about the author

Alexandra Seidel was never sure what people meant when they told her to do something useful. All she could come up with was writing poems and stories, some of which have been published or are forthcoming in the Bottom of the World Magazine, Zygote in My Coffee, Foundling Review, Nights and Weekends, 34thParallel, Niteblade, The Horror Zine, decomP, Danse Macabre, Apparatus Magazine and Word Riot. She also practices and teaches martial arts and likes strawberries. Look at her blog: tigerinthematchstickbox.blogspot.com.

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Buttons and Bananas

Alexandra Seidel

In the Behavioral Science Department of some major university there was a board of scientists who had thought up a very clever experiment. It must have been very clever or else they would not have thought of it.

For the experiment they used a chimpanzee named Abe and two buttons. Abe was pretty much a chimpanzee like any other and the board of scientists had decided to use a primate in their experiment so as to deduct from its results similarities to human behavior. The two buttons were identical to one another in smell, taste and touch and they looked the same too. However, if Abe were to press the button to his right, he would get a banana, no questions asked. If he pressed the button to his left, he would get an electro-shock, no questions asked either.

Abe was a primate. It is the privilege of primates to be not stupid. He was a primate and so he was not stupid and so he figured out pretty quick that he would get a banana if he pressed the right button and a nasty shock that went right up his spine and straight to his teeth if he pressed the left button. The board of scientists, who were also primates, started counting.

Most of the time Abe would press the banana-button. Sometimes he would also press the shock-button. There was no distinguishable pattern to it. While Abe grew fat on bananas, the board of scientists discussed the many possibilities they could think of or make up for why Abe pressed the shock-button every now and then. They came up with the idea that he just tried time and again if the setting of the buttons might not have changed and if he might not get bananas from every button. They also argued that he was maybe too stupid to be a primate and therefore not a primate at all and therefore no suitable test subject for their clever experiment. It was also suggested that perhaps something was wrong with Abe’s brain and that they should cut his skull open and see what was the problem up there.

If anyone had cared to ask Abe and if Abe had cared to answer, he would have told them that bananas were all nice and well, but they always tasted the same, never changed; bananas were boring. With all those bananas, the shock-button at least provided some excitement every now and then, some tingling. It was to feel that tingling that Abe would move his primate finger towards the shock-button every now and then and push down hard.

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