A Tire Swing Story is a bite-sized "imagining" inspired by an object I discover while wandering. It could be a curbside trash gem or a message sprayed on a wall. A lost mitten, or an antique store find. Anything goes. I photograph the object and post them together, the story and its inspiration. There will be a new story every Monday and Wednesday. On Fridays, I'll discuss writing, life, love, and coffee. (In no particular order and maybe all at once.)

Monday, January 31, 2011


Janina McFee wasn't a pretty girl. She had smallish eyes and a large pale face. Her brown hair always managed to look greasy, and lay plastered to her head. Her eyebrows were unruly and there was a sizable gap between her two front teeth.

When she was eight years old, and it was clear to everyone that she would never be pretty,  Janina's mother started calling her Jan. Three sturdy, plain little letters. 

"Beauty is fleeting," Jan's mother said, "be a good woman instead."

Jan worked hard to be good, and tried to forget her disappointment at the lost letters in her name.

Years passed. 

Then one day, something strange happened. First, it was a postcard of the Mona Lisa tucked under the left windshield wiper of Jan's car. She searched the Mona Lisa's face for a clue, but the woman of mystery told her nothing. She flipped over the card. It was blank. 

One morning Jan discovered the hood of her car covered in pebbles. The shape the pebbles made might have been a heart, if she'd chosen to see it that way. But Jan assumed it was a prank. Why wouldn't she?  "Stupid kids," she muttered, flinging the stones from her hood. 

But then, today....

Jan lowers her shopping bag. She stares at the words written in the snow. It is clear as day. This is no prank. She turns and looks around, but doesn't see anyone watching her. She feels flushed and strange, like she wants to laugh and cry at the same time. 


Those three shapes written in the snow caused Janina McFee's poor heart to open. And this made her more beautiful than she ever could have imagined.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of the spin cycle.

Hi guys, it's Britt. Today I want to talk about laundromats.

I love laundromats, not because I'm wild about dragging my clothes half a block, or because I want to feed temperamental machines my hard-earned loonies. 

But I do have a thing for laundromats because they are an absolute gem of a place for a story to begin. Think about it: strangers stuck in a humid little room, their clothing flinging around in the dryers. Their sheets and towels and unmentionables

And I'm not the only one who feels this way. Author, Mary Gaitskill used a laundromat as the location to start her book, Two Girls Fat and Thin. In the opening line, the character Dorothy says: 

"I entered the strange world of Justine Shade via a message on the bulletin board in a laundromat filled with bitterness and the hot breath of dryers." 

(gha! amazing sentence!) 

Once, while at my local laundromat waiting for the dryer to finish, I took a walk to get some coffee. I returned to find that someone had not only removed my clothes from the dryer, but had folded them. All my t-shirts were neatly stacked. They'd even balled up my pairs of socks. I was totally thrown off by this gesture. It was so kind and intimate and weird

On the internet the other day, I found an article called: 10 Great Places to Meet New People that suggested laundromats as a perfect spot to connect. 

So give it a try. Just make sure when introducing yourself to someone, to keep your eyes off their undies.

Have an inspired weekend, everyone, and I'll see you back here on Monday for a new story. 
Britt

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

There's a detective standing in the doorway of my hat shop. I can spot a cop a mile away. 

"Good evening," I say, as if he's just an Average Joe.

He takes out his badge and slides it along the glass counter. "Mrs. Taylor," he says, "I'd like to ask you a few questions."

I look over his credentials, just to show he doesn't faze me. I can feel his eyes lingering on the way my dress hugs my curves, on my smooth brown hair and red lips. He's young after all, and still a man.

"Officer Delaney," I say, "do you mind if I smoke? It's murder for the hats, but when I'm alone in the shop at the end of the day, I can't help myself." 

He lights my cigarette. "Now," I say, drawing the words out, letting them linger on my tongue, "what exactly can I do for you?" 

His questions are the same as the rest. Where was I on the night my husband was killed? Do I know of anyone who might've wanted the old man dead? And I answer them all, nice and easy. 

Delaney is satisfied when he leaves the store, thanking me for my time. He passes me his card. If I think of anything, I should call. Day or night.

I close the door and flip the deadbolt. Behind the counter is a Matryoshka doll. A gift from my husband on one of his business trips. I twist open the first doll and reveal another. I open the second doll, revealing a third. 
A fourth. 
In the heart of the fifth doll is a gold key. The key to my husband's secret safe.

I'm almost in the clear. All I have to do now, is wait. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

December 24th, 2010. Fridge. Night. 

The other vegetables in the fridge have been talking. Tomorrow is Christmas Day and the humans will have a feast. Most of us will be eaten.

Is my story any different from the rest?
The mustard wants to hear it. He's become a good friend to me. He's been here in the fridge a long time, his label is peeled off and his lid is nearly crusted shut. I know that he's seen many vegetables come and go, but he still wants to listen to my tale, and I am grateful for that.

I am from Willowbrae Farms in Cobourg, Ontario. I was just a bud when I first caught sight of Josephine. She grew on the stem next to me, and in the mornings when the sky was pink and the sun not yet arrived, Josephine and I would whisper to each other about our plans. Eventually, we had a son, Hector, who I loved more than I imagined possible. Our growing season was long, and we had many happy days together.

After the first frost, the pickers arrived. They chopped my stalk and tossed me into a deep basket. I never saw my family again. 

December 25th, 2010. Countertop. Morning. 

They have come for us. The other sprouts and I have been dumped into a colander and rinsed in the sink.

It won't be long now. I can see the pot of boiling water on the stove. I do not hate the humans for what they are about to do. I know that it is in their nature and I am not afraid. 

To my wife, Josephine: Thank you for choosing me. Your love has given me wings. To my son, Hector: Do not listen to anyone who tells you that you are just a Brussels sprout. The world is yours if you wish it. Dare. Dream. Discover. 

Goodbye. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of hitchin' a ride...

Hi guys, it's Britt. I don't know if I should be sharing this. But here it is: 

I love hitchhiking. Don't tell my mom.

Now, just to be clear, I'm not talking about car pooling or ride shares. I'm speaking of standing on the side of the road, shouldering your backpack, perhaps holding onto a cardboard sign with your destination written on it, while, with the other hand you stick out your thumb.


It's terrifying. It's exhilarating. It's pretty stupid. 

But the thing I love about hitchhiking, is that it allows you to get to know people in a way you never otherwise would. While you travel in their cars, sharing the same smells and sights and breathing space, you learn about each other. And then you say goodbye. Perhaps never to meet again. But in small ways, your stories have changed.

Every hitchhiker needs a buddy. And for years, mine was the righteous, Benjamin Thompson. Ben and I had many hitchhiking adventures. Can I tell you my favorite story?
Benjamin Robert Thompson Esq.
I was visiting Ben when he lived in Inveremere, BC and one afternoon, we went for a walk. We found ourselves down by the train yard, just as a freight train was slowly pulling out. 

This is roughly the conversation that followed: 


Ben: "I've always wanted to hitch a ride on a train." 
Britt: "Yeah. That would be totally amazing." 
Ben:(gesturing toward the moving train) "There's one now."

In the next few moments, Ben and I jogged alongside the train and climbed on. What followed was a three-hour journey through the mountains crouched on the platform between two rail cars, and hanging on for dear life. When the train finally stopped, Ben and I scrambled off and looked around. We had no idea where we were or how we were going to get back home. So naturally, we found the nearest road and stuck out our thumbs.

Living in a city, I don't get much chance to hitchhike anymore. And there are definitely fears that come up when you're in your thirties that you never felt when you were in your twenties. I'm not swearing I'll hitchhike again, but I'm not promising I won't, either.

So share your tale of the last time you thumbed a ride, or tell me why I'm crazy.

Have an inspired weekend dear adventurers, and I'll see you back here on Monday for a new story. 

Britt

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Miss Hastings was Wade's fourth-grade teacher. She had square glasses and brown hair she wore held back by a clip. One day after school, Wade went back into the classroom to retrieve his forgotten lunch bag and found his teacher looking out the window, her long hair loose and falling over her shoulders. 

She'd turned from the window and smiled and Wade felt dizzy. He thought maybe he'd throw up--like he'd gone on the Zipper at the fair too many times. Walking home, he realized it was just like being on the Zipper, because as soon as it was over he wanted to feel it again. 

They were learning about Ancient Egyptians. "In ancient Egypt, the Pharaohs and their Queens were buried together inside the great pyramids," Miss Hastings said. 

Wade looked at the pictures of Cleopatra in his book. He imagined Miss Hastings wearing a golden crown, her eyes beneath her glasses dark with kohl makeup. 

One night before dinner, he asked his parents: "If a boy loves a girl, what should he do?

His dad peered over his newspaper and shrugged. "There's no use trying," he said, "you can't please a female." 

"Demonstrate," his mother said, plunging a knife into the center of a roasted chicken, "show her how much you care." 

Wade had an idea. The next day at recess, he gathered up as much snow as he could and built his structure in middle of the schoolyard. By 3:00, he could barely sit still at his desk. He was so excited for her to see it. 

Finally, the bell sounded. They put on their boots and coats and snow pants. Miss Hastings led the line of children outside. When they rounded the corner, Wade's heart sank. In the spot where his beautiful pyramid should be, was nothing but scattered snow. Someone had destroyed it.

Wade started to cry. Hot tears of disappointment ran down his cheeks. He gulped for air and his small chest shook. 

Then she was beside him, leaning down, her concerned face close to his. 

"Wade, are you alright?" she asked, taking his hand. 

Wade felt the warm pressure of her hand in his. He smiled at her through his tears.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I am a middle-aged woman in a long purple coat and a white hat with a pom-pom, that I happen to like despite the slight ridiculousness of the thing. 
 
I am walking along a sidewalk that is encrusted with snow and murderously slippery. In my left hand is a cane with a rubber stopper on the bottom. Between steps, I lean on the cane. My breath is coming fast and creating little puffs of fog around my head.

I've been at this for over an hour. The same walk that used to take me fifteen minutes.

Gus, the neighbor said he'd be happy to do my grocery shopping. And I know my daughter, Rachel would like nothing more than to bundle me into the car and bring me herself. Still, as long as I can walk, I will go to the store. Even if it takes me the whole damn day. 

Halfway there, I stop on a bench to rest. My knees are shaking more than usual and my chest feels full of fire. In my panic, I allow myself to wonder if today is the day I don't make it, when I turn around and return home. Accept defeat and crawl into bed.

In the nearest shop is a replica of a dinosaur head. Its huge jagged mouth is open, taking up most of the window. 

Rachel's been bringing me books with titles like: "Healing Visualizations", and "Fighting Cancer from Within." She's also taken to giving me bunches of greens the size of funeral arrangements.

"Eating green vegetables helps to remove free radicals from your body, Mom," she says.

Did this dinosaur know when her time was at an end? Did she feel her extinction coming as her world changed and the blood in her veins began to warm? Did she lay down in the ferns and accept her fate? 

And then I think that maybe this dinosaur's mouth isn't open in some display of predatory strength, but in a last mournful howl. And this howl I understand. We all need to howl before we go. 

Using my cane, I push myself off the bench to standing. I continue on, slowly, to the store.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of the road trip

All photos by The Sassy Lamb
Hi guys, it's Britt.

Here are some things I love about road trips: 

1. The excuse to eat really great crappy food (cheesies for breakfast, anyone?) 
2. Not having to shower/change socks/brush hair for days on end.
3. Singing along with the music on the stereo. (You know you love this too!) 
4. Truck stop diners and random roadside cafes. 
5. A chance to stop and really look around

Road trippin' with my ladies.
The more I learn about the environmental impact of the automobile, the less I can justify road trips. Still, there is something in my heart that yearns for that feeling of being on the road, where anything can (and most likely will), happen.

Breakdown in Calgary. What's a gal to do?
In my experience, road trips most often happen in crappy cars. And crappy cars break down. A lot. Laura and I had so many vehicle breakdowns traveling across the US and Australia a few years ago, that we wrote a song called: "All the Mechanics We've Known."  
 
Road trips are full of the unexpected. And the whole nature of a road trip is to savor the places you are traveling through. How many times have we pulled over to take in a beautiful sunset, or to check out a little town? I've stopped for bears, for kangaroos, for fields of sage or sunflowers. Waterfalls. Weird signs. Statues of dinosaurs. A road trip is permission to act like a child, and to exist in a state of wonder, even for just a little while.

So tell us your best road trip story. Or fantasize about one you always wanted to take. (Feel free to leave your stories here as blog comments.)

"There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”  Jawaharial Nehru

A moment of reflection in northern Ontario.

Have an inspired weekend, guys. See you back here on Monday for a new story
Britt 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Louis?"

"Yes, Jerry?" 

"You busy?" 

"Do I look like I'm busy? What is it, Jerry?" 

"I've been thinking 'bout the good ol' days. Remember the good ol' days?" 

"No." 

"Yes you do, Louis. You're just pretending you don't." 

"There's no point in endlessly rehashing the past. We're here now, so we might as well start getting used to it." 

"But--" 

"No buts, Jerry. She's gone, and he doesn't want to see us anymore. Can't stand the sight of us. Shipped us off to the charity store. Just let it go."

Silence. Long pause. Jerry begins to sing a tune. Softly at first, and then louder.

"I needed the shelter of someone's arms. There you were. I needed someone to understand my ups and downs, there you were."

"What are you singing, Jerry?" 

"Nuthin'. Just a song. Remember how they used to play music every--" 

"--Friday night. Yes, Jerry, I guess I do."

"Tell me the way it was, Louis. When we were with them, and everything was just right." 

"You were there too, you old oaf." 

"Yeah, but I like the way you tell it."  

"Oh, alright. If you insist. Fridays after dinner. She'd clear away the dishes and he'd put on the music. Do you remember the whoosh the record made as he pulled it from its sleeve? Or that pop of the needle hitting the record and finding the groove? Once, they started to dance before she'd even finished the dishes. Her hands were still in those rubber gloves, dripping soapy water over the floor. But they didn't mind. And then every Friday after the dancing..." 

"We'd come out!" 

"Yes, Jerry. He'd pull us off the shelf and open a bottle of beer. Pour the beer. Half for him, half for her."

"The bubbles tickled my insides. And, oh! Don't forget those cheese and crackers."

"You and me on the coffee table, Jerry, with a plate of cheese and crackers in between us and the music playing on, like there was all the time in the world." 

"Louis?" 

"Yes, Jerry?" 

"So that's it then?" 

"What?"

"The good ol' days. They're long gone, right?" 

"Well, yes and no. Those days are done. But there's always a chance." 

"Of what, Louis?" 

"A chance to begin again. To make new good ol' days." 

"I guess that's what's nice about life, eh, Louis? That chance." 

Louis and Jerry begin to sing softly together. 

You brighten up for me all of my days
With a love so sweet in so many ways
I want to stop and thank you baby
I just want to stop and thank you baby (woah, yeah)


 end.

click here and sing along with Jerry and Louis. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lucie's mom found the poster on a cork board at the grocery store."Rusty Nail's Clowns and Misfits. Traveling the World to Bring You the Best in Entertainment." 

On her sixth birthday, the clowns arrived in a white panel van with a circus scene painted on the side. Lucie forgot all about putting on her party dress and ran outside to meet them. One-by-one, the six clowns got out. They were a bright blur of long limbs, wild hair, and painted faces. 

The clown with the green curls and purple velvet suit removed his top hat and bowed deeply. 

"Pleased to meet you, little lass. I am Rusty Nails." 

Standing on the lawn in her slip and undershirt, Lucie performed her best curtsy.

The party started. Clowns mingled through the crowd, making balloon animals and juggling everything from people's empty plates, to their glasses of punch.

It would have been a perfect afternoon, were it not for the twins, Igmar and Dorothy. They were Lucie's cousins, and like most ignored and undisciplined children, they were very, very bad.

First, Igmar tripped a juggling clown. Red fruit punch rained down on the crowd. Next, Dorothy shoved a clown on stilts into the pool. The poor clown's face paint ran, and created a white skin that formed on the surface of the water. The stilts flew into the neighbor's yard. Then, Igmar plucked Rusty's red nose from his face and hid it somewhere in the doghouse. 

Rusty was furious. Lucie discovered him smoking on the other side of the hedge, a pink circle of unpainted skin at the tip of his white nose. She sat down beside him and rested her head on her knees. 

"I'm sorry, Rusty," she said softly. "My cousins aren't any good." 

He nodded and squinted through smoke. "Thing is, we're not ordinary clowns. We're from the road. And there's a code of honor on the road." He pulled on his cigarette and when he spoke again, there was something hard in his voice. "Dishonorable folks get theirs."

Lucie wasn't sure she understood was "dishonorable" was, or what "getting theirs," could mean, but she nodded her head in agreement and her paper party hat bobbed up and down.

Then Rusty produced a red silk rose from behind his ear and held it out to her. "Happy birthday, little lass," he said. 

It wasn't until after the party when the clowns had left, that someone noticed the twins were missing. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of alleys.

Alley art in the Annex, Toronto. 
Hi guys, it's Britt. Today I want to write about stepping off the beaten path and into the back alleys of a city. Of course it's important to use your head, (venturing down one in the middle of the night is not the best of ideas), but I absolutely love exploring alleys in the daytime. 

Here's the thing that you may or may not know. There's a whole world back there, full of original art, cool buildings, and major personality. An alley is what most of the backs of houses look onto, and its not intended to impress. It's a secret place. A fringe land. 

 In Tofino, a wild and wet little town on Canada's west coast where I lived for a few years, there used to be a place called the Alley Way Cafe. You'd find the cafe at the end of the passageway to the bank. You could either dine outside on tables made of driftwood, or inside the ramshackle purple building that was part trailer, part bus.
Annex alley art, detail. 
The owners have long since packed up and left town, and I'm not ashamed to say that it broke my heart a little bit when they did. I wouldn't exactly give up my future firstborn for another taste of Alley Way Eggs, but I don't think I'd totally reject the idea either. 
 
Next time you have the chance, get off the main street and check out what's behind there. You might be happy you did.


"Street animals," alleyway, Lithuania.

Have an inspired weekend, guys, and I'll see you back here on Monday for a new story. 

Britt

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I've seen you walk the aisles of this antique store, your blue eyes traveling over everything. You like to linger in front of the lace tablecloths. I watch as you finger the delicate fabric and flip over the tag. You bite your bottom lip while you examine the price.

I've seen him with you, following you around the store, his hands in his pockets, his eyes out the window. 

You lift up a crystal saucer to show him the intricacy of the pattern, the way light plays off the lines etched in glass. 

"We don't need this junk," he says.
"You don't know what we need," you say. 

And that's the way it goes: your voices tight and sharp, stretched between you like a wire. 

Sometimes he waits in the car. I know this by the way you constantly check your watch. Once I even heard him honk the horn. You looked up, startled and dropped the vintage silk gloves you were holding. You hurried to the door.  

What is happening to love these days? I may be just an old stuffed bear, but even I can tell that something's amiss. The cashiers in the store like to watch television. I see the way people behave on these shows. They scheme and lie, and betray each other in front of millions. 

There's a sale on in the antique store this weekend: 50% off all merchandise. When you come, (as I know you will), searching for that precious, irreplaceable thing that you can never seem to find, I will be here, silently wanting so much more for you. 


Monday, January 3, 2011

Every morning, Mark went to the park to visit the statue of Alexander Graham Bell. The statue was desperately in need of repair. The old man's broad forehead was chipped, his ears were cracked, and most of his nose was missing. 

Mark knew that his own brain was like this statue: slowly crumbling.

"Craebler-Jakob syndrome," the doctor said. A rare degenerative brain disease. Unheard of in someone so young. The long-term memory goes first. Then, over time, the short-term memory breaks down. And it's completely incurable.

Outside the doctor's office in his car, Mark had examined his face in the rearview mirror. He looked the same. But somewhere deep inside his skull, things were changing.

At first, just the edges of Mark's memories blurred. What was the name of the street their old apartment was on? What restaurant did they eat at on that New Year's Eve when she wore that silver dress, and they made love in the hallway?

Then it was the bigger things. The tremble in her voice when she told him it was over. The glassy green of her eyes when she cried. Her face began to float in his mind, featureless, like a balloon.

One November morning in the park, Mark forgot where he was. Panicked, he searched for a clue. He saw bare trees and picnic tables and a playground. In front of him was a statue of an old bearded man with half of his face missing.

Mark stuffed his hands into his coat pockets and discovered a set of keys. They must be his, but he couldn't conceive of what they would unlock. On the picnic table closest to him, Mark used the edge of a key to scratch a word into the wood. He sat down heavily.

Where am I? he asked himself. He looked to the table for an answer.

Here.

Where is she?

Gone.

Where am I?

Here.

On the bench, Mark prayed for someone to come and find him.