The Marble Champion

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Every kid in the school yard at California Street Elementary in 1955, was watching the marble match.

A third-grader named Billy, was challenging a fifth-grader, named Jack, in a game of marbles. It wasn’t just another game. It was for the annual unofficial marble championship. Both put up all of their boulders, common cats eyes, aggies, and steelys. It was winner take all. Both contestants had captured hundreds of marbles during the semester.

The winner was the first to capture fifty marbles in a three-round contest. Each round featured 30 marbles – fifteen from each contestant. They used their prized aggies, confident that their special marbles would give them a winning edge.

A coin was tossed to see who went first. Jack won. He knelt down and bent over the circle in the sand. Then he calmly lined up his aggie using his thumb and forefinger, and let it go with a force that scattered the marbles in the center of the circle. Two rolled out of the circle. He picked them up and put them in the coffee can next to him. An excited chatter came from the spectators. The game was on.

Jack lined his aggie up again, and sent it careening into a small cluster of marbles near the line. Three were knocked out of the circle. He got to fifteen before he missed his first shot. Billy took up his position and drove his first marble out of the circle while staying inside with his sticker. He finished off the first round with 15 marbles. They were tied, but Billy got to start round two. He lined up his bumblebee sticker, and fired it into the center mass. Three marbles excited the circle so hard they flew into the crowd! A roar of approval went up. Jack looked on nervously as Billy ran the entire circle! As one of the judges drew a new circle for the last round, Billy’s classmates were patting him on the back in admiration. The shy kid in the classroom had finally earned the respect of his fellow students. And at the expense of the school bully!

Before they could play the last round, the bell rang signaling recess was over. According to their rules the game would be played the next day at recess. Billy went back to class feeling better than he had all semester. He was accepted. One of the guys now. His young heart sang with happiness. He spent the rest of the school day thinking how his life was really turning around.

When the last bell rang, Billy and two new-found friends walked home together. They went about a block when Jack stepped out from behind an oak tree accompanied by two of his friends. He towered over Billy, and outweighed him. In a menacing voice he warned Billy that he better lose tomorrow or he’d beat him up! The smaller boy looked up at him, his heart beating like a jack hammer, and said, “I’m not afraid of you. I’m going to do my best to win tomorrow.”

“What did you say pipsqueak? You’re not afraid of me? Bring it on punk!”

“I don’t want to fight.”

“Of course you don’t, mommy’s boy! You just want to go home and put a dress on!”

Jacks friends laughed so hard they were patting each other on the back in glee. They knew what was going to happen next. Jack pushed Billy hard. He stumbled for a moment and then did the unexpected, he lunged at Jack and hit him in the face! Gasps went up from the onlookers. Jack gave ground and held a hand up to his face. His nose was bleeding. Infuriated he waded into Billy and slugged him repeatedly, knocking the smaller boy to the ground. Then he repeatedly kicked him. Billy stayed in a fetal position but didn’t cry out. Finally Jack’s buddies pulled him away from the barely conscious boy. Billy was bleeding from cuts to his face and his right hand – his marble shooting hand. It was swollen because Jack had stomped on it. The fingers were already twice their normal size.

“See you tomorrow loser!” Jack told him before walking away. Billy’s two friends helped him to his feet and walked the rest of the way home with him. His mother was horrified when she saw Jack. Both of his eyes were swollen shut and he had bruises all over his thin body.

“What happened?” she asked him and his friends. Jack was silent. One of the boys told her a bully, a fifth grader, beat him up because he was winning a marble contest.

“Is this true, Billy?”

He mumbled something in answer, and went past her and into the house and his room. When his father got home he went into Billy’s room and sat down on the single bed next to him.

“Tough day?”

“Yea…”

“Your mom told me what happened. You were brave to stand up to the bully.”

“How do you know that?” he wondered.

“Apparently your friends told her everything that happened. What are you going to do tomorrow son? Should I contact the principal?

“No! Don’t do that! I’m no snitch. I’m going to school and I’m going to win the marble contest!”

“Okay, son. Take it easy. Have you iced that hand yet?”

“A few hours ago.”

“Do it again before you go to bed, okay?”

“Sure, Dad.”

“One more thing…I’m proud of you son.”

The next at school.

The word was out. Every kid at California Street School squirmed in their seats that morning waiting for the lunch recess. The big marble game came with an additional element this year. Nearly everyone knew Jack beat Billy up yesterday. The tension created by a possible fight went through the classrooms like electricity. When the lunch bell rang there was a general charge out to the farthest corner of the playground where the marble contest would resume.

Jack confidently made his way through the crowd and stood next to the circle and the two judges. Billy slowly (and painfully if you really paid attention) walked to the circle. With his left hand he took out his prized Bumblebee and knelt down next to the circle. A murmur of surprise rippled through the crowd when he prepared to shoot…with his left hand! Not his normal shooting hand. He only had to capture five marbles and he’d be the champ. One of many things his peers didn’t know about him was he was ambidextrous.

When he shot the marble and it slammed into the center mass, there was a cheer as two marbles exited the circle. He made the next three look easy. The crowd broke out into happy pandemonium as they cheered Billy’s victory. No one noticed Jack, who slung away with no friends in tow.

As It Stands, this tale is a bit of nostalgia sprinkled with marbles and bullies.

The Student That Knew Too Much

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Wayne Dancer had the uncanny ability to know what people were thinking.

This gift (or curse, depending on how you look at it) became apparent when Wayne was in second grade and asked his teacher why she was always thinking about someone named Dennis? This was an awkward question, because her husband’s name was Bob. She tried to cover up his accuracy at reading her thoughts by laughing at him, and complimenting him on his imagination. She never realized he saw straight through her feeble efforts.

One of the strange things, and there were many, was that he didn’t always have the ability to hear people’s thoughts. It usually came unexpectedly, and went away after a short period of time. Another bizarre aspect to his mind-reading ability was it only happened when he was in school. He was never able to read his parents, or other family members, minds.

The one thing he did learn was not to talk about his strange ability. At first, out of fear people would think he was crazy. But as he got older it dawned on him there were advantages to reading people’s random thoughts. Especially during tests. It helped him get a passing grade more than once.

When he became a freshman his interest in girls was a driving force, powered by raging hormones, and a healthy imagination. He wasn’t a very social person and only had a few friends, that like him, were on the fringes of the high school social set. They existed in a gray area between the popular kids and the outcasts. They could be seen at school events like football games, but never participated in sports.

The new school janitor, Paul Kettles, put a sign out in front of the girl’s bathroom warning people he was inside cleaning. He performed this duty while most kids were in class to avoid embarrassing incidents.

On this day however, he was installing a hidden camera with split views of stalls and the sink area. He done this before at all three of his prior janitorial jobs, in three different states. He never stayed too long, always disappearing before any kind of investigation was launched. His collection of teen girl porn was his pride and joy. He often traded videos with other perverts online, who always praised the quality of his work.

He was finished before the bell rang. Students poured out of their classes into the hallways on campus. Wayne was walking with two friends, a boy and a girl, as they passed the janitor who picked up the sign outside of the girls bathroom, and was wheeling his mop bucket to the storage room, when he heard something in his head that troubled him.

“I wonder what she’ll look like without her pants? I can’t wait to check the camera tomorrow.”

Those words rolled around Wayne’s head like rocks, slamming from one side to the other with jarring implications. He looked back at the janitor who was now at the end of the hallway and unlocking a door. It was harder than usual to stay focused in his English class as his thoughts kept turning back to what he heard.

“What are the names of the two families in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Wayne?” his teacher, Mr. Beltramo, asked.

He struggled with the answer and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “The Hamiltons and the Turners,” he answered hopefully.

“Half right. the Hamiltons and the Trasks. You better pay closer attention young man, there will be a test on this,” his teacher warned.

It was the last class of the day for Wayne, who walked home with his buddy Dewey. He thought about telling Dewey what he suspected, but couldn’t bring himself to do it. The last thing he wanted was for his friend to think he was crazy or something.

The next day at school Wayne saw the janitor pushing a cleaning cart of supplies in the hallway and he slowed down, hoping to hear what he was thinking. He only made out one word in passing, camera. 

Logical deduction told Wayne that the janitor had planted a hidden camera in the girl’s bathroom. His problem was how could he expose what he did without an explanation of how he knew about it? It was a thorny issue, but he knew he had to take some action. He couldn’t just stand by and let the pervert peek at his classmates.

Later that day at lunch he approached a girl he knew since grade school. They were good friends. Not lovers. She was an honor student, involved in student government, and who sometimes worked in the front office as part of a work experience program. Her name was Linda Goleta.

“Working in the office today?” Wayne asked conversationally, as they ate their lunch in the freshman quad.

“I am. Right after lunch actually,” she replied.

“Would you do me a favor?

“Sure. What is it?”

“I know this is going to sound odd, but could you check the new janitor’s personnel file and see where he worked before coming here?”

“What on earth for?”

“I can’t tell you why right now, but I’ll explain everything later. Please. Trust me. You don’t have to take anything. Just write down the names of his prior employers.”

“If anyone else asked me to do that, I’d tell them to take a hike. But since it’s you…I’ll see what I can do,” she said with a smile.

The next day Wayne saw Linda in their math class. She passed him a piece of folded up paper without a word, as they took their seats. The class seemed like it went on forever for Wayne, who was eager to carry out the next part of his plan.

During study hour at the school library he went through the section with maps and phone books for all 50 states. He used the information Linda provided to track down the high schools the janitor worked at. Instead of calling the first high school he looked up, he got the phone number of the local sheriff’s office. He had to call back twice before he got to talk with someone, a bored information officer.

Wayne told her that he was a reporter for his towns local newspaper, The Altooni Monitor, and he wanted to know if she had any peeping tom scandals that might have happened in the local high school in the last five years? He was put on hold for nearly ten minutes before the officer called back and said there were no cases like that in the high school, or anywhere else in town.

It took the third, and final call before he hit paydirt. A detective took his call and said he had a cold case involving a peeping tom at their high school. Wayne asked the detective not to reveal him as a tipster because he thought he knew a man that was doing that right now in his high school. He gave the detective the information – Paul Kettles employment record – with a request that he wouldn’t have to be involved in the bust. The detective was eager to solve his cold case and catch the perp, agreeing to Wayne’s conditions.

It took a week before anything happened. Wayne was in his Science class when students heard a loud popping sound. The teacher told them to get on the ground under their desks. They waited for a long time until someone came into the classroom and said everything was all right. Class was dismissed.

Like the other students, Wayne stopped to stare at the yellow tape stretched out around a small perimeter in front of the storage room. There were still cops and plain clothes detectives milling around. The word was a peeping tom had a camera in the girl’s bathroom and got caught by authorities.

As Wayne stood there staring, Linda came up alongside of him.

“I don’t even want to know how you knew about this,” she whispered in his ear.

As It Stands, silent heroes are still heroes, even if no one knows who they are.

Then They Closed The Schools…

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry468-Zigeuner-Muellberge

2025 USA

All schools, upper and lower, were closed per the dictator’s orders in 2022. It was the final blow in dumbing down the nation by the ruling Patriot Party.

Ever since the Patriot Party became the first third-party to win a presidential election they systematically took away freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Without a Congress, and no checks and balances, the Patriot Party was able to name a dictator for life.

No more messy elections. No more safeguards for the poor. No protests allowed. Americans were told that there was no need to read, as they could learn about everything that they needed to know on TV, and or, on government websites.

The new regime sent teams of senior propagandists to all 50 states. It was their job to hold “town meetings” daily to keep the masses from complaining about their new realities. It was hardest for seniors, who grew up in an entirely different America where people were free.

For that reason, the government offered bounties on anyone over 65 years-old. The only way to completely erase American history was to rewrite it. For years now seniors were hunted down and turned over to the regime by brainwashed youth seeking monetary awards.

Still, there were plenty of people willing to hide seniors knowing what an important link to the past they were. With the regime’s ongoing book purge, it became all the more important that seniors live to pass on what they learned and witnessed in their lifetimes.

In the early morning hours when the city was still asleep, Ross had to go back inside the crumbling building that was his home. Deep in a secret cellar, disguised by debris, it was the only safe place for him.

Once he was a renowned professor at a prestigious eastern college. But when the purge began he had to keep moving and hiding, unable to trust anyone knowing there was a bounty on his head because of his apparent age.

Not because he was a vampire.

He foraged for food at night through the city ruins looking for human prey. Only the poor lived there anymore. There were no cars or public transportation. No police department, or city government functioning in this once proud city. It was left to die by itself from neglect.

The regime was centered hundreds of miles away in New Washington DC. The city there had all the modern conveniences available. There were cars, trains, helicopters, and subways. Businesses of all kind flourished in the renamed capital.

The rest of the country’s infrastructure was gradually breaking down as people began fighting over the lack of supplies available. A nationwide black market provided some desperate people with basic needs, if they had money.

Ross still remembered the day when the vampire caught him in a deserted alley foraging for food. Instead of draining him dry however, the vampire cut his wrist and let the blood flow into his semiconscious mouth.

When he became conscious again, the vampire was waiting for him. Standing nearby.

“It was the only way professor,” the vampire began, “I was one of your students and know how brilliant you are. This nation needs you to be around with your wisdom. It’s more valuable than gold. You’ll be immortal.

“The day will come, when good Americans will rise and chase this regime into the bowels of hell, and you’ll be there to guide them,” he explained.

Ross fell asleep in the darkness of the hidden cellar and dreamt about giving a lecture to eager young students thirsting for knowledge.

The next night he woke up and went outside. Hunger pangs drove him to quickly search out a blood source. There were no more dogs or cats in the city. That just left humans. He learned not to feel guilty when he drank their blood.

He was, after all, a repository of knowledge. A walking library.

“It’s for the greater good,” he reasoned to himself, whenever the thought entered his head while draining a victim’s life away.

As It Stands, there’s an old African proverb that goes, “When an old man dies, a library burns down.”