The Magic Marble

a little post-apocalyptic fairy tale for everyone:


“Give me a dollar.”

Jake looked up from his marbles.  Except for the girl standing over him on the stoop, the street was empty.  He’d never seen her before.  She was older than him, but not much, and the way she leaned over him it was as if she was curious but unwilling to get too close.  The way she spoke, she obviously expected him to obey.


“A dollar,” the girl said, straightening and taking a step back.  “It’s not like that’s a lot of money.”

“No.”  Jake rolled up his marbles, gathering them in one hand and then dumping them into a plastic pouch.

“I’ll give you a marble.”

“I have plenty,” Jake said.  “You want me to give you a dollar, you have to give me something I want.”

She grinned.  “You’ll want this marble.  It’s a cat’s eye.”

“Is it an actual cat’s eye?”

“That’s gross,” she said.  “No.”

“Then I don’t want it,” Jake said.  He stood and dangled the pouch in front of her.  “Got all I need in here.”

“It’s magic.”

“Marbles aren’t magic,” Jake said.  “You’re being stupid.”

“I’m a girl,” she said.  “I’m never stupid.”

“You’re a girl,” he agreed.  “You’ve got cooties.”

“I do not,” she said.  She fished the marble out of her pocket and held it out on her palm.  “I’ve got this.”

It was bright, sparkly, blue glass with red veins inside, and it was definitely prettier than any of Jake’s marbles.  And bigger, too, twice the size of any of his shooters.  He reached for it, but she closed her hand around it and shook her head.  “I need a dollar.”

“What do you want a dollar for?” Jake asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” she said.  “Once you give it to me, it’s mine, and I can do what I want with it.  And I’ll give you this marble, and you can do what you want with it.”

“It ain’t magic.”

“It’s very magic,” she said.  “A fairy gave it to me.”

“There are no fairies.”

“A fairy elf.”

“There’s no such thing as elves, either, ‘specially not fairy elves,” Jake said.  He thought he was being reasonable.  But he wanted the marble, and he wished he actually had a dollar to give her.

“Of course there are.  You don’t know everything.”

“I know there’s no elves or fairies.”

“Who takes your teeth, then?” the girl asked.

That wasn’t a fair question.  Everyone knew about the Tooth Fairy.  “Not the same.”

“I’m just saying,” the girl said, “that you don’t know everything, and you’re wrong, and this is a magic marble and I’ll give it to you if you give me a dollar.”  She was showing the marble again.  Sunlight glinted off it.

“If it’s magic, what does it do?”

“It wins.”

Jake looked up and down the street.  They stood on this stoop, but all the others were empty.  No kids.  No adults either.  He hadn’t seen much of anyone since the evening sunrise.  Days ago.  “I’m not playing with anyone.”

“You can play with me,” the girl said.

“You’re a girl.”


He didn’t have an answer.  “Why don’t you play with the marble?”

“I’m a girl,” she said.  “I have dolls.”

“That’s silly.”

She shrugged.  “Just give me a dollar.  Please?”

“I can’t,” Jake admitted.  “I don’t have a dollar.”

She frowned.  She dropped the marble into her pocket.  She looked up the street, then down, then up the side of the apartment building as if someone might look down from one of the windows.

He thought she’d go away now.  Or say something else.  She looked at him again, and she frowned, but that was all.

“If I had a dollar,” Jake said, “I’d buy your marble.”

“It’s not for sale.”

“You said…”

“I said I’d give you the marble if you gave me a dollar.  I did not say I’d sell it to you for a dollar.  That’s different.”

“Oh.”  He thought about it, and said, “Then can you give me the marble anyway?”

“But then I won’t have the marble and I still won’t have a dollar.”

“What about dolls?” Jake asked.

“I don’t know.  You’re a boy.  What do you know about dolls?”

“I know where to find some.”

“Is there a doll shop?”

He shook his head.  “Better.  A five and dime.”

“I don’t want a cheap doll.”

“I don’t want a cheap marble.”

“I just want a dollar.”


“Because.  Why do I have to have more than because?”

“That doesn’t make sense,” Jake said.  “Do you want to buy something?  Are you saving dollars for rainy days?”

“That’s pennies,” she said.

Jake reached into his pocket, pulled out three of those, and held them out.  “Pennies, I’ve got.”

She took them, one at a time, taking a time to look at each (maybe to check the date, or the face, Jake didn’t know).  “Thanks,” she said.  “I suppose you want the marble.”

“You said it was magic.”

“It wins,” she said.

“How would you know?” he asked.  “You’re a girl.”

“I told it I wanted to find a doll,” she said.  “It led me to you.”

“A doll, or a dollar?”

“I really wanted a dollar,” the girl said, “so I could buy my doll.  But I don’t know who to buy it from.”

“I can sell you a doll,” Jake said.

“From the five and dime?”


“That’d be nice.”  The girl sat on the stoop, smoothed her skirt, and smiled.  “Is it a nice doll?”

“I’m a boy,” he reminded her.  “I don’t know if it’s a nice doll.”

“Will you pick it yourself?”

“Of course.”

“Then it will be nice,” she said.  “Thanks.”

“You don’t want to come?”

“The five and dime,” she said, “is your secret.  The fairy elves and their magical marbles is mine.”


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply