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.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mr. Wickson, our bus driver is an alien. At night, he beams to his spaceship. In the mornings, he comes back to earth to take us to school. 

He likes to eat dogs and cats. He told David Fraser that his dog, Marley wasn't allowed on the bus, cause he really just wanted to gobble Marley up. But he couldn't say that in front of us cause then we'd know the truth. 

He also has eyes in the back of his head. He told us that, and we didn't believe him, but then he knew Jon Hunter was giving Stan Roberts an indian rubber burn in the back seat, and he didn't even have to turn around. Mr. Wickson's alien eyes must be specially invisible, cause when I tried to look for them, all I could see was his regular brown hair. 

I told my Mom that the kids on the bus were in danger from a dog-eating alien and she said: "Olivia, we don't need any more of your tall tales." Then I tried to talk to my big sister, Margo about it. "Can it, squirt," she said. But Margo's boyfriend, Rick was interested.

"Have you seen stitches on the sides of his face?" he asked. 


"Most aliens use a human body as a host because their true form is too terrifying for us to see. But they have to get inside the body some way. So they saw off the face--" 

"Rick, that's enough," Mom said. 

"And watch out for his tongue," Rick added, "it's forked like a snake." 

The next day, instead of getting off the bus at my stop, I stood in front of Mr. Wickson, staring.

He leaned toward me. "Olivia Mercer, what are you doing?" he asked. 

"Looking for your stitches," I said. Then I whispered: "I know what you are."

Outside the bus, Mom and our dog, Blackie were waiting. "Olivia, for heaven's sake, hurry up," Mom said. Blackie barked.

Mr. Wickson smiled. "Good night, Olivia," he said. 

Just as I turned, I saw him lick his lips. And I swear his tongue was forked.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The birds are trying to take back the birdhouse. I can hear them out there, plotting. But a chipmunk's got a right. I made a sign that told them:

“a ChipMuk’s gota Rite”
But those birdbrains can't read, so I took it down. 

Forget my days of burrowing. It's warm and dry in here. I've stuffed my cheek pouches full of birdseed and there's still plenty more to eat. It's the perfect home for a rodent like me. And it really messes my stripes that birds everywhere get palaces like this. You don't ever hear of "chipmunk houses." It's a travesty. 

So I did something.

There are two old ladies who live in the house below, with hair that looks like soft white cotton, and sweaters with beads and glitter attached to them. They like to come and sit on the front porch and admire their garden. Sometimes they take photographs of the flowers.

One day, I approached the porch slowly, and the one on the left noticed me first.

"Oh! A cute little Chippie," she said, "just look at that little Chippie. Quick, Della, let's fetch him a nut."

When those old ladies disappeared inside the house, I stole their camera.

Now I can keep an eye on those birds through the lens. I zoom in for a closer look. They're everywhere: pigeons perched on the telephone wires, finches gathering on the lawn. That big robin, he's the ringleader. And those sparrows are following everything he does. Pushovers. It won't be long before the attack.

It starts with a woodpecker. He lands on my roof and drills against the tin. Rattattattattattat. The noise is nearly deafening. Then come the sparrows and chickadees, swooping and diving in front of the lens.

But they don't know I've got a secret weapon. When the moment is right, I press the button. The flash. Startled, the birds fly away. 

They'll be back and I'll be ready. This is my house now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Casual Fridays: These writing bones

Hi guys, it's Britt. I am absolutely in love with Natalie Goldberg. I was first introduced to her book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
a few years ago. I picked it up and started reading, and I fell hard.

Natalie's like a dear, wise friend, one who tells you to: "say what you mean," and "push yourself further."

Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life is her second book on writing and it's also fabulous. I've got one volume with the two books together, and it sits on my filing cabinet, ready to be picked up and leafed through at any moment. It's dog-eared and the cover is ripped because I'm tough on the books I love. I like to think of these tears and creases as the book's wrinkles. Its laugh lines.

My poor beaten-up book.

Natalie's a big fan of getting your first thoughts down using a pen and notebook. These days, I seem to spend a lot of time at the computer. Call me old-fashioned, but I think I'll always prefer a little table in a cafe, with my spiral notebook, a mug of strong coffee, and a plate with some kind of delightful baked good sitting on it.

Most of the time my writing is crap. But every now and again, I'll get on the second, or the third, or the fourteenth page of what I'm working on, and something cracks open. My pen is connected directly to my heart and I'm just letting it out. Speaking my truth. Later, I'll look down at what I've written and be amazed by it. And that's what I live for.

Can I share with you one of my favorite quotes from Wild Mind?

"I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am a woman trying to stand up in my own life. I write because to form a word with your lips and tongue or think a thing and then dare to write it down so you can never take it back is the most powerful thing I know." 


Have a bold weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday for another wee tale.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wendy can feel the concrete wall through the thin fabric of her jacket. Her back is chilled and her feet have gone to sleep beneath her, but she refuses to move. She's found a good hiding spot and is determined to win the game.

Footsteps approach and Wendy holds her breath. Then over the wall he comes, all blond hair and long limbs. Felix. 

She loves to say his name in secret. Felix. She writes his name in her journal. 

"Found you, Wendy," he says, "now you're It." 

But he doesn't leave, and instead, sits beside her with his back against the wall. He scoops up a handful of pebbles and lets them fall between his fingers. Wendy hears the pit, pit of the pebbles hitting the cement.

Felix shows her how to draw with a rock on the concrete. Wendy picks up a stone and writes: "Wendy was here" on the wall. She is looking at her name, and then Felix's hands are on her shoulders, and his mouth is on hers. 

His lips are moist and soft. He slides his tongue into her mouth and pushes it in and out. She can feel the little bumps of his taste buds. Her own tongue is a frightened animal, lying still in her mouth. She wants to move it, but she doesn't know how. She sees herself from a distance, like a girl in a movie. A girl being kissed. She wants it to be like the movie. How badly she wants this.

Then he pulls away and releases her shoulders. He's quick to his feet, and over the wall. Wendy stays where she is for a long time. Things have changed for her. She knows this without knowing how. This is the beginning of something.  

Finally she stands, and there is a prickling sensation in her feet. Blood, returning.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On a sweeping prairie, a young cowboy named McGee sits on his horse. 
He reaches into the saddlebag and pulls out a piece of paper. He unfolds the paper, removes his hat, and begins to read aloud. McGee is practicing.

"Dear Pa:
This letter was darn hard to write, but it's time to git right down to it. Pa, I'm done with cowboy'n. I'm set to move to the city. I have a dream. I am going to be a salesman of the great automobile.

I've seen them on television with their neckties and combed hair, talking fast. And those cars behind them shinin' like sunlight off a lake. Sometimes there's a lady or two with the salesman, smiling and pointing, and I reckon by their smiles, they're all good folks.

I'm tired of people out here taking their time and talkin' slow. I've got no friend but the cattle and the horses. I'm lousy on the harmonica, and my saddle chafes me something fierce. I can't stomach wieners and beans, and I'm spooked by my own gun.

Now I know your Pappy was a cowboy. And his father before him was a cowboy. But a man can let a lot of years pass wearin' somebody else's boots. And that won't be me. It's time for me to make my way in this world, to drive an automobile with one of them pretty ladies by my side. You say horses, Pa, but I say horsepower.

So I'm going to follow my dream. And I just pray to the good Lord you'll forgive me. 
Love: Your Son.

McGee is finished his letter. He returns it to his saddlebag and places his hat back onto his head. Then he wipes his face with a handkerchief and picks up the reigns. "Come on, Red," he says to his horse, "it's now or never." 

For a little cowboy mood-music, click here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Casual Fridays: Life is short.

"Vegan Love" cupcakes by The Sassy Lamb
Hi guys. It's Britt. I need to rant a little bit today. 

Ask anyone who has ever lost a loved one if they feel like they got enough time with them. The answer is no. Of course the answer is no. Life is short. And in my opinion (here's where the rant comes in), life is too damn short to: 

1. Not be kind.

2. To stay in a relationship, job, living situation, friendship, or mental state that doesn't work for you. 

3. To not eat carbs. (A word on this: My Gramma spent her entire life on a diet. Even when she was ninety years old, she'd still refrain from eating too large a slice of cake. "Just a sliver," she'd say. I believe in taking care of my body, and I do strive for balance. But now and again, we've got to treat ourselves. And if I make it to ninety, I'm going to eat cupcakes every day.)

4. To save our good underwear, nice clothes, or fancy dishes. We deserve to use and enjoy beautiful things now.

5. To be addicted to anything.

6. To be insecure about our big butts, our wobbly thighs, our gravity-susceptible breasts. To obsess about a too-large nose, crooked teeth, or a receding hairline, and to let any of these things stop us from loving liberally

I'm not very good at this. I forget. I worry about things that don't matter. But when life gives us reminders: a staggering sunset, the death of someone dear to us, or a heart-wrenching natural disaster, it's a call to remember that life is short. 

So that's why I had to try and get it down today. To help me keep things in perspective. To keep it real.What do you think? What are some things you need to remember?

Hold each other tight this weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Stewart Rumple collects doors. Saturday mornings, he examines the newspaper and circles garage sale listings that look promising. He maps out a route in his head. He will take his bicycle. He's rigged it up to carry the doors home.

Sometimes people stare at the man pedaling a rusted red bicycle with a door lashed to it by bungee cords. Stewart doesn't care. 

It started after Lee died. She'd never have put up with this kind of thing. He often marvels at how much he misses her chiding him about this or that. Now no one cares what Stewart does with himself. 

"And look what's happened, Lee-Lee," Stewart says aloud, his voice booming in the garage where he keeps his doors, "I've turned into an absolute nutter."

They'd all told him to meet someone new. Even Lee, before she went said: "Love, there's no use moping around when I'm gone. You just find somebody to care for you. It's--" Her speech dissolved into a fit of coughing. 

Two years have passed, and all Stewart can bring himself to do is get those doors. He imagines that each one opens onto a different reality.

Door one: He's five years old and has just caught a small brown frog. He holds it cupped in his palms and can feel the quivering little life inside his grip. 

Door two: He's thirteen years old and sitting in the passenger seat of his father's car. There is music on the radio, the Beach Boys, "Help me Rhonda."  The sound of the music feels exactly like sunshine.

Door three: He's sixteen and riding his bike down a hill. He removes his hands from the handlebars and stretches out his arms. 

Door Four. Five. Six. Seven.

Keep going. 
Stewart doesn't care what everybody says. He won't stop looking until he finds a door that leads back to her. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Ellie and the T-Rex
Part 2 
Have you ever heard a Tyrannosaurus Rex roar? 

Imagine your eardrums nearly bursting and your heart jumping around in your chest like it wants to get out. The skin on your arms is pimpled with gooseflesh, and all the little hairs on your neck stand on end. Feel your stomach flip and your legs turn to jelly. There. That's about right. 

When she arrived at school the next morning, Ellie found Barbara-Anne and the girls standing together, blocking the doorway. 

"Hey, smelly Ellie," Barbara called, "we've got a surprise for you." 

Ellie was scared and for a moment, forgot that behind the school where she'd left him, was her T-Rex.

She'd looped a jump-rope twice around his huge scaly ankle, fastened the rope to a chain link fence, and told the dinosaur to wait. Much to her surprise, the T-Rex wagged its tail (nearly uprooting two trees), and settled down for a nap. Ellie continued on alone.

"Hi Ellie," Barbara-Anne said, smiling. "Do you want your surprise?"

Ellie didn't notice the bucket Barbara-Anne was holding behind her back until it was too late. 

Mud poured over Ellie's head, ran down her hair, and oozed into the back of her shirt. She gasped in shock at the cold. The girls laughed. Ellie's nose began to tingle and she felt the tears starting to come.

"What's wrong, smelly Ellie?" Barbara said, "Are you gonna cry?" 

Then Ellie heard a sound. Boom. Boom. Boom. Like heavy footsteps getting closer. Ellie remembered that today was a special day because she wasn't alone. The T-Rex was coming to defend her.

Ellie felt something strong and fierce rising in her chest. She opened her mouth, and out came a ferocious roar. Ellie roared with all of her might.

Barbara-Anne dropped the bucket and ran. The group of girls followed her. 

When Ellie turned around, she didn't see the T-Rex standing behind her, as she'd expected. And when she checked behind the school, she saw that the dinosaur had vanished. 

That was the last day Ellie ever had to call her mother to come and get her at school. Barbara-Anne and the girls never bothered her again. 

For a long time after that, Ellie wondered what had happened to her Tyrannosaurus Rex. She looked and looked, but found no trace of him. 

Then one day, she was taking a shortcut home through the park and came across the jump-rope. And it was torn in two.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Casual Fridays: I've got a secret...

Hi guys, it's Britt. Today I want to talk about secrets. Here are some of mine: 

1. I like to watch America's Next Top Model. 
2. I'm afraid of horses. 
3. When I was twelve years old, I shoplifted a silver ring from a market. 
4. I occasionally imagine my own funeral, including music, mourners, and the eulogy. 
5. For dinner tonight, I ate an entire box of Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuits. 
6. Sometimes I fear I'm not good enough.

There's something electric about sharing a secret, about saying the thing you thought you couldn't (or shouldn't) say.  

In writing, as well as in acting, giving your character secrets helps to make them live. Why? Well, we've all got secrets, from the real doozies locked deep in our personal vaults, to the embarrassing tidbits we'd rather not share.

I'm reading a book right now, called: Dropped Threads: What we Aren't Told.  It's a series of reflective non-fiction essays written by prominent women. These women explore some of the life experiences that have shaped them, but they haven't ever shared in their work.

It's a beautiful book. There is so much power in being open with others and ourselves, and in speaking the truth. 

Make your own list of secrets. Include the little ones, and the whoppers. Feel how good it is to write them down. Imagine leaving the list in a place where a stranger might find it. What would that be like? 

Next time you're waiting for a bus or standing in line at the coffee shop, look around. What kinds of secrets do the people nearby have? Guess some of them. 

Have a revealing weekend, story makers. See you back here on Monday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sonny, the beaver was not to be trusted. The wooden shelf in the antique shop was getting smaller every day. 

"Can we be sure it's actually shrinking?" Louise, the ceramic swan asked.

"I can see more of the floor than yesterday," said Egbert, a glass lobster. 

Deborah, the crystal poodle spoke next. "I hear that devious beaver chewing in the night. I know it's him, and one day he's going to gnaw straight through this board and we're all going to fall. We'll be smashed to bits." 

Cries of horror went up throughout the shelf. 

"What should we do?" 

"I don't want to die." 


Edward, the stuffed owl took charge. "Clearly this murderous beaver must be stopped. I suggest we form a coalition. We'll call it: Wood Shelf Security."  

"Yes, yes," said the crowd, "what a smart owl." 

They had a meeting to discuss Sonny's relocation. In the far corner of the store were some metal shelves that would be perfect. 

"But what about the wooden clothespin doll over there?" Louise said, "she's sure to be his first victim." 

"The end justifies the means," Edward said. "Sometimes you must sacrifice one to save many." There were murmurs of agreement. It was decided. 

But had anyone thought to ask poor Sonny about the shrinking shelf, they would have discovered three important things: 

1. He dislikes the taste of wood. 
2. He is a pacifist. 
3. His place on the shelf affords him a view out the window. Sonny's favorite thing is to imagine shapes in the clouds. Because of this, he wouldn't destroy their perch for all the world. 

It was night when the humans came and covered them with a tarp. The knick-knacks were convinced the end had come. Some whispered prayers. Most were silent, gripped by terror. But the next morning, the tarp was pulled away. 

"That oughta' do it," one of the humans said to the other. "Worst case of termites I've seen in years. Good thing we sprayed now before the merchandise got damaged."

The next day, the kick-knacks recieved what they thought they had wanted. Sonny left their shelf. 

The peace-loving beaver was purchased by a family who lived in a house full of windows, with a spectacular view of the sky.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hi guys. It's Britt. Sometimes when you are writing a story, you fall in love. And when you fall in love, anything can happen. Right away this morning, I knew this one was going to exceed the 400 word count rule. I considered shelving it and just writing something else. But then I thought: Britt, it's your damn rule. If you made it, you can break it. 

So I'm breaking it!! 

Here is the first half of a story. Next Monday, I'll post the second half. And I'll try not to do it again. 
:) Britt

Ellie and the T-Rex 
Part 1

The group of girls circled Ellie like sharks. "Smelly Ellie. Smelly Ellie," they chanted. Barbara-Anne shoved Ellie hard in the chest, and she fell onto the wet spring ground. Water seeped through the fabric of her pants and her backside was covered in mud. She felt her nose tingle and hot tears slid down her cheeks.

Ms. Dennison, the school principal called her mother at work. Ellie sat in the office and listened to the clack-clack, clack-clack of her mother's heels drumming on the floor as she approached. 

Later, in the car, her Mom said: "Eleanor, we will not accept bullying." 
Ellie shifted and the plastic bags beneath her crackled. She'd had to sit on them so she wouldn't get the seat muddy with her pants. 

Then Ellie was at the library and discovered a book about dinosaurs called: "Predators and Prey." 

At home that night, she studied the illustrations and whispered the names of the dinosaurs, Velociraptor, Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and the words were like magic spells. Ellie fell asleep with the book lying across her chest. 

The next morning started out the same as any other. Cereal and cartoons, her Mom's voice telling her to brush her teeth, to put on clean socks. "A matching pair, Eleanor. And run a brush through that hair. It's starting to resemble a rat's nest." 

Walking to school, Ellie's stomach did flip-flops. She thought of Barbara Anne and the other girls. They would be waiting. What would they do to her today?

Suddenly the ground began to tremble. Ellie heard a booming behind her like heavy footsteps, getting closer. She turned and her mouth dropped open. 

Standing on the road was a Tyrannosaurus Rex. 

It stood taller than the houses and its teeth were big as fence posts. Ellie was too shocked to scream. She thought about running, but was sure if she ran, she'd be gobbled up. 

Then the dinosaur lowered its head and its huge black eye hovered right beside Ellie's face. Slowly, a new awareness filled her. It wasn't going to attack. 

Ellie did the most unbelievable thing. She stepped forward, reached out her small, pink, defenseless hand, and stroked the T-Rex on its scaly cheek. 

She knew then that this dinosaur was hers. It would keep her safe. And so she and her T-Rex continued on, to school.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Casual Fridays: Eliza-Jane's Picture in a Frame

Hi guys, it's Britt. 
I was rummaging through the racks at Value Village, which I sooo like to do, when I discovered this framed print:

It's Pic Island, by Lawren Harris of the Group of Seven. And while it is a lovely image, what I found most interesting was the inscription written on the back of the frame:

The note reads: 

Dear Christopher
Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday. I really love this picture. It means a lot to me, so the fact that I haven't given it to you yet is obviously a hint regarding how I really feel about you and parting with this meaningful picture. But don't worry. I'll start a fight just as I'm "about to" give it to you.
Love, Eliza-Jane 

I puzzled over this for a day or two. Eliza-Jane seemed downright cheeky in this inscription. How did she feel about Christopher? When she gave him her precious print, what happened next?

And then, the million-dollar question: 

How did Eliza-Jane's gift end up in the frame section of Value Village, twelve years after the note was written? 

I think we can probably guess. 

This led me to think about all of the little objects, the "artifacts" of a lost relationship. I've still got a box of Christmas decorations from my years with an old boyfriend. Inside, are ornaments we picked out together, and some we were given as gifts. I don't use these things any more--I don't decorate with them at Christmas time or anything--but I haven't been able to bring myself to throw them away.

The love letters, old pictures, giant stuffed panda bears. What to do with it all?

What do you think? What do you do with sentimental objects that no longer have a place in your life? I'd love to know. 

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

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

If you saw me in my Midway Muffler uniform, you'd think I was just a regular guy. But come Friday night, when I've got on tight jeans and my Nascar jacket, the ladies nearly fall off their bar stools to get at me. My name's Lester Monroe, but you can call me "Lance Romance."

I met Lana at Shoeless Joe's on 2 for 1 wing night. She was wearing jeans and a silky blue top cut low to give me a nice look at her goodies.

"How's a fine woman like you sitting all alone?" I says to her.

There's barbeque sauce on her chin, but she's still kind of pretty. I can tell she's older, but that don't matter. Lance Romance doesn't discriminate.

"Mind if I sit?" I ask. 

She doesn't mind at all. I cozy right up and start ordering doubles. And we both know she's gonna bring me home with her.

Next morning, I'm up early doing my get-out-of-dodge routine when she wakes. 

"Morning," she says. Now if there's one thing I don't like, it's a woman in the morning. Wrecked hair, smeared eye makeup, godawful breath. She holds out her arms like a baby wanting to be picked up. "Come over here and give me a kiss," she says. 

"I'm late," I say and high-tail it out the door. 

A week or so passes and I don't call her. It's not her fault, I don't call any of them. There's plenty of fish in the sea. So why would I cast out again with the same fish still flopping on my line? Catch and release, man. Catch and release. 

Then I get home from work at Midway Muffler, and I seen it. Somebody's gone and tacked up a "Beware of Dog" sign to my gate. It think it's Lana who did it, but truth-be-told, it could've been any of 'em. I'm staring at the sign and for some reason, I take of my ball cap, like I'm about to say a prayer. 

Maybe she's right? Maybe I am a dog. While I consider this, I scratch my head. 

Then I realize my hair's been flattened by my ball cap. I better go inside and give 'er a shampoo before tonight. It's Ladies' Night at Hoops and there's gonna be lots of pretty fishies just waiting for a bit of the ol' Lance Romance.