THE MALTESE MARBLE



It didn't seem like a special marble when I first looked it over, at old Mr. Warner's place. True, it was larger than the other cats’ eyes and steelies in my collection. And the smoky green eye in the middle of the glass orb did seem to pulse and glow when you looked at it for a while. But, when you are eight years old, everything seems special and by logical extension, nothing is ever too extraordinary. It was just another piece of glass, or so I thought at the time.


Mr. Warner saw me looking at the marble, as it nestled quietly in the red velvet box, on his big oaken desk. He told me that it had been given to him a long time ago, in a dusty village on the Island of Malta. He had been excavating the ruins of an old crusader fortress there. He had saved the life of an old man, in a cave-in at the dig. The grateful native had given him the marble and told him to use the three wishes wisely. Mr. Warner said that he had never found out what the old mystic meant by three wishes, but had kept the marble as a souvenir of the expedition.


The allure of so exotic a bauble was immensely attractive to an eight year old with an imagination that was always alive and on fire. I greatly admired the glass stone and said so to Mr. Warner, on several occasions. He smiled each time and nodded his head in agreement the way adults do when they want to be mysterious.


I was doing yard work for him that summer. Mr. Warner had suffered a fall and couldn't get around too well. We were neighbors, across the street, and Mom said I should go over and help Mr. Warner with the yard work until he recovered. Like most kids my age, I didn't like the idea too much. I would rather be playing baseball with my friends or off exploring on a score of imaginary expeditions. Mr. Warner proved to be a nice enough old man though. After I got to know him better and had finished my chores for the day, we would often sit and talk. Over a tall glass of lemonade, he told me of his archeological expeditions to  many far off places. Even the names of the places had a special magic to them. Anghor Wat, Massada, Harare', Tierra Del Fuego, Easter Island. After every session, I would run home and look up the pictures of the places he had been to in our world atlas. It was a special summer for me.


At summer's end, Mr. Warner presented me with a small, wrapped package. He said that he was appreciative of my help and company and wanted to give me a small token. He asked only that I wait until I reached home to open it.  He had that far away look in his eyes that adults get when they are thinking of something long ago or far away. He smiled and said, “Use it wisely Billy.” I had no idea what he was talking about, but I thanked him for the gift, like Mom had taught me. He was a nice old man and I was glad that I had helped him out. I put the present in my old yard jacket and promptly forgot about it.


    Continue reading this story in “Christmas Comes to Kevin O’Leary”, available in Kindle and Nook format.