Tanks Growing Like Flowers

by Chelsea Ruxer

I watch him pick up his phone to collect his resources. It’s music I know well, the clamor of gold falling into a treasure chest that must be buried somewhere out of sight on his island. I ask again why the tanks are lined up to block the waterfall and when he will build a house, but he’s not confident there are enough resources for proper housing. Houses serve no purpose on Boom Beach.

“You have another island?” I ask, locating an identical waterfall without the familiar pattern of long-range guns.

“No, this is a player.” He presses the little canoes, and his people run at the guns with hand grenades, trampling pristine white sand as a giant crab scuttles peacefully away.

“You’re attacking a real person?”

“It doesn’t hurt them,” he says, staring into the commotion with focus I observe only when I’m attempting to sneak onions onto our Papa Johns order.

“You’re taking their gold?” It’s special Boom Beach gold that starts as dollars.

“I’m part of a task force,” he says. “We’re mercenaries.”

“That’s terrible.” I knew, well before the onions, there was something wrong with him.

“Oh, no. That’s not how it works.” I wait for elaboration. None seems forthcoming. “I almost got it,” he says. He points to some boom cannons left to be dealt with by others in his task force and proceeds to send them a message before we leave for dinner. I’ve been meaning to ask more about his in-person friends.

“You took Gutrip’s gold.”

“Not really. His gold is in a vault, like mine. More just sort of spontaneously regenerates when you attack someone.”

“Like Dr. Terror?” I recall his explanation of the unkillable industrialist eco villain and wonder at the circumstances that could give rise to this conversation.

“Yeah. See,” he says, handing me the phone I endeavor never to touch. “I was attacked sometime today, and now the tanks are growing back, like flowers.”

“Flowers,” I say. I suppose it’s good that I never expected him to bring me flowers.

“Why don’t you try? You could get a feel for it. You can use my resources.” I catch his eyes as he’s putting on his shoes. I think he’s serious. I look back at the phone, where people are running around his island, I think gardening. “We could work together.”

“Are those slaves?”

“What? No.” He glances back at the phone. “I don’t think so.”

“Where did they come from?”

“I don’t remember. Wait. I mean, I think it’s something good.” I contemplate British imperialism as he leans back on the sofa and stares at my ceiling, like he did when he got the model spaceship in the mail from Star Citizen and thought I might believe he was going to give it to his cousin.

“You’re lying.”

“No. Occasionally, there are villages I attack. And some of the people come with me.” He looks at me, I suppose expecting some positive response. “No, the nonplayers, Dr. Terror and Lieteunant Hammerman, their islands are subduing native islanders. So I come in as a mercenary and kill the subduing army, and the natives like me. They honor me and give me gold and stuff. Remember the magic power stone?”

“Did you pay them for it?” I wish I could forget the evening of the magic power stone acquisition. It came during dinner.

“Sure,” he says. “Well, it’s not really clear how that works.” He takes back his phone and zooms out to what I could find attractive, the ever-expanding, fictional archipelago, a nondenumerable multitude of tiny tropical islands surrounded by pristine waters in which exactly one yellow fish follows submarines searching for sunken gold. “This is what you’re supposed to do. It’s how you socialize.”

I listen as he explains how the world has evolved from a Hobbesian state of nature into a social contract which mirrors it, in which island on island crime is necessary and resources spontaneously regenerate. War is expected, and polite. He’s really just fulfilling his role in the fictional pirate ecosystem.

I express my concern he’s misunderstanding the purpose of a social contract, and he once again attempts to get me to play with him. I let him submarine for a bit, the yellow fish following him as he collects some ocean coins and I gather up my purse.

He plugs his phone back in when we’re ready to go to dinner, and I notice the power strip with his charger isn’t turned on. But this is not in our relationship contract, anything about electrical outlets and phone charging, so we go.

*********

Chelsea Ruxer is an MFA student at the Bluegrass Writers Studio. Her work is published or forthcoming in Hermeneutic Chaos, 5×5, Flash Fiction Magazine, and others.

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