Thirteen-year-old Calyx is all business. Even when a cool new toy arrives at the curio shop, it doesn’t make much sense to him until he realizes that the people of Teversall will want to buy it for their own children:
Tyrone Overton’s face lit up as he held the door for the porter, who wheeled the crate to the back of the store. “Calyx,” he beamed, “look at these!” He pried open the box and pulled out an oddly-shaped, bulky iron object with one hand. It looked like two coarsely-made goblets fused together without any stems or bases. With his other hand, Tyrone remove two long sticks, connected by a long piece of twine, from of the crate. He held all of this out to Calyx.
“What are they?” Calyx inquired, taking them.
“It’s called a diabolo,” Tyrone replied. “This is a toy that is very popular in China, and people all over the world are trying to find them. We could just have it made, but the Chinese have perfected it, even including whistle windows in the sides.” He pointed at the holes at the widest part of each end. “These are the best you can get.”
Then, Tyrone fished around inside the crate until he found a sheet of instructions, which he commenced to read, holding it up so that Calyx could see the diagrams. “You twirl the diabolo on the rope like this, you see,” he said, motioning toward the picture.
Calyx wound the center of the rope around the area between the two goblet bodies and held the sticks in each hand, clumsily moving them upward and downward to make the diabolo spin. “What is the point?” he asked his uncle.
“It’s a toy!” Tyrone replied with a grin. “The point is to entertain yourself with it.”
Calyx spun it along the rope a few times, beginning to get the feel of it.
“You can do tricks with it, my boy. This will be all the rage when the children in Teversall see it. I want you to practice, Calyx, so that you can demonstrate it to them.”
Now it made sense. With realization dawning on Calyx’s brow, he studied the instruction sheet, which illustrated ways to fling the diabolo into the air and catch it again on the string. As he became more adept and was able to spin it faster and faster, it began to make a whistling sound. A clerk who had been working in the front of the store smiled brightly as he walked toward them. “That is wonderful!”
Although nobody knows who made the first diabolo, historians agree that it originated in China about 4000 years ago. European missionaries, intrigued by these strange objects, brought them back to England and France, where they quickly became fashionable novelties.
For centuries, they had generally been made of bamboo, featuring openings at the sides that made a whistling sound when they were spun, but a French inventor named Gustave Pillipart redesigned the diabolo in 1906, creating a new version out of metal, complete with protective rubber casings on the sides. Today’s diabolo, which is usually sold with a set of sticks, rubber grips and an instruction booklet, is based on Pillipart’s design, and another popular toy also evolved from it: the yo-yo!