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I read this story in the 1970s, in a school anthology (or maybe a magazine like Cricket. A young boy meets aliens (or alien robots?) while he is playing marbles alone. He interprets a bauble of the aliens as just another marble, but to the aliens, it is a threat to destroy their planet (the bauble symbolizes their planet), so when he knocks the bauble out of the ring, the aliens conclude that Earth is way too dangerous to mess with. When the boy comes home, his father upbraids him for being out so long (I think).

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This sounds like "Playing for Keeps", from the May 1982 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine", written by Jack C. Haldeman II. The boy protagonist ends up playing marbles against one of the aliens who were invading earth at the time (the imaginative you man is disappointed with the alien's appearance, having seen scarier ones on the movies). The boy wins the game, and claims the alien's 'marbles' as "Keepsies", which sends the alien fleeing in horror.

Then the boy must go home for supper - creamed corn, yuck.

Below is an image of the issue's cover, and a link to the issue on Luminist Archives.

https://s3.us-west-1.wasabisys.com/luminist/SF/ASI/ASI_1982_05.pdf

enter image description here

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    Good grief. I've still got that issue somewhere. I don't know why I thought I read it so much earlier. Thanks!
    – Andrew
    Commented Jun 10 at 22:56

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