there are no lies
in a baby’s eyes
there are no lies
in a baby’s eyes
white hot heat on a Texas day
boys gathered in the shade
of a deserted alleyway
watching dice dance
and passing the time
each waits for a chance
ready to roll anytime
“seven” was the lone sound
as the dice danced on
“craps!” the others cried
In the shaded alleyway
collective joy amplified
during their child’s play
back in the black-and-white 50’s, money went a long way
so that’s why I was thrilled to find a nickel on the street one day
I thought about things I could buy that would be handy
and narrowed it down to what interested me most…candy!
Mar’s Bars, M&M’s, Snickers, Atomic Fireballs, and Paydays
were just some the favorites that came to mind
and Butterfingers, Clark Bars, and Bit-O-Honeys
Peter Paul Mounds, Baby Ruth, and Sugar Babies
Oh Henry! Necco’s, and Zero bars
my head swam with all of the possibilities
among those sugary stars
when it came to the moment of truth
I took that nickel and bought a Baby Ruth
some early memories are gardens of delight
others are not so serene like getting into a fight
making Revelle car models like Ed Roth’s SuperFink
was a favorite hobby because I didn’t have to think
I raced on narrow red skateboards with metal wheels
while dreaming of someday having my own automobiles
my imagination was unfettered with too many facts
spending my time playing with all kinds of knick-knacks
countless hours were spent imitating TV heroes
in plots with pals featuring dramatic death throes
my memories of those early days
of childish beliefs and pretend plays
are still companions in my old age
and are still a pleasure to engage
a generation of spoiled little creatures
the bane of teachers
the result of helicopter parents
coddling their adolescents
breaking rules to benefit their child
parents allowing their kids to go wild
our school systems now a joke
underpaid teachers going broke
respect for public education
is lacking in our great nation
I looked like a defiant little boy
staring into the camera with his toy
with my serious eyes and curly hair
it could have been taken anywhere
a black and white memory of days past
a glimpse of youth that didn’t last
no trace of a smile on my chubby face
it appears I’d rather be in some other place
what caused me to look so grim?
something serious, or just a whim?
I can’t remember what I thought that day
it appears someone interrupted my play
childhood photos are ghosts from our past
while memories fade, they’ll always last
Eight-year old Tony couldn’t wait to go outside and play with his favorite present, a BB gun. Mom and Dad gave him a quick lecture about gun safety. After getting dressed he grabbed the cardboard target and BB gun on his way out to the backyard.
He set the target up on a tree and had fun shooting at it for an hour before his eyes wandered around looking for other targets.
A bird. Without thinking he shot it; dropped the gun, and ran over to it. Hot tears ran down his eyes as he buried the sparrow.
When Harold saw the thing slithering out from beneath his bed he felt both vindicated and horrified.
His parents wouldn’t listen to him the first time he became aware of it’s presence. That’s why he wasn’t on the bed tonight and hiding behind his chest of drawers with a baseball bat.
When the thing slithered on top of his bed and wound itself around his pillow, he rushed out and smashed it into a bloody pulp!
The next morning.
“Have you seen a boa constrictor around?” his mother asked. “Billy next door said his pet boa escaped.”
“No,” he lied.
Tom heard scratching at the front door and turned to his six-year-old sister Sara to see if she heard it. She was clutching her rag doll and he could see by the fear in her eyes she had and was looking for guidance.
He wished their parents were home while clutching the pistol. They had to go to town, a days ride from the ranch. At nine, he was considered old enough to be in charge.
It was snowing outside and the wind whistled through the wooden cabin like a banshee.
The door opened.
A half frozen man crawled in.
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.
“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?”
“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.
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