Monthly Archives: December 2014

2014 in Review

As a year, 2014 has been pretty damn good for the blog and not bad for my career as a writer.

The blog’s seen more views and gotten more followers than ever before. Yay! Doubtless a good chunk of those followers are bots and, as ever, a good chunk of those views were from folks whose tireless search for pornography mistakenly brought them here. But that’s okay! Every bit helps. And who knows? Maybe someday I’ll host porn here and those lost souls will return to me. Probably not, though.

I got paid for some of my writing for the first time ever this year (as you may recall from back in September, when I was cramming Corona down everybody’s throats (the poems, not the beer.)) To celebrate this milestone, I got a tattoo! The tattoo cost me nearly eight times what I made by selling the poem. I’m not very good at finances.

I got further in NaNoWriMo than ever before this year, although not only did the novel grow well beyond its initial scope, but I also didn’t meet the 50,000 word goal. Sigh. But goddamnit, I’m going to finish that thing next year even if it kills me.

I’ve managed to update every day (for given definitions of “every” and “day.”) At any rate, this is the 365th update this year, so I’m reasonably proud of that.

In terms of my personal life, I [REDACTED].

So where does that leave everything? Frankly, I could use a vacation. I’m pleased that I was able to write so much this year (probably an order of magnitude more than any year before,) but holy crap is doing so draining. If I were able to support myself with my writing such that it was my job or if I were on amphetamines, maybe I wouldn’t feel quite so exhausted by it, but that’s not the case. Still, that’s the dream (writing for a living, not being on amphetamines.)

Anyway, here’s the plan. I’m taking January off, meaning that I won’t be updating every day. I may not update at all during this time, or I may update a few times a week. My goal is to finish the damn novel so I can edit it in the first quarter of 2015 and either prep it for self-publication as an ebook or shop it around. Starting in February, I’ll… I have no idea. I honestly can’t for my brain to think that far ahead. But there’ll be something here. I guarantee it.

Before I go, let’s have some thank yous. Thank you to my friends and family for their support (not even necessarily for the writing, although I do get that from them. More just for the day to day stuff.)

Thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a comment. Comments are so infrequent that I’m always pleased and excited to see them. You guys brighten my day. Thank you.

Thank you to everyone who read. Whether you’re a regular, a newcomer, or someone who stopped in looking for porn, sniffed dismissively, and never returned, thank you. As I told a coworker earlier this week, “Making art and never showing it to anyone is masturbating.” Thank you for making it so that I’m not just sitting here masturbating.

Thank you to the people that, wittingly or not, served as the inspiration for some of my pieces this year. Whatever it was that made me think, “I need to write this down,” thank you for serving as my muse. You will not be paid for this service, but thanks!

I suppose that’s it for now. My brain is rapidly turning to mush, and I’m looking forward to hibernating for the remainder of the winter. Thank you for reading. Good luck and God bless.

– Thomas Cavazos


Krampusnacht, Pt. 5

We got lost as we drew closer to the hostel. Paul was convinced he knew the way, but Jake and I swore that we were heading in circles, and so we wandered along aimlessly. Before long, we found ourselves in a dead end, a dimly lit alley lined with garbage and stinking of urine. We turned around with a collective grumble only to find a shadow blocking the way we had came.

The figure stood at least six and a half feet tall, with broad shoulders and a tapered chest, its limbs skinny and gangly. “Fuck!” Paul swore, but he quickly composed himself. “Jesus, man. You scared us!”

The figure didn’t respond, so Paul tried talking to them in his broken German. Still nothing. Finally he gave up and returned to slurred, angry English.

“Hey. Move, buddy. We’ve got places to go.”

Jake stood up straighter, spat. “Piss off, man. We don’t have any euros for you.”

I puffed up my chest, their bravado adding to my own, and said louder than necessary, “You don’t want to fuck with us. My friends and I are college athletes, and you’re outnumbered three to one.”

The figure stepped forward then and its features became visible. It was some maniac in a Krampus costume. An expensive one by the look of it, with bone horns and sharp teeth and cold dead eyes. The mask’s tongue lolled out of its mouth and halfway down the person’s chest. In their right hand they clutched a thicker branch than any I’d seen the entire night. It was the size of a baseball bat, a proper club.

“Du bist unartig gewesen,” they said, their voice a low growl. “Du bist unartig gewesen.”

Paul’s face set like stone. “Get behind me, guys. Get behind me.”

A few details began to burn through the haze of my alcohol soaked brain. The mask’s tongue glistened wet. The person’s chest rose and fell, plumes of smoke escaping from the mask’s mouth with each breath. And the glassy dead eyes moved, cold and yellow and sharp like a wolf’s. They followed us.

“Du bist unartig gewesen!” the person shouted, their voice a roar, and they raised their club up high.

“Run!” Paul screamed, and he shoved us away even as he charged forward to tackle the maniac. Jake and I didn’t need to hear it twice. We burst out of the alley and into the street and we ran until we were out of breath. Only then did we look back.

There was nothing there. The streets were cold and still and empty.

That was hours ago. Jake and I have been wandering the streets ever since, hopelessly lost, tired, hungry, cold. Day’s starting to break, but we haven’t spoken a single word to each other since we ran out of that alley. Since we left Paul behind with that thing. With that maniac, with the maniac in that stupid cheap costume. It must have been a trick of the light and the alcohol. It couldn’t have been breathing. It couldn’t have been staring into us. It couldn’t.

I keep expecting to see Paul waiting for us on a street corner, with a bloody nose and a black eye and smile, just like every time before. But so far he hasn’t appeared.

I hope he’s okay.

I mean, he’s kind of a shithead, but still.


Krampusnacht, Pt. 4

The costumes were ugly garish things, an evil-looking cross between the abominable snowman and a goat-headed demon. The finest costumes for sale in stores seemed to be made with real horns and real fur. Doubtless they were heavy and hot, and doubtless there were people who threw down a lot of money for the privilege of realism. Jake and I chose not to get one at all. Paul settled for something cheaper without a mask, making him look for all the world like a wild-eyed maniac in half of a white-haired gorilla costume.

But then, that was exactly the effect he was going for.

The sun was already setting as we left the costume shop, and by the time we’d gone back to the hostel and changed, the night was dark and the streets crawled with monsters, just as Paul had said they would. It was madness of the best kind, like Vegas, like New Orleans. People walked around with drinks in their hands laughing, singing, shouting at each other. Hairy monsters with goat horns atop their heads and sharp teeth frozen into a permanent snarl leaped out from alleyways, startling the unwary and pinching girls and swatting the unsuspecting with thin branches tied together in bundles. One walked with a big burlap sack slung over his shoulder, and he reached into it and pulled out candy and threw it into the air shouting, “Sind Sie frech gewesen? Sind Sie frech gewesen?”

Paul dove into it all headfirst. He slapped girls on the ass. He put strangers in headlocks and knuckled their scalps. He drank anything and everything that was offered to him.

He stood out.

The other Krampuses all had masks, and they only took them off when they drank, and even then, only for a moment. But Paul’s face was plain for all the world to see, and the people of the town began to look at us warily. Our broken German told all the world that we were strangers, outsiders, and the driver’s words came back to me. “They have too much fun. It can be dangerous.” But Schnaps drowned my misgivings, and before long Jake and I were pinching just as much ass and breaking bottles and being shitheads just like Paul.

The townsfolk crossed the street to avoid us. They swore at us in German. They looked at us with anger, but we paid them no mind.

The revelry went long into the night and slowly the streets emptied. We were barely able to stand and walk under our own power, but we had each other to lean on, and we made our way back to the hostel with that sense of invincibility that belongs only to the young and the drunk. A few lights still burned in the homes and buildings of the town, a few couples passed arm in arm with their heads down, but by and large, the town was dead except for us and our laughter.


Krampusnacht, Pt. 3

We should have known from the start Paul had some kind of plan in the back of his head when he suggested this. He’s the kind of guy that will cheer up his friends when they’re feeling down, but he does it with a couple of shots and an exhortation to, “Toughen up, man. Things will get better.” He doesn’t suggest train rides to foreign countries so we can be part of a festival. Still, we were happy to make the journey.

And then the details started to change.

“No, no, trust me. We’ve got to be in town by afternoon on the fifth.

“Well, we’re not really going to go to Salzburg. We’re going to a small town a couple miles outside. It’ll be great, you’ll see. More authentic.

“Trust me, guys. Trust me.”

We didn’t trust him, of course. He was up to something. But we’d already made the plans and weaseled out of school and the internships and bought the tickets and arranged for transportation to the village with the unpronounceable name. We were in lockstep with Paul’s scheme, whatever it was. There was nothing else to be done but see it through to whatever end may come and hope we were still standing on the other side. But even the promise of that had its own strange, irrational allure to us. Years of friendship with Paul had taught us that memory is regret and nostalgia in equal measure.

We stepped off the train in Salzburg on the morning of the fifth to find a light snow on the ground. Our breath clouded and hung heavy in air a bit colder than London’s, but not so much so we weren’t prepared. The sky was grey and overcast with low hanging clouds that threatened more snow to come. Paul looked around and grinned. “This is perfect. Come on, let’s find our ride.” I studied the streets, the shops, the faces of the people we passed, and I commented that there didn’t seem to be an especially festive spirit in the air.

“I think you’ve oversold us on this trip, man. Oktoberfest this ain’t.”

“It’ll be different in the town. You’ll see.”

We piled into a cab with our small bags and we took off. The density of the city thinned greatly once we were out of Salzburg proper, and we drove on roads that wound aimlessly through hills and alongside more streams and lakes than I could count. It reminded me of the way that countryside surrounded London, only more so. The way that people and concrete could suddenly give way to rolling green hills. It was an experience almost completely alien to me, having grown up in the unending sprawl of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Our driver talked to us a little bit in passable English, but it was clear that it was not his first language and he was doing so more out of politeness than anything else. “You are American, yeah?”

Paul took the lead, as he usually did. “That’s right.”

“You come for the Krampuslauf?”

Paul grinned. “Right again.”

“Cram-puss-louff?” Jake hissed in Paul’s ear. Paul just shrugged.

“It’s good fun. Not so much in big city, but in small town, people know how to have fun.”

“That’s why we’re with you and not in Salzburg. More fun, right?”

The man smiled at that, but it darkened some after only a moment. “You be careful, though. People from other country, they come for fun, but they have too much fun. Like too much drink. It can be dangerous, yeah?”

Paul grinned all the wider. “Don’t worry about us, friend. We’re good at having just the right amount of fun.”

A short while later, we pulled into town and the driver dropped us off in front of the hostel Paul had reserved rooms at. The difference between the town and Salzburg was palpable the moment we set foot on the streets. There was an energy in the air, and people were walking around smiling, laughing and joking with each other. I smiled despite myself. Jake and I looked at each other, and he returned my optimism. Despite our misgivings, Paul had found something wonderful.

He turned to us smiling. “It doesn’t look like much now, I know, but trust me. This place is going to get wild once the sun sets.”

I blinked in confusion. “Like, Oktoberfest wild, or something else?”

“It’s Krampusnacht, man. The night before the Feast of St. Nicholas, folks dress up like this monster, Krampus, and run wild. There’s drinking, there’s dancing. People will give you shots on the street. You can pick up girls and just throw them over your shoulder. It’s like St. Patrick’s Day meets Halloween, man.”

“What about Oktoberfest?” Jake said, a note of irritation in his voice. There was a smirk on his face, though, so I knew he was warming up to the idea much faster than I was.

“Come on, come on! Let’s toss our shit in the room, get a couple drinks in us, and then get some costumes!”


Krampusnacht, Pt. 2

The semester went mostly the way you’d figure it would. Jake and I put a decent amount of effort into our classes and our internships, and Paul mostly just kind of floated along. We went to pubs, we blew off classes, we had a few flings, but Paul went every night, blew off more, and charmed girls left and right with his brash American ways.

I suppose that was another talent of his, knowing who would buy into his schtick and who wouldn’t. If sleeping with as many people as possible is a measure of success in life (and for my own sake, I maintain that it isn’t,) he had Jake and me beat hands down. He took the easy way, as it were, while Jake and I beat our heads against a wall trying to impress girls who were too sophisticated for us. We were caught in between what we saw as the recklessness of our earlier years and the more worldly and mature men we saw ourselves becoming. We suffered in a way that Paul never did, and when the depression and frustration of a Thanksgiving spent away from home and a few more weeks to go before seeing familiar faces again set in, he was there with a solution.

“Guys, guys,” he said with that mischievous grin of his. “I know what’ll cheer you up! We’ll have Christmas early this year. We’ll take a train to Salzburg for the big Feast of Saint Nicholas they have there. It’ll be fantastic, man. Really authentic. None of the bullshit of Christmas back in the States or here in England. No advertising shoving shit we don’t need down our throats.”

Jake frowned at that. “Hey, man. We’re in advertising.”

“And aren’t you proud of yourselves?” Paul said with a sneer, but before we could tell him to screw himself, he continued. “Come on! We’ve only got a few more weeks here, and who knows if you’ll ever be back with this kind of freedom? Sack up and let’s do it!”

“We’ll be cutting it too close to our flights back home.”

“No, you won’t. The feast is on December sixth.”

“It’ll interfere with our finals.”

“It’s on a weekend.”

“I don’t want to spend the money.”

“Fucking live a little, will you?” Paul frowned. He knew he was on the edge of losing us, but a sly smile crept across his face as a new strategy occurred to him. “Come on, guys. Austria for Christmastime. You’re not looking at this the right way. This is going to be like Oktoberfest.”

Jake and I looked at each other. There was still some hesitation on our faces, but he’d won us over and he knew it. One of the biggest regrets of the semester up to that point had been the fact that we hadn’t made it out to Munich for Oktoberfest. Fate had conspired against us then, but here was the opportunity to correct that mistake. Here was a chance to go someplace we’d never been before, to meet people we’d never see again. To get lost in a country where none of us spoke the language. To hop on a train, ride it all night, run wild in a foreign city, and take the train back the next day. We’d regret it on Monday morning, and then laugh about it for the rest of our lives.

I looked to Jake again, and he gave a single quick nod. I sighed and smiled and turned back to Paul and said, “Alright, fine. Let’s go do something stupid.”


Krampusnacht, Pt. 1

And by something new, I mean something over a year old. This story was originally published in When Red Snow Melts (available here! And possibly other places!) This version is slightly different from the original publication. It’s also a bit late for Feast of Saint Nicholas, which was earlier in the month, but eh. Details. Enjoy!

Paul was a shithead. But he was our shithead.

The three of us, me, Paul, and Jake, we were a crew. We had each other’s backs. Paul wasn’t the leader, but he had this kind of unwavering confidence, this grinning disregard for the consequences of his actions that meant we deferred to him more often than not. When you needed to get something done, you talked to Paul.

It was an indispensable asset when we were all awkward confused freshman. The three of us would be sitting around in the dorm, taking sips of sneakily procured beer, and someone would say, “You know, Pike’s throwing a big party tonight,” and Paul would jump to his feet and say, “Then let’s fucking go!” Next thing you know, we’re outside the frat house talking to a few people we know, meeting their friends, becoming part of the crowd, and seamlessly shifting inside.

I guess that’s the thing about a guy like Paul. He had just enough charm, was just quick-witted enough, just reckless enough that he could spot doors you didn’t even know existed, jam his foot in the frame, and weasel his way inside. It didn’t always work, but it worked often enough, and we looked up to Paul as a badass for it.

When it didn’t work, you got slapped across the face, or thrown out on your ass, or something like that. When you’re a freshman, it’s amazing. It brings the wild sorts of nights that pop culture tells us college is all about it.

But when you’re a couple years older and you start having some real responsibilities, when Paul shows up on your doorstep with that grin and says, “Hey, let’s go do something stupid,” when you know you’re going to say yes even though every sensible part of your brain is telling you to say no, that’s when it stops being so amazing. That’s when Paul stops being a badass and just starts being a shithead.

When Jake and I were in graduate school, we decided we were going to spend a fall semester in London so we could intern for a marketing agency there. Paul who was not in school, who was not really doing much of anything with himself at the time, announced that he was going to come along to because why the hell not. All we could do was sigh and smile and resign ourselves to a few lost weekends.


A Misanthrope Indeed, Pt. 7

He turned around in his chair and presented the device to her, offering it up like a supplicant kneeling before his god. Trina plucked it from his hand, held it before her face, squinted as she examined it.

“It’s smaller than I was expecting.”

“It’s to specification.”

“It works?”

“It should.”

She sniffed and rolled EAR between her fingers. Without another word she tilted her head to the side, pulled her hair behind her, and begin the process of sliding the device into its appointed place.

“Pinch and roll it,” Robert offered. “Like with earplugs. You don’t need to—“

“Robert, I’m the one who insisted the exterior be made of silicone. I think I know what to do with it.”

Robert took in a sharp breath of air, held it, counted out a few seconds before responding. If this thing worked the way it was supposed to, that’d be the last time Trina Kurtz ever snapped at an employee just for being helpful. “Of course. My apologies.”

The device disappeared. She pushed it in deeper with a finger then let her hair fall back into place. She stood there in silence, Robert staring up at her waiting for her reaction. If it worked, he’d be able to tell.

Trina’s brow furrowed in irritation. “It hurts.”

“It’s burrowing a bit deeper so it can better interface with the nervous system. Remember, it’s meant to be applied by a doctor or a trained technician. Someone who can provide a local anesthetic before installing it.”

Her eyes screwed shut, her face twisted in pain, but to her credit, she didn’t make any noise beyond a grunt or shed any tears. Robert allowed himself a small smile. He’d give it a few moments, then test it.

She opened her eyes and looked around. The miniature assemblers should already be secreting the proper hormones and chemicals, rewiring the neurons of her brain.

A gasp of wonder escaped from between her lips. “This is amazing,” she said.

“You’re pleased with the display, the interface?”

She nodded. “I can’t believe you did this. Robert, this is going to change the world.”

“It’ll change the world for our business leaders and politicians, you mean.”

She shook her head. “No. Everyone. Everyone needs this. Wave two will have to make EAR more affordable, more user-friendly.”

She went on. Robert nodded along, convinced that his design had worked, that her brain chemistry had been forever altered to make her more generous, more empathetic, less selfish. And if it worked on her, it would work on all of them. Every CEO, every senator, every dictator.

“Trina, I think I need a vacation.”

She nodded. “Absolutely. As long and as hard as you’ve worked on SMILE and then EAR, you deserve a month off. Hell, we’ll pay for it. PomM will pay for it.”

Robert drew back, blinked in surprise. “Wait, really?”

“Robert, you’re going to make us rich. Richer than ever before. We can fly you around the goddamn world twice and it’ll be a drop in the bucket compared to what we’re going to make over the next five years.”

“But—“

“Don’t argue with me, Robert. I’m being nice to you.”

Robert watched in stunned silence as Trina’s gaze darted around the room, controlling the artificial HUD with her thoughts and gestures. She was smiling. She was playing. She was happier than he’d ever seen her before.

“Okay. Thank you so much, Trina.”

“My pleasure, Robert. Go home. Take the rest of the week off. Come back on Monday and we’ll work on a list of who should get the first run of EARs.”

“I thought you already had a list in mind.”

“I do, but I’m open to suggestions.”

Robert grinned. “Of course. I’ll see you on Monday, Trina.”

She nodded, her vision locked on the world that only existed before her. Robert slid a few papers into his messenger bag, rose from his seat, made his way towards the door.

He had his hands on it, when she called out after him, her voice as firm and cold as granite. “Oh, Robert. One more thing.”

His heart sank into his chest. It hadn’t worked at all. It’d just been excitement. Her happiness had been thinking about the money. It was all a failure.  He turned and looked over his shoulder. “Yes, Trina?”

She stood there smiling. She stepped forward and shook his hand. The handshake became a pat on the shoulder became a hug. Trina Kurtz had never hugged anyone before that he had seen. “Merry Christmas, Robert. And have a happy new year.”

Robert said nothing. Trina laughed, put her hand on his chin, worked his jaw like he was a puppet. “Thanks, Trina. You too,” she said in a preposterous baritone.

He shook his head free, stammered a moment. She laughed again. “Go home, Robert. Relax. See your kids. Be happy.”

“Yes. You too.”

“I will. We all will.”

Merry Christmas, world. Be here tomorrow for something new, and sleep well.


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