He learned early how to contort his body, So that, by the age of five, he was able to fold himself into a perfect walnut-sized ball. Sometimes, as a favor to his friend-Henry Tolstoy-Allister would roll up so Henry could use him while playing marbles. He was larger than all the other marbles and small enough to fall under the official marble size laid out by the Worldwide Professional Marble Players Association (WPMPA). The sport was popular back then, but seems to have lost some (or all) of its luster now. For those who do not know, the sport was played by laying out all of your marbles and all of your opponent's marbles inside a chalk circle. Then, you would take your shooter marble and try to knock as many marbles outside of the circle as possible. The winner was the one who walked away with the most marbles. Because of this, it paid to have a bigger marble as your shooter. And, for Allister, it paid to BE a bigger marble. No one caught on that Allister was human. Together, he and Henry had devised a glass-cotton hybrid cloth that they made into a marble covering. Henry would slip it on Allister after he had rolled himself. With it on, it was impossible to tell Allister from the other shooter marbles. Henry and Allister quickly rose in ranking and soon had outplayed everyone in their neighborhood and won over $53 (which they split 50/50)-a fortune in those days.
All that was left was the Big Neighborhood Tournament. It was there they would finally meet the reigning neighborhood champion, Olaf "The Marble Killer" Kingsley. Henry and his "marble's" reputation grew. Soon, bookies and agents arrived at Henry's doorstep, promising him money, prizes, and fruit baskets if he would enter the professional circuit after the neighborhood tournament. Henry was thrilled. He had always wanted to be rich and famous (and possibly king of the world). But, Allister had other plans. Henry tried to convince Allister that they needed the money, what with kindergarten about to start and the price of crayons skyrocketing. But, Allister did not want to be a marble for the rest of his life. With his share of the winnings ($26.50), he purchased a small island and was planning on retiring there with his toys after the tournament. There would be no talking him out of it. It was time for that five-year-old to get some R and R.
Now, it has been said time and time again that the pursuit of fame, riches, and being king of the world only cause trouble. And some of Henry Tolstoy's closest friends said that, even at the tender age of five, if you looked close enough, you could see sinister qualities in him (he had a patch over one eye, one of his front teeth was perfectly pointed, and immediately after he spoke thunder would sound and a bolt of lighting would shoot across the sky). He knew that, with Allister on his side, he could take the marble world by storm and he was determined to do that with or without Allister's permission. The day of the Big Neighborhood Tournament, Allister rolled into a ball and Henry pulled the marble camouflage over him, only this time he stapled it shut. Allister was stuck. There was nothing he could do. Henry breezed through the early rounds of the tournament and it was obvious that the only challenge was going to be with Olaf in the finals.
Now, Olaf's face had always looked like it had been baked by the sun and hardened into a permanent grimace. In fact, every part of Olaf was grizzled and tough. Even his handlebar mustache was solid enough to do chinups. Henry shook Olaf's hand and stared him down with his one eye. He pulled Allister out of his pocket and rolled him around in his palm. Then, he laid Allister outside the chalk circle. And, one by one, he knocked half of Olaf's marbles from the center. Olaf could only watch in horror, tears building up in his eyes. There was nothing he could do. He bowed his head and summed up all the inner energy he could to accept defeat with dignity. And, then, something funny happened. Henry, too full of excitement and self-assurance, misfired and Allister rolled past every marble.
Olaf took his turn. He lined up his shooter and flexed his mustache. Quietly and calmly, he shot marbles out of the circle until there was only one left. The smile on Olaf's face stretched across the room. All he needed was this last marble and the tournament was his. He lined up his shooter, closed one eye, and aimed. Before he could make a move, though, Henry shot out of his seat and ran in front of Olaf, pleading, "Please, please have mercy. I beg you. Let me win! I'll do anything. Anything. I swear! I need this! Please!"
Olaf's only weak spot had always been for people begging for mercy, and, in this particular plea, he spotted an added opportunity. "Give me your shooter and I will give you the tournament." Henry had to think about it, but not for very long. Olaf shot his marble into the air and completely over the circle and the remaining marble in the center and Henry easily won the tournament. Afterwards, away from the crowd, Henry handed Allister over to Olaf. The agents lined up to shake hands and make offers to Henry. "That marble's gonna be unstoppable." "You've got a great future- with that marble."
Olaf walked off quietly, his two shooters in his pocket, leaving Henry alone with the realization that, without Allister, he would go nowhere. Henry would soon begin a month-long tantrum, filled with all the thunder and lightning he could muster. And, eventually, Henry; along with his fang, his patch, and his dream of being king of the world (It was only years later that he discovered that the position never existed in the first place.); faded into obscurity.
Olaf, of course, had no idea that a walnut-sized boy was stuck inside his new shooter. He began a worldwide marble playing tour, gaining notable notoriety. And, wherever Olaf went, he brought his two prized shooters with him. So, by the age of seven, Allister had wined and dined with every king, queen, sultan, president, dictator, and emperor of the earth, and just about anyone else that mattered. But, all without any knowledge of what was going on. Allister eventually became very close to the other marble. It was one of the few friends that he had known in his short life that had not stapled him into a marble suit and given him away to a strange man. But, even with this new friendship, he longed to be free of the marble suit. For two years, Allister had been confined, living off the inner lining of his suit.
Finally, during a tournament in Tunisia, the lining (weakened from years of rolling and from Allister's nibbling) ripped and began peeling away. With every new roll, he could feel freedom budding. Olaf picked up his marble to see if he could repair it somehow and came face to face with Allister who spoke his first words in two years, "I do not want to be a marble anymore."
Olaf was stunned, to say the absolute least. He was witnessing a miracle-a boy born from a marble! He bowed to Allister and shed a tear. Allister was moved-but also embarrassed and hungry. Olaf agreed to let him free after the tournament. It was a rule that in Marble Competition you had to use the same shooter that you had started with throughout play. So, Allister rolled himself up one last time, won the tournament, and retired from the world of Professional Marbles.
He moved to his small island with all his toys and invited Olaf and his shooter marble to pass their days there-which they did for a while. And that, my friends is how Allister first traveled the world.