art by Billy Sagulo
by James Valvis
The alien sat, if you called it sitting, in my tree house as I tried to explain the game of Monopoly to him.
"No, no, no," I said. "You're stupider than Billy Ailes and he's been left back twice. Boardwalk is yours. You bought it and you own it. You just can't give it up. Maybe you can sell it, but if you hand over all your properties you'll lose the game."
The alien said, "Losing the game is bad?"
I rolled my eyes at him. I'd already told him three times losing was bad.
The alien smiled. At least I think he was smiling. "We keep Boardwalk then?"
He was cool, very friendly, but his voice was kind of creepy. It didn't sound like one voice but like many, millions of them, not loud but like an echo. And echoes with echoes. As I understood it, every alien in the ship above was connected to the alien in my tree house. When he spoke, they all spoke. What he heard, they all heard. What he learned, they all learned. And they had a lot to learn. Even the idea of money was weird to them. He started off trying to eat the Monopoly bankroll I gave him. I had no idea how such a race was smart enough to travel all those light years to get here, but I also had to admit it was impressive how quickly he picked up my language.
"The object of the game," I went on, "is to get everything."
"Leave nothing for anyone else?"