The Problem Tail
Written by a young BC
In December 2003
Once upon a time, long long ago, in a land so far away it would take you about 4 days and 4 nights to get there, there lived a beast named B-9. He was horrible. He had a tail. He loved his tail more than anything. B-9 was also greedy. One day while B-9 was running something felt like it was poking a hole in his tail and jumping in it. He quickly looked back at his tail. But his tail wasn’t there! He quickly ran to his friend Mars-90. He was like the smartest kid in the whole world.
“Awww,” said Mars-90. “You have Greeder Disease.”
“Is that bad?” asked B-9.
“No,” said Mars-90. “All you have to do is act nice and be nice the rest of your life.”
“Why the rest of your life?” asked B-9.
“Because the next time, it’ll go away forever.”
“Wow,” said B-9. “I don’t want my tail to go away forever.”
“Then act nice the rest of your life,” said Mars-90.
B-9 acted nice the rest of his life and got his tail back.
BC’s Modern-Day Response
Welcome back to another super climactic installment of Aged Anecdotes! In this series, I dig up relic short stories from my childhood and hold them up for us all to laugh at while I brutally critique them using my older, smarter brain! Take that, younger me!
“The Problem Tail” begins by setting the scene for our story with very specific yet still approximate directions (“about 4 days and 4 nights” away, which leads me to wonder–is this ETA true from anywhere on the planet? And by what means of locomotion–plane? train? roller skate?) to a land where our protagonist B-9 lives. The author wastes no time in asserting the quality of B-9’s character (“horrible,” apparently) and then follows this claim with, “He had a tail,” as if that explains it. Man, creatures with tails are the worst. And it turns out that B-9 really loves this part about himself (which is good, as we learned a few weeks ago that self-love is important; glad to see B-9 out here loving himself). But also the author mentions that he’s greedy.
So, here is what we know about B-9: He’s a beast that lives far away (but still within traveling distance), he’s horrible, he has a tail, and he loves his tail. Like a lot. “More than anything,” to be specific. Also, he’s greedy. In that order.
Anyway, so the first bit of action we get is that B-9 is running. This part is kind of vague, because we have no context for his running. Was he running towards something–hunting, maybe? B-9 is a greedy beast, so it would be reasonable to imagine he was greedy for food. Was he running away from something? Maybe he just accidentally knocked over his buddy’s house of cards and wanted to flee the scene before his friend noticed or before he got caught. But, knowing what we know about B-9, it seems most likely that he was running in circles after his own tail, given that he loves it so much.
Then, suddenly, B-9 is in pain! The author portrays this somewhat graphic image of the pain in his tail–as though someone were poking a hole in it and crawling through. That’s kind of a gross mental picture. For some reason, I keep thinking of his tail as a dinosaur’s tail, thick at the base and with scales and everything. Yup, I would definitely get that checked out B-9, if I were you.
Except, when he stops chasing his tail (still just a hypothesis, but it seems likely, right?) and turns around to look at what the heck is making him feel so weird, he notices that his tail has disappeared! (Maybe he finally ‘caught’ it!)
So, completely baffled by the surprise involuntary amputation, B-9 somehow manages to run to his friend Mars-90 (because running without a tail when you’re anatomically built to have a tail wouldn’t throw off your game a little bit at all), who is, like, totally and for sure dude the smartest kid around, maybe in the whole block. And Mars-90 takes one look at B-9 and goes, “Awww,” almost as though he saw it coming, or as though it’s not a big deal but kind of sad yet endearing, that B-9’s tail went missing. Then he breaks the news that B-9 has Greeder’s Disease, which I cleverly decoded to probably have some tie to the root word “greed,” which, as we know, B-9 apparently has in abundance.
B-9 wants to know if this is bad, which Mars-90 denies, and tells him that if he’s nice for the rest of his life, B-9 will be fine! (I like how Mars-90 begins by telling B-9 he must “act nice,” but then thinks better of it and adds “and be nice” so that maybe B-9 will be a little more genuine about it instead of just faking all the niceness.) This doesn’t sound too appealing to B-9 though, and he needs to make sure he’s heard clearly enough. And also, he’d like to know why exactly he needs to be nice for such a long period of time, because maybe if he can just get away with being nice for a few years, or even 99% of the rest of his life (I have no idea what the life expectancy for beasts is), then he can still get his tail back and maybe cheat the system and get away with cutting off people on the freeway or stealing extra Dum Dum suckers from the bank or whatever B-9 does to be horrible and greedy.
But, however, Mars-90 assures him that he must be nice the rest of his life or else his tail will never come back, which, if there’s gonna be any incentive for B-9 to shape up his act, it’s the fact that the permanence of his tail is at stake.
B-9 realizes the intensity of this decision, and even says aloud, “I don’t want my tail to go away forever,” reflecting on how horrible it would be to lose that part of him that he loves so much. Then, in order to really pound in his message and take advantage of the fact that B-9 is totally buying everything he’s saying (because let’s be honest here, folks, I bet Mars-90 never liked this B-9 asshole and saw a golden opportunity to fix him for the beast community and completely made up this Greeder’s Disease thing–I mean, come on, how fake does that sound? Greeder’s Disease? Mars-90 is selling this fake diagnosis to B-9), Mars-90 reiterates, “Then act nice the rest of your life.” Loud and clear, buddy.
And then the author wastes no time in wrapping it up– B-9 was nice for the rest of his life and got his tail back! Okay, so maybe Mars-90 wasn’t full of it! Or, maybe, Mars-90 set the whole thing up and was the one who stole B-9’s tail in the first scene, and that’s why he felt that weird sensation only for it to be missing, and then when B-9 was on his deathbed (because Mars-90 nor the author ever specified when B-9 would get his tail back or how long it would take the healing process after he started being nice the rest of his life) Mars-90 did a little switcheroo and affixed his tail back to him, B-9 all hopped up off the drugs he was on in the hospital so he didn’t notice, and bingo, B-9 is under the illusion that he cured his own case of Greeder’s Disease by being nice for life, and right before he dies he gets to reunite with his one true love, his tail.
Or, of course, it was a real disease and this is a lesson to you all that if you have Greeder’s Disease, you will lose your tail for being a jerkoff.
Or maybe that’s why humans don’t have tails in the first place–because we weren’t nice a really long time ago and our ancestors lost their tails, and then all their offspring were tail-less. Thanks a lot, great-great-great-granddad. I could have had a tail if it weren’t for you! I’ve always wanted an extra hand to help out. Now that I know, I will never let this injustice go!
Anyway, this story is a wildly entertaining parable of beasts trying to better society. It’s okay to love oneself more than others as long as you are nice to people. For the rest of your life. Mars-90 is watching…