NICK: Daddy, know what?
NICK: You know in that soldier video?
ME: Which one?
NICK: The stop motion soldiers on YouTube.
ME: Ah. Yes.
NICK: Know what? They say a bad word. They say “Damn.”
ME: Yeah. Well, the important thing is not to say those words in school or around guests or anything. If you want to ask me and mommy about bad words, you can. But we don’t say bad words that might hurt people’s feelings.
NICK: But you know what? They also say “WHAT THE HELL?”
ME: I see.
NICK: What does that mean?
ME: What does “What the hell” mean?
ME: Well…it’s kind of like when people say “What in the world?” You know, like… “What in the world happened here?” Except “world” isn’t a bad word.
NICK: What is a bad word?
ME: Well…”hell” is a bad word.
NICK: What does it mean?
ME: What does hell mean?
ME: Well…uh…phew…um…hell is, like… it’s a place.
NICK: Where is it?
ME: It’s nowhere.
NICK: Can we go there?
ME: No. I mean…hell is not real. It’s not real. Hell is not a real place.
NICK: But where is it?
ME: It’s nowhere. Hell is not real.
NICK: It’s from a story?
ME: Yes. People talk about Hell in stories.
NICK: Have you read the book with the story?
ME: I’ve probably read the whole book, just not in the right order.
NICK: But what is it then?
ME: Well…like I said…it’s a place…but it’s a pretend place. It’s not real. People just made it up to scare other people.
ME: Well…to scare them. To get them to…act a certain way, I guess.
NICK: What does it look like?
ME: It’s really hot. Like it has fire in it.
ME: Yes, but again…not real. So you don’t have to be afraid of it.
NICK: Why they say it to scare people?
ME: That’s a good question. People used to say things about hell to scare people so they wouldn’t be bad.
ME: Well, they liked to talk about how bad people go to hell.
ME: Because…you know what? It doesn’t matter. Hell isn’t real. We should do good things and be nice to people because we want to be nice. Not because we’re afraid of hell.
NICK: I want to see a picture.
ME: Oh… I don’t know.
NICK: Please??? I want to see a picture of Hell.
ME: There’s nothing to see, really. I mean it’s fire and rock and stuff.
NICK: Like a volcano.
ME: Yeah, kind of. If you’ve seen a volcano, that’s basically Hell.
NICK: So why do they say “What the hell?”
ME: I’ve got no freaking idea.