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.
What is the most annoying thing in the world? Why? Now, make a convincing case for why it’s not annoying at all.
Besides poets? Is there anything more annoying than poets? Maybe people not standing to one side on an escalator? Phone calls where I again walk my mom through the simple task of CLOSING A BROWSER TAB? WRITING IN ALL CAPS? Okay, fine, the most annoying thing in the world is when people make you look at their vacation photos from a vacation that you didn’t go on. You can feel their happiness, their glow, their superiority over your workaholic stay-at-homeness. But now, hear me out: There is one serious upshot to this, and that is that somewhere, mixed in with all those pictures of half-eaten food, drunks with their eyes closed, ancient ruins, and chubby babies in swimming floaties, there is always that picture that the vacationer forgot about—the inappropriate one with the half-naked pool boy who’s not her husband. “Oh, oooops, not that one,” swipe, swipe. And now you have blackmail on your coworker. Worth it.
For the sake of debate, assume for a moment that squirrels are a highly developed alien life form sent to Earth millions of years ago to keep an eye on us. What do the wisest philosophers of this hitherto-unkenned race of superbeings make of the Chip and Dale cartoons?
Firstly, I’m going to pretend that I don’t know what in the heck you mean by “Chip and Dale cartoons” and pretend that I had to look it up, so I don’t date myself here. Secondly, with squirrels not being chipmunks, I question how much squirrels would actually care about a cartoon featuring chipmunks, but then … upon further reflection, that might just be the key. Perhaps in the alien environment, squirrels and chipmunks have a division rivalry akin to the Detroit Red Wings vs. the Colorado Avalanche of the 1990s (again, uh, don’t want to date myself here, so let’s pretend I had to look up this analogy). I’m not surprised in the slightest that squirrels are a highly developed alien life form (I’ve seen them best my German Shepherd 10 out of 10 times), but my guess is that the chipmunks, then, are the alien life form sent here to destroy us—ergo, the rivalry. In that case, the squirrels probably view Chip and Dale cartoons as dangerous wartime propaganda that sends out hidden messages to the masses when played backward.
Why can’t we all just get along?
I’m guessing it’s because women can now own bank accounts and that there aren’t more people in the world adopting rescue dogs, but probably it has something to do with the flying spaghetti monster that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
You live in a grimdark version of our very reality. What would a day in your life look like? What percentage of your/our current reality would have to change to make this so?
How could it be any grimmer than it already is? We barely survived the age of Trump, might not survive it a second time, our highest court is a sham, and every day, people are losing their rights by the handfuls. But. I thrive in the darkness, so. Here goes. In this grimdark world, there could be no German Shepherd; my darling Torgo gives me too much joy. Dogs would have to be outlawed as pets, and then, as the scarcity of food reaches an all-time high, domesticated dogs would be surrendered to grind into foodlike product for human consumption. After the dogs, come the cats, so all the lonely folks get lonelier. The nuclear meltdown apocalypse is in full swing, so there is no more ice on which to play hockey. Skates are useless, and the sweltering Earth is so hot that I can no longer wear gloves, pads, helmet, and gear without the sweat strangling my pores like being tarred and feathered. Can’t watch Nathan MacKinnon hockey replays because the solar flares have fried the internet. Can’t run because it’s too hot, and there is no longer any lake for me to jog around; it’s just a dried-up pit of waterbird bones. Can’t read outside because the ashes falling from the sky light the pages of my book on fire. Can’t hold a pen because the heat has flared my arthritis into tendrils of meteors. A wildfire rages just beyond the treeline. The evacuation order is already in place, and I’m contemplating whether I’ll heed it this time. Basically, it’s a Tuesday.
Obsidian toast: Please discuss.
Well, you know me, I love me some hardcore Christian rock bands, and Obsidian Toast tops them all, but they probably should get some fresher avocadoes, jus’ sayin’.
“For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows
I took the blows
And did it my way”
Well, that’s one way to do it, Frankie, one way to do it. Another way would be to do it my way, which is where I actually deal out the blows instead of taking them.
Leah Angstman is also the author of the historical novel of seventeenth-century New England, Out Front the Following Sea, available now from Regal House, and the novel of the French Revolution, Falcon in the Dive, forthcoming from Regal House in spring 2024. She serves as the executive editor for Alternating Current Press and The Coil magazine and is a founding Quartermaster member of the American Battlefield Trust. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Publishers Weekly, Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Nashville Review. She’s recently been a finalist for the Laramie Book Award, Chaucer Book Award, Eric Hoffer Book Award, National Indie Excellence Award, Da Vinci Eye Award, Clue Book Award, Richard Snyder Memorial Prize, Cowles Book Prize, and Able Muse Book Award; a semifinalist for the Goethe Book Award; and longlisted for the Hillary Gravendyk Prize. Shoot the Horses First is her first collection of short stories. You can find her online at leahangstman.com and on social media as @leahangstman.
Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, Rain Taxi, The Brooklyn Rail, The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, and others. His debut novel, a satirical thriller entitled Pax Americana, was published by Stalking Horse Press. Forthcoming are a novel, Twilight of the Gods, and a story collection, Cartoons for the End of the World. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.kurtbaumeister.com.
Photo: Jena McShane of McShane Photography