about Tony’s fantastic shot. Carl met Tony on the way out to recess. “Did you bring your marbles?” he questioned.

“Yup.” Tony held up a bulging brown leather bag.

“Good. That looks like enough. Sometimes Marvin likes to play undergrounds.”

“Undergrounds? You mean pots?” asked Tony.

“I guess, Don’t let Marvin fool you,” warned Carl.

“How?”

“Well, he doesn’t look or act like a marble champ.”

“What do you mean?” Tony asked.

“He brings the same marble to school every day,” confided Carl.

“Only one?”

“That’s right,” Carl replied. “He brings it in a sandwich bag, and every afternoon he goes home with a bagful of marbles that he’s won.”

“You’re joking,” Tony challenged.

“No. Honest. I’ve always wondered what he does with the marbles he wins.”

“He must have a closetful at home,” Tony said as they approached Marvin and a couple of his friends.

“Hi. Ready to play?” asked Marvin, pulling a sandwich bag containing just one marble out of his pocket.

Carl gave Tony an “I told you so” nudge as some of the other kids came over to watch the game.

“Same rules as yesterday,” Marvin announced.

“OK,” Tony agreed, “but no go-fors.”

“Gophers?” Marvin repeated.

“Go-fors.”

“What does that mean?”

“No one else can shoot for you,” Tony explained.

“Oh—no helpers. OK. Come on, Sunshine,” Marvin pleaded, rolling his shiny yellow cat’s-eye marble between his thumb and forefinger.

Tony wisely shot his blue marble some distance away from Marvin. But when Marvin shot his marble, it stopped just short of Tony’s. On the next shot Tony easily won the cat’s-eye.

“Good game,” said Tony as Marvin handed him Sunshine. “You’ll have to bring more marbles tomorrow.”

“I don’t have any more marbles,” replied Marvin quietly.

“What?” Carl protested. “How can that be? You’ve won hundreds.”

“Well … I …” Marvin hesitated.

“He always gives them back the next day,” Jenny, an on-looker, broke in. “I’m sorry, Marvin. I had to tell.”

“That’s OK,” Marvin mumbled, staring at the ground.

“You mean that you’ve been winning the same marbles over and over again?” Carl asked incredulously.

“Well, yeah,” admitted Marvin. “You see, I found Sunshine on my way home from school one day, and I’ve just always won. I give the marbles back so that everyone will keep playing with me.”

“You’re good, Marvin,” Tony said, handing Sunshine back to him.

“You won it,” Marvin insisted. “You can keep it.”

“We said we’d play the same rules as yesterday,” Tony reminded him. “We were playing funsies yesterday, remember?”

“That’s right!” Marvin replied, happily tucking Sunshine into his pocket.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney