Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Tears of Caga Tió

Holiday cheer meets confectionery defecation!
It is Christmas day now, isn't it? And as usual, I'm exceedingly sleep deprived after staying up all night working on various things. You'll never find a healthier chap.

At any rate, though I was tempted to do a Krampus story this year - there will be a Krampus story yet - this year, you get a bizarre little short for the Spanish crowd.

Just earlier this month, the surreal, brilliant Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations Christmas special introduced me to a certain Catalan mythological character and holiday tradition - none other than Tió de Nadal, otherwise known as Caga Tió. In a sense, Caga Tió is the anti-Krampus. Rather than punishing children for being children - all children are terrible, remember, you parents out there especially know this to be true - like Santa's monstrous Germanic pal, Caga Tió's sole holiday task is to inevitably poop candy. Ideally, turrón.

Should the Caga Tió fail in this task, the children beat it with sticks. Savagely. See? I was right about children all along.

Anyway, your annual Xmas short story. The whimsy. The weird. All that noise. Go!

The Tears of Caga Tió


Can you really blame anyone for hating the holiday season? All the avarice and unmitigated capitalism wrapped up in a veneer of insincere holly jolly nonsense. Everywhere you look, televisions and signs point guns at your head. "Think you love your family? You're buyin' them these gifts!" A low hiss. Always in a low hiss. That's the you-mean-business tone. A hateful tone to drown the holidays in. A good reason to drown your sorrows in egg nog. Spiked. 90% rum, ideally. You're drinking to forget. You've got to take that seriously.

Not all of us can drink away our sorrows. Or inject them away, or snort them away, and whatnot. This brings us to our poor, dear friend, Caga Tió, the Christmas whipping log.

Everybody loves Santa Claus. He shows up and tosses a bunch of gifts at people. Sometimes he fires them out of cannons. Rotund and jolly, but never diabetic. This whiskery holiday wizard whisks children's reasonable dreams from home to home across the globe, and only sometimes sics his understandably child-hating compadre Krampus on today's kids. He's gone all soft inside.

Caga Tió's holiday season consists entirely of things going in and out of his butt. If you can say that logs even technically have butts. And then he gets beaten mercilessly, because children know no mercy. Can you really blame him for needing therapy?

That's where Jana Holiday, licensed holiday therapist comes in. No, that's not her actual last name. Were you really expecting stressed out holiday characters to go and talk to someone named Schmidt? They expect the obvious. They expect cheese. Would you really expect anything else of individuals who exist solely by the sheer willpower contained within  the collective human imagination? We've got this thing called the internet now. Imaginations were just how the primitive peoples passed the time waiting for funny cat videos to be invented.

It's the day after Christmas. Caga Tió's carried out his annual task. Always a dark day. The first year, he contemplated putting a gun in his mouth, only to realize that because he was a hollow log, it wouldn't do him any good. It's overcast, but it's only in the mid-fifties. Hardly snow weather. Hardly festive. As we join him, he totters up to the glass doors leading into the Holiday Holiday Counseling Service. He smacks into the doors sixteen times before anyone notices and lets him into the building. They have to press the buttons for him in the elevator, too. Caga Tió's stiff, awkward limbs aren't made for walking, let alone jumping, or any kind of interaction with the world around him.

Caga Tió waddles into Jana's office and, as usual, the Easter Bunny goes out of his way to trip him. As though that would take much effort in the first place. Caga Tió used to think that they could be friends, but apparently there's a huuuuuuuuuuuge difference between pooping candy and pooping candy concealed within colorful plastic eggs. Nuts to that guy, Caga Tió thinks as the secretary helps him right himself. On his back, Caga Tió's more helpless than a flipped turtle.

"Same old, same old," Caga Tió grumbles as Jana sets him upright on the patients' chair. "Why don't you kids just go buy a block of turrón already? I don't have to take all this abuse."

"No luck with that existence crisis, huh?" Jana sighs. "Look, Tió - if they just bought the candy themselves, you would no longer need to exist. You still understand this, right?"

"I get it. Nothing gets it more than me. With sticks. And bats. Every year. I mean, at least I have no actual capacity for physical sensation like you humans, so I don't feel anything when the turrón comes in and out, but it's the principle of the thing! I'm being violated!" Caga Tió flips over on his side, in one of the only visible expressions of emotion of which he's capable. "Can you blame me for sometimes wishing nobody had imagined me? I mean, come on, this is on you humans, too - a lot of you like the idea of beating up a log until it dumps out candy for you. I even have a face now!"

"We've discussed this before," Jana says, "but don't you think it's about time you took ownership of what you are? You can steer the course of your own identity if you try."

"Sure, maybe if you're Santa Claus you can get a lucrative soda deal and everything, but come on! I'm a hollowed-out log with little stilt-legs. Nothing is designed for us. Can you even imagine how many times a day I fall off counters?"

"Well, uh, I'd suggest masochism, but since you have no physical sensation whatsoever, I guess that's out. At least you don't feel any physical pain when the children beat you," Jana says.

"Only my pride," Caga Tió sighs. "Only my pride."

"I guess the whole filling yourself up with things you like and dislike on your own time idea fizzled, huh?" Jana twirled a pencil between her fingers.

"I don't even know what I like or dislike - nobody's imagined that for me, either. Maybe some of them think I'm supposed to be enjoying the beatings. Maybe the rest just don't care. I may be a log, but I'm a log with a face. You got to grow up, make friends, and go to college. I popped into existence longer than any of you have lived and my existence has been nothing but holiday songs, beatings, and candy pooping ever since! And it's not even really pooping! You guys just personified me that way - it's more like I'm evacuating my entire body cavity!" Caga Tió falls over onto his back, shaking his little stick-limbs furiously.

"For what it's worth, Tió, I think you're a pretty stand-up - what I mean to say is, you mean well. I understand that you're frustrated - you're living with an existential crisis that no human being can even begin to relate to," Jana attempts to console the log.

"I spend a couple of weeks every December hanging out in kids' houses so they can beat the candy out of me. I spend the rest of the year in my little house built for humans falling down stairs and trying to open jars. You understand nothing." Caga Tió would have sneered at Jana here, but he's incapable of changing his expression.

"By the way, I was wondering if I could follow you around in your home for a few weeks," Jana says. "You know, for a documentary. For the internet."

"Oh no! I know how this works! I've heard of that boxy thing with all the pictures." At this point, Caga Tió attempts to get up and storm out angrily, only to fall out of the chair onto his back.

"You mean well, Caga Tió," Jana says as she reaches down to help him up.

"I'm a candy-pooping holiday log. Why do I even pay you?"

"You can leave the turrón over there on your way out."

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