It’s hard to get excited for a new year when you know that it’s going to start off the same way the last one ended. But, still, there is hope that this one will be better than the last. Is it a fool’s hope? Time will, as always, tell.
Years ago now, Ravenstone Books asked me to write up a list of Ted Callan’s resolutions for a blog post, and instead, I wrote a little vignette of his New Year’s Eve post-Tombstone Blues. I’m quite fond of this little pieces, so here it is for you again, as well as one of my favourite Tom Waits songs to mark the turning of the year.
New Year’s Eve
A Thunder Road vignette
Outside of the hotel that had become his home, the cold bit into Ted Callan’s lungs with every breath.
What is your resolution for the coming year? Huginn asked.
Why do you fucking care? Ted shot back as he lit a cigarette.
Call it curiosity, the raven said. Everyone else seems to be making one tonight.
Doesn’t matter, they’re all bullshit.
“Cold out tonight,” a woman’s voice slurred from behind Ted.
He turned to see a middle-aged woman, shivering in her dress as she struggled to light a cigarette, and huddled under a borrowed suit jacket for warmth. He was glad that he hadn’t addressed his living raven tattoos aloud.
Ted nodded absently and muttered a yup as he lit her smoke and then went back to his own.
You could do something about this cold. Huginn’s cawing voice echoed shrilly in Ted’s mind.
I’ve done enough, he shot back.
It had been a brutal, miserable fucking winter, and it was a long way from over. The mercury had only cracked -20 twice since he’d beat back Hel’s army of the dead, and both of those times, a blizzard had chased in, nipping the heels of the warmer weather.
“What’s your resolution?” the woman asked, and then without waiting for Ted’s answer, added, “I think I’m going to quit smoking.”
They shared a chuckle, and then took a drag, exhaling plumes of smoke that coalesced in the frigid night air.
Resolutions had to be Ted’s least favourite part of the New Year, aside from his usual—and fierce—hangover. He couldn’t think of a single resolution that he’d ever kept. But at least tomorrow he wouldn’t be passed out, body half in the bathroom and his head pounding with thunder instead of his fist.
Muninn trotted out Ted’s list of past broken promises; it made quite the litany. All had been chosen spur of the moment to fulfill a cultural need, not out of any genuine desire to change, or to better himself.
Take up the guitar again.
Get back in shape.
He took a drag of his cigarette, and exhaled in a long sighing breath. Quit smoking.
That one had definitely been the most common.
“Happy New Year!” the woman yelled, voice thick with drunken cheer, as she butted out her cigarette in the hotel’s sand-filled ashtray. She rushed back inside blowing on her hands as she went through the brass-edged revolving door entrance.
Judging from his chuckles, Muninn was having a grand old time continuing down the list of Ted’s failed promises.
Be more romantic.
Quit the Patch.
Everyone is making a resolution, Huginn pressed, staring pointedly at Muninn. Thinking ahead. Forgetting the past.
Ted didn’t get why the birds were so fucking excited about resolutions, but he supposed making one was the only sure way to shut them the hell up.
“Fine,” he grumbled. “Kill Surtur. How’s that for a fucking resolution?”
Huginn and Muninn exchanged surprised quorks.
“Not good enough? What about: go to my buddy’s wedding without getting everyone killed? Oh, and maybe repair all the goddamned damage that Loki’s done to my godsdamned life.”
Ted took a last drag and mashed his cigarette into the ashtray.
The ravens waited in silence for a moment, and then together said, You would have a better chance quitting smoking.
Art by S.M. Beiko.
Happy New Year!