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. At the age of whatever, Vandor the Cro-Magnon sets off on an important albeit hitherto unspecified quest carrying only his father’s trusty elk-horn club and an antelope bladder he uses to carry water. What is Vandor questing for? Does he ever find it, and what happens when he does? Assuming he is extremely handsome for a Cro-Magnon (make of that what you will), but not incredibly bright (ditto), what are the chances Vandor’s quest will be picked up by Netflix? Movie or series? Open-ended or closed-? Finally, who should play Vandor?
I am so glad you asked! As a doctor of knowledge, I’ve been made privy to much secret information, so I can tell you everything you want to know, within reason, about both Vandor and about Cro-Magnons. For instance, did you know some people claim Cro-Magnons never once used the term “Cro-Magnon,” to refer to themselves or others? I am here to tell you, for why else would I be here, that this is just not, please, how often did I hear Vandor’s august relatives deliver proud speeches on this very, yes, “My fellow Cro-Magnons, I believe I can address you as such, for what are we but Cro-Magnons? And if we are not Cro-Magnons, I am certain you will agree with me, then we are something else entirely, which means we are nothing. But think of how difficult it would be to be nothing! If we were nothing, I am positive we would spend all of our time wishing we could be someone, anyone, even Cro-Magnons. Luckily, my fairly well defined compatriots, we don’t have to wish to be Cro-Magnons because that is what we are,” yes, how many times, with tears in my eyes, how many times, seated next to Vandor himself (who quested for The Secret Reason Why One Goes on Quests, which he found with disappointing celerity, complaining about his bizarrely brief jaunt for the rest of his days in long monologues I’m sure Matthew McConaughey will deliver while jumping around on the University of Texas sideline, since the film production, for anfractuous reasons, ended up with the Longhorn Network), how many times did I hear speeches the like of this? “How many times, sir?” I ask you.
2. Your cat has decided, for the thousandth time, to try to drive you insane. Through an admixture of indiscriminate vomiting, poor litter box etiquette, and constant yowling, your cat succeeds! Please provide the pertinent details concerning your break with sanity. That is, how exactly did your breakdown go down and how were you corralled by the authorities? When you arrive at the State Psychiatric Hospital at Blah Blah, what will your diagnosis be? How long before you get out and what happens when you do?
At last, the truth can be told! But first, I understand why you have to ask such questions. The curse of the interviewer – having to present salacious lies to interviewees so said persons can denounce them. Allow me, then, to set the story straight: I have never owned, nor will I ever own a cat. Even when the rampaging orderlies of the State Psychiatric Hospital at Blah Blah (the very name makes one suspicious of their methods, since it sounds as if they stopped caring before they finished the sign above the door, or that they intended to go back later on and fill in the rest, but lacking the will, they did not), yes, even when they came to take me away, I was standing atop my roof, megaphone in hand, reminding my neighbors and all passersby that any felines on the premise had gotten there through covert means, for to my knowledge there were none. When I was brought before the team of mental sawbones, their quackery was evident, diagnosing me with Newyorkitis (I live in Kansas!), railway spine (I’ve never been in a train wreck!), and oneirophrenia separated from any root cause, my hallucinations being about a life lived free of cats. Being a laughable (what no one, thankfully, any longer calls a) laughing academy, they released me immediately under the recognizance of, what they deemed, my cat.
3. How would the world be different if plants could speak?
I must not divulge too much of the secret knowledge to your readers, for fear they may be adversely affected. But I assure you, plants, yes, the language of the Cro-Magnons. How many times have I heard it? How many times have I heard them?
4. Say you’ve wasted a lot of time on Facebook over the last…decade…how would you go about getting that time back?
This one is especially difficult to talk about because, contrary to what contemporary physicists have taught us, time is actually objective, moving one way, in other words following the arrow that bears its name, a fact that, when its generally known, will weigh heavy on the denizens of Earth, who will then be driven to reach out to others, even those they barely know, through some form of virtual media, believing themselves to be the resistance, fighting against the nature of time, by transmitting secret messages in encrypted cat videos and encoded pictures of what they had for lunch. Their espionage will be a fantastic waste of time you just can’t divert your attention from.
5. It’s 2040 and the world has changed. Most notably, in 2022, djinni were discovered to be real. A decade-long techno-magical arms race ensued, leading to the development of various djinni-location and -capture techno-magicologies. Predictably, Jeff Bezos used his vast fortune to corner the market on said techno-magicologies.
Once Bezos located and captured every djinni everywhere, he imprisoned them in an unbreachable fortress hidden at the center of the Earth. (OK, it’s not hidden very well but it is, in fact, completely unbreachable.) Forcing his captive army of djinn to crank out wishes day and night, Bezos has completely cornered the market on wishes. But he’s not selling them. That’s right, Jeff Bezos is giving wishes away, as long as you fulfill a few modest requirements first.
All aspiring wish recipients are expected to serve ten years in the Bezos organization beginning with a tour in the Bezos gladiatorial pits beneath Amazon corporate HQ. There, wish-aspirants fight robots for the right to work as unpaid interns in Amazon warehouses. Assuming you kill enough robots to qualify for warehouse duty and make it through the intervening decade of servitude—and, let me tell you, the robot gladiators were the least of your concerns, sister—you get a wish. Just one. What do you wish for? (Do I need to tell you to be careful with this?) Also, feel free to opine on the scenario in general. After all, it’ll be your reality soon enough. You should have some input!
Perhaps you can assist me, since I’ve always known I would someday be presented with this very opportunity, and I have narrowed my wish list down to two:
1) I would wish that no wishes ever again would be granted vindictively, ironically, or otherwise in a way that would make the wisher rue the day they’d wished for X, meaning the djinn would have to present, before the wish was brought to fruition, what they would be giving the wisher, and if that’s not what the wisher intended, then the djinn will be required to help the wisher to word the wish in such a way that they get what they actually want, or
2) I would wish, since I am bad with names, that people would continually (without it getting annoying) and unconsciously blurt their names out to me, again and again, until I remembered them.
I admit, I’ve always leaned toward the latter for fear of how the former would be interpreted.
6. Is happiness real?
It is. But because I have reached my limit on the amount of secret knowledge, I can divulge at one time, I’m afraid I can’t go into more detail than that. You shouldn’t feel like you’ve missed out, however, since to deliver it, yes, yes, the language of the Cro-Magnons. How many times? To you, Mr. Interviewer, how many times?
Andrew Farkas is the author of a novel, The Big Red Herring (KERNPUNKT Press 2019), and two collections of short fiction: Self-Titled Debut (Subito Press 2009) and Sunsphere (BlazeVOX [books] 2019). His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in The Iowa Review, North American Review, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. His novel was a finalist for the 2019 Big Other Fiction Award and the 2019 Foreword INDIES humor award. He is a fiction editor for The Rupture (the re-brand of The Collagist) and an Assistant Professor of English at Washburn University. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.
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.