Losing Marbles

Fiction By Mikki Aronoff

You frown as you watch the cat’s eye, the comet and the clearie spill out from the purple and gold Crown Royal pouch your grandmother gave you decades ago and track them rolling far under the bed. Damn, you think, your bones too stiff to manage, so you remove the chalk and string from the bag, mark off a circle on the floor, step inside it and hard-will the glassy globes to find their way back to you.

A loud ring on your bedside table—the prison chaplain’s leaving another message, the third this month, this time something about your sister you can’t quite make out. But you can’t pick up, your body and mind trapped inside the optimism of a circular geometry. Long, long ago, you and Sadie would slide under the bed to escape the frenzy of one of your Dad’s Jack-and-ginger binges, or slip out the back to kneel in the dirt and knuckle down, play poison and bun-holes against the neighborhood boys—Sadie aiming with her aggie like she was shooting at the devil, her shots never missing. But for now, your legs lock as you wait for the marbles to move. It’s a standoff, you reckon, as they remain motionless under the bed, you rigid and rooted inside the ring of the playing field you’ve drawn, while the word “shooter” floats up from the priest’s recording, filters through the fog of your futile expectancy and pings around in your head.

You stand there, stuck, shift your weight from foot to foot. An acrid smell wafts up your nostrils. The gray of Grams’ face flickers in your periphery, an unlit cigarette still dangling from her thin lips. You recall finger-tracing a map of constellations across the patterned mesh of her hairnet. You remember how she taught you to shuffle cards. Your body sags. You regret that she is gone, that she never warned you that drawstring bags could fray over time, that marbles could be stubborn, that lost sisters were never for keeps, that circles could also be prisons, that little worlds could spin away and no amount of wishing or willing could bring them back.

Mikki Aronoff

Mikki Aronoff’s work appears in New World Writing, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Tiny Molecules, HAD, Bending Genres, Milk Candy Review, Gone Lawn, Mslexia, The Dribble Drabble Review, 100 word story, The Citron Review, Atlas and Alice, trampset, jmww, The Offing, and elsewhere. She has received Pushcart, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, Best American Short Stories, and Best Microfiction nominations.