The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
1. What would life be like as your evil twin?
The same as now, but with slightly less grumpiness.
2. Scenario: The following people are on Season 1000 of the television show Survivor, and yes, time travel and communication with the dead have both been perfected so…Nancy Pelosi, Jean Michel Basquiat, Hedy Lamarr, Thomas Jefferson, Jane Austen, Joan of Arc, Judy Garland, Angelina Jolie, Muhammad Ali, Marie Antoinette, Bob Marley, Socrates, Confucius, Yukio Mishima, JK Rowling, Cleopatra, Peter Dinklage, Queen Elizabeth I, and Kublai Khan. Who would be first voted off the island? Who would win? Would Jeff Probst still be the host? Please discuss in as much detail as you can bear.
Peter Dinklage wins on a last second three-pointer. Marie Antoinette goes first because she spends all her time explaining to the others that she never actually said “Let them eat cake,” that those lines have unfairly gotten into the collective history. Pelosi then explains to MA how the 1% are ravaging the world. Thomas Jefferson tries to defend the Constitution, but has to finally admit it was written with rich white aristocrats in mind, so they all go. Garland sticks around for a while but eventually dances into the ocean, fearing she’ll be taken to Kublai Khan’s pleasure dome, mistakenly believing the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge was real. Rowling, Mishima, and Austen tell stories at night, accompanied by Marley on a dobro he made from Joan of Arc’s armor, who refuses, for understandable reasons, to sit by the fire. Basquiat keeps up morale by painting the palm trees to look like Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth, who don’t quite understand his references to colonialism, while Muhammad Ali explains Islam to Confucius and Socrates and together they create a new religion based on the life of Jeff Probst, who is, sadly, eaten by Hedy Lamarr in the second episode, prompting the others to say, when hungry, “Let us eat Probst.”
3. If you were staffing a cartoon accounting firm made up of anthropomorphized animals, which species would you select to populate said firm (other than humans)? How about a teaching hospital? The public defender’s office? A university English department?
An accounting firm would have to be crocodiles, all wearing fedoras. They count by tapping pencils on their teeth. The Better Business Bureau receives numerous reports of people gone missing after visiting the firm’s offices, but no body equals no crime.
A teaching hospital would be staffed by duck-billed platypi. Platypusses? Whatever the plural is. The point is they have the body parts and abilities of several different types of animals, so they would offer more empathy than, say, cats, who are incredibly selfish creatures and better suited to politics. Also, the hospital would have a pool.
Next door to the hospital, the public defender’s office is staffed by aye-ayes. If you don’t know what they are, go look. I’ll wait. Seriously, Google them. Every picture of them shows an underfed and overworked creature, continually surprised by sunlight, constantly foraging for food. I have no idea if this is true of public defenders or not, but every TV show in which one appears makes it seem that way, so I’m going with it. I’ve learned to always trust what I see on TV.
University English department? No question here: sloths.
4. What’s one Greek myth you wish ended differently? How would you end it?
Orpheus and Eurydice. One of my favorite poems is Steve Scafidi’s “On Looking into Golding’s Ovid.” Scafidi writes:
“What if she ran ahead, long ago,
and overtook that man she loved, on the path.
What if she brushed quietly past him, and then
she looked back? I’m tired of stories of the asp,
and the wish of little wings where a god turns.”
So, in that version Eurydice would survive, and Orpheus would be whisked back to Hades, where he could play his sorrowful tunes. Kind of like an underworld Beethoven.
I’ve also always been bothered by the Zeus rape myths. And though Prometheus probably shouldn’t have given fire to humankind—look what we’ve done with fire—I’d replace him on the promontory with Zeus. And instead of his insides being eaten by eagles, he’s kicked in the groin repeatedly for eternity.
5. You’ve become so famous they’re building a monument to you. And they want your input. (Yes, I know it’s awkward, but “they” insist. And you know when “they” get like this, you just can’t say no.) What would your monument be called? Where would it be located? What would it be built of? What would it look like?
My monument would be a statue of Darth Vader battling against the wild thing with people feet. A raven sits on Vader’s right shoulder. On his left shoulder is an opossum. Instead of a lightsaber Vader has a bottle of wine. The wild thing has a tattoo of me on his people-footed ankle. On his other ankle is an anklet the wild thing’s daughters gave him. Looking more closely, you can tell they aren’t fighting, but arguing over the best grunge band of all time (the wild thing with people feet has another tattoo of the little Pearl Jam guy/symbol). The raven, at midnight every night, caws, cryptically, TOWHY. People who visit the monument toss their old Star Wars figures that their brother, Wesley, burned when they were children. They still have not forgiven him. Wesley occasionally visits the monument to proclaim his innocence, but is not believed.
Tell us more about the grunge band argument. I’m assuming the wild thing is advocating for Pearl Jam, though he could have realized he’d made a bad decision earlier in life; one he has thus far been unable to rectify. Who’s Vader advocating for? Also, even though everyone knows the real right answer is Stone Temple Pilots, what does Paul say? Assuming Paul and his monument don’t say the same thing, unless of course they do; in which case we still need to know. The answer, I mean.
The wild thing is advocating for Pearl Jam. Vader is, too—they are only arguing over the order after Pearl Jam, which is:
2, 3, 4 Soundgarden / Nirvana / Alice in Chains (tie)
5. Everyone else.
But it’s music. It’s supposed to make us feel something when we listen to it. Kind of like this writing stuff. The only reason anyone is arguing is that 1. Vader has to assert dominance, and B. we become passionate about the things we love. Someone, right now, is cursing me for dissing Nirvana, but I ask, you, really, “What would Dave Grohl do?”
6. Do you think you got the job?
Who says I wanted a job? I thought this was an audition for Survivor. Word has it next season will star Darth Vader, Eurydice, and an English department of sloths.
Now you’ve gone and done it. You did so well with the Survivor scenario above, I’m going to make a special request on behalf of our live studio audience. Give us the complete scenario you’ve begun sketching out (Vader-Eurydice-sloth). Who’s the host? Also, you’re only going to be able to get one PhD sloth through network standards. You’ve got seventeen contestants to go. So, go…
Can we have 17 PhD sloths that all play the same sloth? I can work with that, since they’re all interchangeable anyway. For the rest:
Vader, Eurydice, and sloth(s). Also, we should add Sloth from The Goonies. Robinson Crusoe, who is heavily favored by Vegas odds-makers. In a rare twist, Peter Dinklage is invited back, kind of like the second episode of Hunger Games. Or maybe he hosts. Whatever. I just want to drink wine with him.
Gandalf should be there, and Ghost, Jon Snow’s dire wolf. Maisie Williams, who played Arya Stark. I would invite some writers, but they would just write about it, so maybe not. For musical entertainment, David Gilmour and Eddie Vedder.
Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek should be there. Meg from Family Guy because she gets treated horribly on the show. Methuselah, who starts every sentence, “In my day. . .” Gatsby, to whom everyone refers to as “Not-Great.”
Sacagawea, Sally Ride, and Rosie the Riveter round out the cast.
But in another twist, no one gets kicked off, except Gatsby. And Crusoe, who won’t shut up about the time he was stranded on an island for 20 years or whatever. Both of them get fed to the dire wolf. The rest of us just hang out together, with our host, Kurt Baumeister, whom we thank profusely.
Paul Crenshaw is the author of the essay collection This One Will Hurt You, published by The Ohio State University Press. His second collection of essays, This We’ll Defend, about his time in the military and beyond, is forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press. Other work has appeared in Best American Essays, Best American Nonrequired Reading, The Pushcart Prize, anthologies by W.W. Norton and Houghton Mifflin, Oxford American, Glimmer Train, Tin House, North American Review and Brevity, among others.
Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, The Weeklings, Entropy, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, and others. His debut novel, a satirical thriller entitled Pax Americana, was published by Stalking Horse Press in 2017. He is currently at work on a novel, The Book of Loki, and a hybrid collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry entitled Superman, the Seven Gods of Death, and the Need for Clean, Romantic Poetry. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.kurtbaumeister.com.