Once upon a time, there was a little problem. Like all the other little problems, this one hoped that someday, he would grow up to become a big problem. And if he could be a really lucky little problem, he would get to join the military and might even become a Major Disaster.
He had an enormous fear of failure so he paid close attention in class, keeping his vision for the future uppermost in his mind. The first thing he learned was that his mortal enemy was the light. He would be most vulnerable in plain sight, out in the open. He must do his best to remain hidden, where he would feed on the darkness and with any luck, someday he could achieve his ultimate military goal.
His teacher said that his best chance of survival depended upon finding quiet People who had lots of carpets, under which they would stash any problems they could find. With plenty of darkness under carpets, there was always a feast fit for a king and any little problem lucky enough to live in such a place would grow very quickly in size and strength.
One day, the little problem found that he was on the sweeping end of a broom and whoosh! - there he went, tumbling and rolling well under a beautiful Persian rug. How exciting! Finally, he would have a chance to become a big problem!
He was thrilled to meet all the other little problems that were hiding under that carpet and being quite the extrovert, he planted himself right smack in the middle of all of them. With plenty of darkness to keep him well fed, he grew rapidly and it wasn't long before he felt his first thump in the head when one of the People tripped on him.
"Oh, goodie!" he exclaimed. "I'm growing up! This is progress!" And he and all the other growing little problems laughed and giggled amongst themselves.
After a time, there wasn't much room under the carpet any more. The problems had melted into one another, just like cinnamon buns that had been too close together on a pan and had risen and blended, one into the next. They had grown so large that the People had to use ladders to climb over the big lumps in the carpet.
One day, while everyone was having an afternoon nap, the growing little problem was awakened by People voices. They used words like depression, worry and fear.
"Oh, no!" he thought. "We were so close to becoming Major Disasters, and now we're doomed!"
Alarmed, he woke the others as quickly as possible. The frightened problems lay quietly while they heard words like "financial troubles" and "no work". They heard about illness and too much stress.
The more words they heard, the more the carpet was pulled back from the edges of their hiding place, gradually exposing them to the light. The unfortunate ones on the perimeter went first, shrivelling and shrinking the very moment they were out in the open.
Horrified, the not-so-little problem watched as one by one, his friends died and then vanished right before his eyes as the carpet was lifted closer and closer to where he lay in the middle. And there was nothing he could do but lie there and wait his turn.