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, February 28, 2011

I am leaning on the shovel as I make my way across the field. The wind is blowing my white hair in tufts around my face. I feel like at any moment, I could be carried off. All ninety pounds of me. Whoosh. Goodbye, Margaret.

I'm too old for this, but I don't give a damn. Lucille's been gone six years and I've finally gotten the nerve to dig up our can. I'm not bloody stopping now. 

We marked the spot with a rock that now takes all of my strength to move. But I get it aside, raise the shovel, and begin to dig. 

Lucy and I buried our time capsule in June of 1938. We were fifteen years old, and invincible. Afterward, we lay in the tall grass and the ground beneath us seemed to hum. I was sure everything to come would feel that way: alive and buzzing.

I strike metal with the tip of my shovel, reach down, and pull out the can. In the pocket of my cardigan sweater is a screwdriver, and I use it to pry off the lid. 

The dank smell that greets me is rot mixed with rust. I begin to pull out the contents of the can. A yellowed newspaper clipping of a church musical we were in. A faded postcard from Paris, France. Hunks of our hair, hers brown and mine blond, braided together. 

And then I find it: a folded piece of paper not so yellow as the rest. My hands shake as I open the letter. It's dated September 30th 1968, thirty years after we'd first buried the can. 

"Lucy, there is something you need to know, but I can't bring myself to tell you. Carson and I are in love. We've been seeing each other secretly. I just pray that I'll die first, and one day you'll dig this up and find a way to forgive me." 

But of course, Lucy went first. And she never got to read my letter. 

My back is on fire, and the arthritis in my hands is making them throb. I'm not invincible, it turns out. I'm just an old woman, out here with ghosts, chilled by the wind.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Casual Fridays: wayward mittens and forgotten gloves

Hi guys, it's Britt. While wandering and taking photographs this winter, I've come across many lost gloves and mittens....

There's an interesting phenomenon going on with this. When someone finds a single mitten or glove, they seem to place it on the nearest post they find. The result is many many lost mittens sitting atop poles. (I even found one in the branches of a tall tree.)

All of these wayward mittens made me wonder about the people who'd dropped them. What was happening the moment they accidentally set their mittens free?

My sister, Alison Barber started a program called Mittens for Kittens at the wonderful Stirling-Rawdon Public Library, when she worked as their children's librarian. Mittens for Kittens, collects donations of mittens and distributes them to those in need of warm fingers. 

On my latest mitten-photographing expedition, I was accompanied by my wee buddy, Charlotte, who provided me with this photo...

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Psst. Celia, it's Bill. We may be frozen in this lake, but I know you can still hear me. There's so much I want to say to you, so much...

Agh. Even now, I'm still behaving like a frightened fish. 

Okay. We're going to be here for awhile, so I'm just going to lay it out.

Celia, I love you. I've loved you since we were little fry, playing in the shallows. I've never seen a pair of gills as beautiful as yours. 

No, wait. That came out wrong. Not that you're not alluring. It's just that it's about so much more than your appearance. 

You're brave. You're tougher than fish three times your size. You've never been afraid of deep water, or predators. "Catch me if you can," you always say. I think you're amazing, Celia. More than amazing. Radiant. 

I'm not much to look at. No wait--I know it's true. I'm just a Common Shiner. My eyes bulge a little too much, and my scales have never glistened. 

I didn't think you cared about looks, until that arrogant sunfish, Bart started coming around and you were so smitten with him. I know I'm supposed to be an adaptable fish, but I could never get used to the idea of the two of you together. Celia, he's no good. He's bait. 

I can't keep hiding my feelings from you and acting like I'm just your friend. I want to be so much more than that. 

Imagine it, Celia: you and me together for the next three-to-four years, with our two million eggs.

When spring comes and the ice melts between us, I will come to you. And I just pray by that time, you will have me."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Marvin the sock monkey dreamed of shoes. Sneakers mostly, and sometimes boots. 

He remembered the rainy spring days, when, as a pair of socks, he got to travel inside Madeline's gumboots. He felt the tickle of rubber, and recalled the splash of puddles and children laughing. And he'd never forget the lovely smell of fresh mud. 

One day, Madeline's well-intentioned grandmother, Ida, had transformed Marvin from a pair of wool socks into a sock monkey. As a sock monkey, Marvin mostly sat and gazed out Madeline's window. He could see three houses, nine trees, and a small white dog. 

There was a smile stitched on Marvin's face, but if you looked closely, you could see that something about that smile was not quite right. Inside, his heart was terribly sad. He longed for travel, for motion, for new sights and smells. Marvin the sock monkey had itchy feet.

On Saturday morning, Ida took Madeline shopping. Madeline carried Marvin in her bag with his head poking out the top. As they walked through the aisles of the department store, Marvin was delighted by the feeling of air on his face. When they stopped to sniff some bottles of perfume, Marvin got the chance he'd been waiting for. 

"Goodbye, dear Madeline. May we meet again someday," Marvin whispered before tumbling head-first out of the bag. 

He landed on the floor beside the cosmetics counter. Madeline and her grandmother moved on, leaving the little monkey behind. 

You would think Marvin was frightened. You would assume he felt quite alone. 

But this time, Marvin's smile was wide and true. Because Marvin wasn't the settling down kind of stuffed animal. He knew that sometimes, being lost is exactly the right place to be. 

And so began the long journey of Marvin the sock monkey.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of public transit.

Hi guys, it's Britt. If you've been reading my Friday posts, you'll probably know that I looove situations that involve people thrown, (or in this case crammed) together in a space. Where the illusionary borders between us dissolve. And this is definitely true with public transit.

As I write this in my notebook, there is a man sitting behind me on the bus, coughing loudly. I can hear the phlegm rattling in his throat and feel his warm breath on the back of my neck. Gross? Yes. Unsanitary? Totally. But what can I do? The bus is packed and there isn't anywhere to go. I just have to sit and share space with him.  

Public transit is a regular dramatic pressure-cooker.  
How many times have you seen someone loose it on the subway at rush hour? Have you ever wanted to murder a bus driver after waiting for what seemed like an eternity in the cold?
The floors are gummy. The seats are frayed and usually crusted with mysterious substances. Public transit is a screeching, shabby, rumbling, human comedy.

But transit also has it's transcendental moments. I'll never forget the afternoon in Seoul, South Korea, when I was standing in the bus stop in the pouring rain, drenched and miserable. Suddenly, the rain stopped. I looked beside me to see a tiny, ancient-looking woman holding her umbrella over my head. We stood there waiting for the bus, she and I, huddled together under that one umbrella like a couple of girlfriends.

Tell us your stories about public transit, (your experiences in Canada, and all over the world). Share the reasons why you love it. Or why you loathe it. 

Have an inspired weekend, dear adventurers. And please don't forget to move all the way back. 
Words of wisdom from our friends at the TTC.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lara is washing dishes in the sink. Her hands in yellow gloves are submerged in hot water. She lifts a mug and two women surface, like porcelain sirens. Water drips from their nubile bodies. Lara can hear the soft crackle of soap bubbles popping. She sighs.

She'd found the girlie mug at the secondhand store. It was supposed to be a peace offering, for Peter after their long days of silence. 

There's a ring of coffee residue at the bottom of the mug. Lara sticks her gloved hand inside it and scrubs at the bottom with a cloth.

Would it have been better if Peter had just had the damn affair? If he hadn't asked her permission first? 

At Luigi's restaurant, he posed the question between dinner and dessert. 

"It's not that I don't still love you, Lar," he'd said, "it's just that I have needs. And you just don't seem that interested anymore."

She'd said no. Absolutely not. Out of the question.

They drove home without speaking. After that, silence seemed to follow them wherever they went. It filled up the rooms of their house. 

So when Lara stood in the store with tears in her eyes and saw this mug sitting there, she thought it was just the thing. To make them laugh. To scoop up some of that horrible silence with. 

The bottom of the mug has come clean. Lara uses a towel to dry it, wiping those female bodies gently, like a lover. She puts the mug back on the shelf, where it will sit until tomorrow morning, when her husband will want it to use it again.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This job is my calling. I was guided to it, just like Joan of Arc.

Joan wore a suit of armor when she went into battle. I wear an orange and yellow vest with reflective stripes on the front and back. On my head is a matching cap, and my hands are in yellow gloves. Every night at home, I polish my whistle. When I step out into an intersection, my whistle gleams. 

It was a Monday afternoon when I arrived at my corner to find that two-bit phony, Marilyn Myers working my crossing.

Imagine this: Marilyn's long hair is loose, and her head is bare. Her vest is unzipped, and she's got no yellow gloves to speak of. And no respect as far as I can tell. She's waltzing across the street with those children behind her, without a care in this world-- acting like their precious lives aren't in her hands. She even pauses to wave at me, "Afternoon, Gladys," she says. 

Well, didn't I just feel a terrible roar rising in my throat? 

I thought I kept that roar to myself, but it turns out that I didn't. 
The doctors here say things about what happened next. They say that I charged at Marilyn Myers and knocked her over in the street. They say that I pummeled her with the butt of my stop sign.

Well, I don't know about that. But someone ripped the stop sign from my hands, and I did feel a man's arms go around me from behind. And then I heard shouting and sirens in the distance getting closer. 

"Citizen's arrest," they called it. As if that driver who got out of his car and attacked me was a hero. As if I was dangerous. I'll tell you what's dangerous: letting those children see me, their treasured crossing guard being brutalized like that. 

They say I’ll be in this institution for awhile. They say I need “treatment.” They can say whatever they like. I know the truth. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake because they were afraid of her. And I'll tell you a secret: I've still got my whistle. Every day I'm in my room here, polishing and polishing it. As soon as they let me out, I'll go back to my intersection. Those children need me.

Happy Valentine's Day, story-makers.

xo Britt

Friday, February 11, 2011

Casual Fridays: What's in that suitcase?

Hi guys. It's Britt. I don't know about you, but I think you can find some pretty awesome things curbside on garbage day. One afternoon, I discovered this old suitcase in somebody's trash.

It wasn't until much later that it occurred to me to actually look inside.

When I popped the suitcase open, a terrifically musty smell greeted me. Trying not to sneeze, I examined the contents. This sucker was chock full of someone's personal papers--from old traffic tickets and Christmas cards, to pet adoption forms and love letters.

As I rifled through this suitcase, I felt this delicious sense of catching a glimpse into a bigger story. These little scraps were clues to someone's life. When I thought about sharing these with you, I began to consider the implications. Was I doing this unknown person harm? And when does something become public property? I did find these items in the trash, after all. For whatever reason, someone had chosen to discard them. 

It's my goal with this blog to explore the connections between us. To point out the similarities, rather than highlight the differences. So here is a little look at what's inside this mysterious suitcase...

Imagine that someone discovered a suitcase full of items from your life. What conclusions would they come to? What would they wonder about you?

Have an inspired weekend, folks, and don't forget to look around. See you back here on Monday for a new story. 

ps. Anyone have an idea what the "8 letter word for what you need" could be?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

All the lawn ornaments were afraid of the gnomes. Sure, they had chubby pink cheeks, round bellies, and curly grey beards. They looked friendly. But when Vincent arrived from Florida with the other flamingos, he quickly discovered the gnomes ruled the yard. And they were ruthless. 

One evening, Eddie, the ceramic rabbit got a little too vocal with his opinions about how he thought things should be run around the lawn. The next morning, they found poor Eddie facedown at the bottom of the pond. 

Don Long Beard, the gnome boss only laughed. "That loudmouth sleeps with the fishes," he said, his cruel blue eyes glittering. Vincent knew that any one of them: the plastic turtles and skunks, the the wooden frog with his windmill legs, the plywood penguins, or even the porcelain lawn jockey--any of them could be next. Something had to be done.

It wasn't long before he got his chance. The night was cool and stormy. When a gust of wind hit, Vincent used it to pitch himself forward. His beak bumped the backside of Murray, the next flamingo over. Just as he'd hoped, Murray tipped, knocking into Estelle in front of him. And down the line it went, each bird toppling into, and knocking over the next.

Don Long Beard didn't have a chance. The last flamingo's beak landed squarely on the tip of his pointed red cap. Over Long Beard went, onto the driveway, where the force of the fall and the frigid air made him shatter. A cheer went up throughout the yard.

"Must've been the wind," the old lady said to herself the next morning, as she collected the pieces of the broken gnome and righted her fallen flamingos.

What Vincent and the others couldn't have known, was that inside the old lady's house was a fresh tube of crazy glue. And a repaired, but very cracked Don Long Beard would soon return to the lawn to seek his revenge.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Luca was being followed. At first he thought it was just other kids taking the alleys on their way home from school. But when he stopped to retrieve his soccer ball from under a fence, Luca looked back and saw they were no children. 

These figures were tall and dressed in black. Their faces were hidden by the shadow of dark hoods. They moved with synchronized steps.

Luca walked faster, feeling uneasy but not yet frightened. He risked another look back. The shadow people were still coming toward him, moving together as if connected by invisible strings. And they were gaining on him. Fear pricked him, and his heart began to pound. 

When he rounded a corner, Luca made his move. He zig-zagged around several garbage bins and charged through someone's open garage door. He hid behind a clear plastic tarp that covered a pile of old cans of paint. 

Hunched on the ground with his knees drawn in to his chest, Luca's breathing was ragged. His palms were sweaty, and twice he lost his grip on his knees. A sinking feeling came over him when he realized he'd forgotten his soccer ball outside in the alley. 

He thought of his mom. She'd be home from work by now, tired after her long day. He saw her standing at the stove in her stocking feet, stirring a pot. Waiting for him to come home and set the table.

The shadow people silently entered the garage. Luca could see them as dark shapes through the tarp. The closest one reached out its long-fingered hand and pulled back the plastic, revealing Luca in his hiding place.

Frozen, Luca watched as they removed their hoods. He saw their golden cat-like eyes and otherworldly glow. 

He knew then that he wouldn't be home in time for dinner.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Casual Fridays: The writing on the wall.

Hi guys, it's Britt. 

I'm heading to a "development workshop" today hosted by the Writer's Union of Canada, called  Secure Footing In A Changing Literary Landscape. I'm excited about it. I'm also a bit nervous about the whole "networking" thing. The idea of us participants sitting down together for lunch does have me regressing to my high school days and hoping that the "cool kids" will want to talk to me.

Before I go, I thought I'd share a few things with you. I do a lot of walking while looking for material for Tire Swing Stories and along the way, I've come across some interesting statements written on walls, from the silly to the sublime. So without further ado, I give you...

Yeah. Don't know what that last one's about.

If you guys have any wall-writing you've discovered in your travels and would like to share, send it my way and I'd be happy to post it up!

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

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My name is Buck T. Woodland, but you can call me Captain White Tail. 

I am the proud leader of the Algonquin Park Justice League. Our mission: to protect the forest from humans, by any means necessary. 

Too long have we animals suffered. We've been hit by their cars. Shot by their hunters. Our heads have been mounted on their walls. 

Today, I am waiting by the gravel road leading from the campground. There is a sharp bend up ahead that the humans are ignorant of. Using my antlers, I have knocked down the speed limit sign. Without that sign, they will inevitably take the road too fast and see the curve too late. 

I have been training my whole life for this moment. But there is just one problem...

The humans have a boy unlike any child I've ever seen. On stakeout, I've watched him for three days. He doesn't shout, or complain, or brutalize ants. He's not asked for television once. He seems to have no interest in ripping bark from birch trees or trampling saplings. 

Yesterday, he came upon me in my hiding spot. I raised my tail in alarm and froze. I expected him to rush at me, or run away. But he hunkered in the leaves and watched me with big curious eyes that reminded me of my own son. Later, I saw him drawing pictures of me in his sketchbook. 

From the bushes, I can see their SUV coming down the road. The boy's father looks for the speed limit and doesn't see one. He accelerates.  

Victory is at hand. But instead of sweet anticipation, I feel something else.

I think of the boy. I imagine the car spinning off the road and his face at the window. And his beautiful eyes, wide with animal panic. 

I know then that I have to stop them. I rush onto the road, directly in front of the speeding car. The next few moments are a blur.

My heart thunders. Tires squeal. Pieces of gravel rain on me and I smell rubber and exhaust. 

I open my eyes to find that the SUV has managed to stop a few feet away from where I stand. 

The boy climbs out of the car. Our eyes meet. Then, he smiles.