All the Marbles

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Dig Mark Kram's 1974 SI story: "Ring of Bright Marbles":

The world is in bad shape, brother. The world needs help, brother. Just look to the right or the left, and you know what the Captain is hollering about between the stutters of his Woolworth horn at a Broadway stakeout. Heck, he complains, this was once a prized territory: you could always get a decent piece of cheesecake at any hour and you seldom heard the clank of coin, only the silence of bills falling gently. Well, nothing is the same anymore, even for Salvation Army captains, not to mention summer and children and neighborhood games and the quality of jawbreakers.

For one thing, summers always seemed longer and hotter, the beaches more vacant and children more like children. Kids 10 years old seldom sound their age. They sound like they're 50 and have more opinions than a racetrack tout, like "Tell him, Billy, what you think about nuclear detente." Another thing, where have all the butterflies gone? They are rarely seen in large cities anymore and are vanishing from the suburbs as well. Lepidopterists in England did not see a single black and gold Chequered Skipper in all of 1973. The world is in bad shape, brother.

All of this brings us down to marbles, not the argot for brains but the real thing: perfectly round; so smooth; brilliantly colored; as precious to generations of children as any diamond. Has anyone seen a marble lately? Has anyone seen a marble in the hand of a kid? Most likely the answer is no, for the only things kids carry these days are transistor radios, slices of pizza and tickets to rock concerts. The marble belongs to a time that now seems otherworldly, when trees lined big city blocks as far as the eye could see, when barley soup was supper three times a week, when children had secret places.

[Image Via: Wikipedia; adrianandgraceinlaos]