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. You just died and your adoring public is so distraught they’ve decided to create a religion with you (not your corpse, but the you you used to be before you died) as its focal point. What should the new religion be called? What would its primary tenets be? Would it ultimately prove beneficial to humanity?
I remember a pastor talking to me about football or glory to god or some shit, but I only liked to draw on the pamphlets they passed out every service. Although I once took a career aptitude test which said I should be a zealot or a writer. Here, I felt a sort of pride, because I had known my grandpa posthumously as a leader of our (then) Nazarene church. In the above doctrine, preached to my disciples will be love for the community, and artmaking—everyone must explore some craft, writing, sewing, drawing, whatever, for an hour every day. My tenets: eat, breathe, love, breathe, play, feel, connect. A record of our transgress and progress benefits human kind, imagined or real. We all need more music, film, books, podcasts, to show for when the aliens come. How else will they know that we’re here? They don’t watch Sportscenter.
2. Unbeknownst to the public, you are actually a superhero. What’s your origin story? Please be as detailed as possible, bearing in mind your everyday identity is the same. It’s the superhero part no one knows about. Yet.
I always thought becoming an animal hybrid would be neat. Like Spiderman. Don’t give me money (Batman) or mystical ropes (Wonder Woman). Hell powers are serviceable, like Spawn or Ghostrider, but I don’t believe in the devil or especially like brooding. Ideally, in my origin story, a deranged scientist straps me to a gurney and sticks me full of drugs, after which I am involuntarily blasted with gamma radiation and, it would appear, die. I don’t want to face tribulations to achieve greatness, typical millennial I am. Give me the magic pill. Then I awake with the powers of hairy frogs or horned lizards, able to shoot blood out of my eyes or break my toe bones for sharp claws in combat. Presumably not those silly powers, but close. If I have to be bitten by an irradiated animal while lost in a desert, however, dumped there by my debtors and left to die, so be it.
3. There’s an old adage, maybe a Bible verse, I’m not sure, stating that, “Money is the root of all evil.” Is this true? Would the world be better off without money? Why or why not?
Money washed my car. The budget for the Avatar movie returned record box office numbers. Money buys DLC in the Kardashian phone game. I use money to feed my cat. School shooters spend money to buy unregistered firearms. It costs money to ship copies of books domestically. Money smells like powerful dirt mixed with saliva. There is money in exploiting hard labor. What money is, isn’t real—not exactly. The bank withdraws money every month from my accounts to keep my money safe. People with money complain they don’t have enough money. Money. Is stupid. Evil and stupid. But remains a really catchy song with a message from Pink Floyd. What can money do for you?
4. In a thousand years, what will historians see as the three most significant events of the 20th century? What about in a hundred years? Ten years? Next year? Also, let’s assume historians (and humans) will still be around at all those points in time.
The most significant event in our history will be a time when America catches up with the rest of the world and adopts a socialist program for health benefits and educational systems in a hundred years. Assuming America the beautiful is still a country. We may never see flying cars. A female Latinx president will assume office of the President in ten years. Post hardcore rockers The Blood Brothers reunite next year and I buy their new record.
5. Say you’re a poltergeist and your latest posting (poltsting?) has just come down from the home office in…whereever the poltergeist home office is. They’re giving you a choice actually, since you’re done such a great job tormenting people previously. You can take over: A. a deserted gold mine; B. an active (as in, live humans come to use it) graveyard; C. a crowded shopping mall; or D. a little-used dumbwaiter in the US House of Representatives.
Home office tells me to haunt a crowded shopping mall so I can mess with powerwalkers and Hot Topic clerks. They deserve eternal torment. Use your parks systems. I taunt bad Santas during photo ops and spook the lazy theatergoers who see bland remakes. I hoard soft pretzels in secret locations around the mall, because soft pretzels are the shit.
6. You’re hanging out in a bar for cartoon tigers. The bar is not cartoon. It’s real, and it’s called You’re a Tiger, the World’s Going to Shit, and You Probably Could Use a Drink. But the tigers are all definitely cartoons. What drink would you order to try to fit in? Say Tony the Tiger and Tigger got in a knockdown-dragout over something or other: Would you: A. leave; B. call the cartoon tiger cops; C. attempt to break it up; or D. establish odds and start taking bets on the outcome?
I assume cartoon tigers like their rum and Cokes, so this is how I approach drinking at a bar filled with cartoon tigers: by ordering a few generous rum and Cokes for my furry friends. I hate knockdown-dragouts of any stripe, and love cartoon tigers, so I would have to Irish exit and tell everyone I was at a bar full of cartoon tigers when a knockdown-dragout broke loose. I hope anyone believes me.
Jason Teal edits Heavy Feather Review. His first book, We Were Called Specimens: An Oral Archive of Deity Marjorie, will be published by KERNPUNKT Press in July 2020.
Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, The Weeklings, Entropy, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, and others. Now a Contributing Editor with The Weeklings, Baumeister’s Review Microbrew column is published by The Nervous Breakdown. He edits the Under the Influence feature for Entropy. 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.