Playing for love, for glory and for all the marbles [Final Part]

Editor's note: This is the final part of a short story that has run over the past several weeks.

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Fred slowly took Tiger in his hand a got ready to shoot. I wanted to run, to get as far away from this humiliation as possible. My bull's-eye sat alone in the ring, its eye glaring malevolently at Fred and Tiger.

After what seemed an eternity, Fred finally shot. I closed my eyes. Maybe I couldn't run, but no one said I had to watch.

As I stood there with my eyes clenched shut, I heard the sound of one marble hitting another. But that was all. And then silence.

Where were the voices of the other boys congratulating Fred or talking about the game?

I opened my eyes. Everyone seemed frozen in place, staring into the marble ring. I looked down and saw why they were shocked.

My bull's-eye had not moved. But now, on either side of it were two white marbles.

Wait. It wasn't two marbles. It was Fred's Tiger, broken in half.

Apparently, when Fred shot his Tiger it had split in two instead of knocking my bull's-eye flint out of the circle.

Slowly, the boys found their voices.

"Wow! Did you see that?"

Of course, everyone had seen it. Everyone but me.

Slowly, Fred reached out and carefully picked up the pieces of his marble. He cradled them in his hand.

"My dad gave this to me," he said quietly.

As he stood and stepped out of the ring, I saw tears streaming down his face and he began walking down the alley.

Kenny picked up my bull's-eye and handed it to me, and we walked home that day in silence.

That was the last time I played marbles. When I got home, I put the bull's-eye back into the small, cotton-lined box I had made for it. Then, securing the lid with an elastic, I placed it carefully in the corner of my dresser drawer.

I never looked at that marble again. Once in a while, I would see the box in the drawer, but I never bothered to open it.

Then one day, I noticed the elastic was broken, the box was open and the marble was gone.

I emptied the contents of the drawer onto my bed and then carefully put everything back, searching in vain for that marble.

It would be a long time before I realized the irony. This wonderful, magical marble that had so mysteriously appeared for me had just as mysteriously disappeared.