The dust kicked up by the fierce competition mixed with the tears of the tiny loser, forming a dry cake of mud beneath each eye on his cheek. He stood off to the side as the older boys continued the game. His sad expression and empty marble sack told the story.
He was old, slightly older than his loose fitting suit coat and out of style tie. His baggy pants and slumped shoulders gave the appearance of a kid in his dad's wardrobe. The lines etched in his wrinkled hands dispelled any signs of youth. Yet there was a twinkle in his eyes and a slight twitch in his right hand. You would have thought he wanted some of the action as the competitors jumped, squatted and moaned, and yelled at each shot.
"Rough day," he rubbed the tot's head. It wasn't hard for the old man to size up the situation. He pulled from his pocket a beautiful, multi-colored marble. Blue fading into crimson edged in light green. Held up into the sunlight close to the eye, one could escape into a whole new world.
"You know, I'll bet I could talk one of those fellas into loaning you a couple of marbles and with a rainbow shooter like this you could get right back in the competition."
"What's so great about that old shooter? I'm just not any good," the dejected little guy said.
"Let's give it a try just for the heck of it," the old guy encouraged. "Sure", the older boys agreed. "It won't be long before I own that shooter too."
When it came his turn, he looked back at the old man. The old fellow winked. One by one, the marble left the circle as the rainbow shooter reacted to the small boy with the accuracy of a bullet fired out of a rifle. The older kids were in awe. All were more fascinated than angry as the little guy filled his bag. The old man stood beneath the oak tree and enjoyed watching the game unfold.
It was almost time for his bus when the game ended. A sunshine smile and a bag full of marbles said it all.
"Thanks mister," he said as the old man reached into his pocket for his bus token. As he pulled it out, several rainbow shooters fell out. The disappointment on the little boy's face was apparent. "I thought the shooter you gave me was the only one in the world. You said it was magic. You have a whole bunch of the same kind. This isn't special."
Undaunted, the old man knelt down by the young tike as he picked up his marbles. "The magic is in you. This was just a regular old rainbow shooter because you put something special into it that no one else could. These others here in my pocket, well they are just waiting for some little guy to put some magic in them. Then they will become special, and yes, even magic."
Satisfied, the kid smiled. "Make sure you don't give any of them to those guys," he pointed. The old fellow smiled.
As the bus stopped, he boarded and took his seat. The boys waved. Reaching into his pocket, he found it - a rainbow shooter, old by the scars but still pretty. The old man held it up to the window as the sunlight sent sparkles into the multi-colored world inside the pitted and scarred surface of the ancient marble.
Placing it back in his pocket, he continued to rub his prized possession. Calling on the magic from all those years, he mumbled. "I sure hope I get this job at McDonald's. Me and Miss Cassie can sure use that extra money."