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, May 30, 2011

Kyle's shower ejected him on Tuesday while he was mid-shampoo. One moment, he was humming Help Me Rhonda, while lathering up and the next, he was lying on the sidewalk blinking through soap. 

Kyle sat up and looked around. Beside him on the ground was his Head and Shoulders, and assortment of loofah sponges. The shower must've spat those out too. He got shakily to his feet and then realized he was completely naked.

Kyle hurried down the alley between his house and the next. He swiped a bathrobe hanging from his neighbour's clothesline. It was a woman's robe: short and light blue with a duck embroidered on the pocket.

Barefoot and still dripping, Kyle entered his backyard and headed to the back door. As he approached, the lock on the door snapped shut. The same thing happened when he tried the front door. Just as he reached for the handle, the bolt clicked. Then, unbelievably, Kyle heard the sound of the metal security chain sliding into place. 

He tried the basement windows, but they wouldn't budge. When he used a rock to break a window, shards of glass shot at him. He yeowled and ran, dodging the wicked spikes.

Red-faced and sweating, Kyle collapsed in the middle of his yard. 

It was clear that his house wanted him out.

Truth be told, he'd hated that thing from day one. It was his ex-wife, Barb's idea to buy it. She'd wanted a fixer-upper. They paid contractors to come in and gut it. Over time, it became clear that what Barb really wanted to fix-up, was Kyle.

Unsatisfied with her husband-project, Barb ran off. Kyle refused to put any more work into the house. For the past year, he'd lived among rubble and it was clear that the house resented him for it. 

Lying on the grass, looking up at the cursed house, Kyle got an idea. In the toolshed, he found just what he needed. 

The fire caught much faster than he expected. Smoke billowed and the flames danced higher and higher. The heat from the blaze was intense. 

"Ha! Ha!" Kyle exclaimed, clapping his hands and performing a wild victory dance in his blue bathrobe. 

He could hear sirens in the distance, getting closer. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Casual Fridays: Show me your stuff

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
This sign is a re-creation of what my friend Laura found on a menu board at a bus station somewhere between Ottawa and Toronto. I have a chalkboard in my kitchen and last weekend Laura wrote it out to show me what she'd seen. 
It made me want to say to you: Please, pretty please with a cherry on top, send me photos of the odd and wonderful things you come across!!! 
Let me write a story about a photo you've taken. Or write one of your own inspired by an object you stumbled across, and I'll post it up here. 

The world is a wacky place. Let's share in it. 

Have a nutty weekend story-makers. See you back here on Monday. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jasper Delaney Part 2

Jasper Delaney, a boy born in the middle of an electrical storm, had many trials to face. When he was nine years old, he lost both of his parents in a car accident. No other family members came to take him in, and so Jasper was sent to Our Lady of Mercy, an orphanage.

The orphanage was built in an old school. It was a cold, damp place, full of echoes. The children slept in the gymnasium in rows of cots, under sheets that smelled of bleach. 

Jasper didn't have a single friend. He no longer ran everywhere or got into any kind of mischief. To everyone, Jasper almost seemed not to exist. Everyone but Abigail Scrap.

Abigail Scrap lived in the orphanage too. She never appeared to care that her skin was always dirty and her blond hair was tangled. Abigail was thin, and malnourishment as a young child had stunted her growth. She was much smaller than the other kids her age.

One day, she approached Jasper, who was sitting in the middle of the courtyard under the branches of a crabapple tree.
"Greetings," she said, "my name's Abigail Scrap. I'm nine years old, but I'll be ten next week."
Jasper looked up at this strange girl. He couldn't help but smile.
"My birthday's next week too," he said.
Abigail took Jasper's response as an invitation and sat on her haunches beside him."You can call me Abbie," she said.  

They were born on the same day, during the same thunderstorm.

Then for reasons he couldn't understand, Jasper told Abbie about the foal he'd saved. "I'm different," Jasper said, "I can do things. Healing things."
Abbie leaned in closer until Jasper could smell her unwashed hair. She regarded him with her clear blue eyes. "I can too," she whispered. 

In the cellar, they found a poisoned rat writhing in pain. Abbie crouched beside it. She placed her small hand on the rat’s body and it immediately grew still. Then, after a moment, the rodent sprang to its feet and scurried away.

Jasper smiled at Abbie, his first real friend. 
“I wonder how many more of us there are?" he said. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jasper Delaney Part 1

Jasper Delaney was born on April 15th during an electrical storm. Moments before the storm hit, Eli hurried into the farmhouse to find his wife, Iris, lying on the kitchen floor. 

"Baby's coming," Iris moaned. 

There wasn't time to call a neighbor for help. Thunder and lightening raked the sky. The farmhouse lost power. And little Jasper rushed into the world.

An odd boy with large grey-green eyes and brown curly hair, Jasper loved to get into trouble. Eli and Iris tried to reign in their son, but mischief seemed to follow Jasper wherever he went. 

They had him paint the shed. He painted his two feet instead--one black, one red, and he raced around the yard, staining the blades of grass and leaving footprints along the lane. One night, he neglected to close the chicken coop and three hens escaped and began roosting in the trees overhead.

When Jasper was six years old, the farm came upon hard times. One by one, their horses got sick.

On a spring morning, their mare gave birth and then died, leaving her sick foal struggling beside her. Eli went to get his gun. When his father was gone, Jasper climbed over the rough wooden fence and stepped slowly toward the horses.

The foal was lying on its side, kicking its long legs and neighing helplessly. Foam leaked from its mouth. Jasper reached down and placed a hand on its body. The foal became still and Jasper thought it was dead.

Then something happened. 

As if charged by some mysterious force, the animal started. It looked up at Jasper, blinking and then began to rise on its shaky legs. 

Eli returned with his rifle to find the healthy foal taking its first tentative steps. 

"It's a miracle," Eli exclaimed. 

But Jasper knew that it wasn't a miracle that saved the horse. It was him. 

to be continued on Wednesday...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hi guys, it's Britt. 
Okay, so here's the deal: I got up this morning at 5 am and traveled to the airport for my 7 am flight from Toronto to Phoenix. I'm going to be in Tucson, Arizona visiting my family for the next week. I thought that I'd work on my Monday story throughout the day today and then post it when I arrived. 
But the universe had other plans. 

A delayed flight. A blown-out tire on the way from Phoenix to Tucson. A little sister who had a softball double-header tonight that I needed to attend. The warm Arizona night air. My jet lagged brain. 
All of these factors are contributing to why I don't yet have a Monday post. 
I have decided to forgo the guilt and the apologies and just shrug my shoulders. Sometimes life just happens. 
It'll be a Tuesday story this week. And I'm hoping it'll be a doozey. 
Love to you, story makers. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Casual Fridays: Keep on keepin' on

Hi guys, it's Britt. 
I've heard time and time again that if you want to be a writer, you must learn to face rejection. Desensitize yourself to it. Realize that it's not personal. But sometimes, rejection just makes me want to do this:

I know that we all face closed doors no matter what career path we've chosen, but if you've ever worked crappy job after crappy job, existed primarily on rice and beans, and faced people asking you what you are "doing with your life," yet another NO stings. It sucks.

Recently, I was rejected for a contest that I thought I had a good shot at winning. I know the number of submissions was high, but I liked my little story. At the post office, I gave my envelope a kiss like it was a favorite child, and told the story to "go out there and get em." 

My beloved little baby didn't do so well. 

Still, if we are going to continue to create, we must be willing to face the rejection dragon.

Some writers paper entire rooms with rejection slips. I have a folder in my office for rejection letters. On the front of it, I've written: "Rejection, but soon to be Acceptance letters." 

I think the important thing is to keep going. Crawl back under the covers for a bit, but then get up, get into the shower, and put the coffee pot on. And sit down to write. 

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

What do you think? Can we have a little sing-a-long today? Click here.

p.s. I actually like rice and beans. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

She's out there somewhere in this city doing God knows what. 

I'm sitting in the car in the driveway. It's getting cold in here but I still can't bring myself to turn the key. I want to--I want to drive these streets until I find my daughter, Erin, and carry her home. 

She's started stealing from my wallet. I don't know for how many months now. I've only just clued in. I planted a couple of extra twenties in there just to be sure, and the next day the money was gone. 

How did this happen? My mind recalls a thousand things we've done wrong, ways Liz and I could've been better. Sitting in the rear windshield of the car is my Sheriff's hat. A Christmas gift from Erin years ago. I was the law around these parts. Now it's the hat of a fool.

Thing is, I miss her. We used to be buddies. That's what she called me: "Buddy," instead of Dad. 

We'd do stunts in the pool, whole routines that she'd make up. Our grand finale was always Erin standing on my shoulders. I'd duck underwater and she'd climb on my back like a little monkey. Then I'd take hold of her ankles and stand up and she'd pop out of the water with her arms open.

Now it's just that I'm drowning and she's out there in the air with her arms outstretched and I can't hold on to her. 

I must've dozed off, because I wake to her face at the car window, peering in at me. She's got on too much makeup, but I don't care because I'm just so glad to see that face. 

She goes around to the passenger side and gets in. I can smell the booze on her and the cigarettes and perfume that's too old for her. Her skirt is short and I look at her bare knees, those too-skinny knees, and they are the knees of a little girl. I feel choked. She speaks first.  

"Where are we going, Buddy?" she asks me.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The blueberry muffin is driving me crazy. We're the last two desserts in this display fridge. The paper doily under me is stiff and uncomfortable and my cherry filling is starting to seize up in the cold. 

I'm the tastier one. I'm a slice of Black Forest cake, but I prefer to be called Darryl. I was baked three days ago in a kitchen not too far from this cafe. I had a few hours of peace before he arrived in the fridge. 

"Hey all, I'm a Blueberry Muffin," he said, "and my name is Glen. I'm so happy to be here." 

Happy to be here? Happy to be exposed under these lights and gobbled up by the first human who fancies you? What a nitwit. 

In the beginning it was easy to ignore him. But then one-by-one, the desserts around us were purchased. First, the brownies and chocolate chip cookies. Then, the cake pops and the shortbread. Now it's just the two of us. The reason we're still left? He's made of spelt flour and my frosting is smudged. 

"Darryl?" I hear him say. "Darryl?" 

"What is it, Glen?" 

"Well, I was wondering if you might want to play a game. You know, to pass the time?" 

"A game?" 

"Sure. Like trivia maybe, or I-Spy. I'll go first. 'I spy something white.' Okay, so now you have to guess." 


"Guess the thing that is white. Is it my plate? Is it that napkin?"

"I'd just like some peace and quiet if you don't mind."

"Oh. Okay, Darryl. Sure thing. Sorry."

Night comes and the lights of the cafe go out. Without warning, someone slides open the display fridge door and reaches for us. Glen and I are carried to a large green bin and tossed inside. We fall onto a mound of rotting food and the lid above us is snapped shut. In the darkness, I feel Glen beside me, and a rush of gratitude that he is here, after all.

"Glen?" I whisper. 

"Yes?" he answers.

"Do you want to play a game?"

Friday, May 13, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of airports.

Hi guys. It's Britt. I love airports. Really, I do. How many books and movies have included scenes at airports? There's a reason. It's a place chock-full of dramatic possibilities.

Airports can be maddening. A place where you wait, often with your eyes bleary from lack of sleep, your stomach complaining from bad food, jet-lagged and foggy-brained. But I think all that's okay. Because we're there after all, to file into a tin can and go 36,000 feet into the air together. And something that miraculous shouldn't be easy. 

Do you love airports too? Loathe them? Do you have any great airport stories?

I have always wanted someone to meet me at the arrivals gate holding a sign with my name on it. Years ago, I traveled to Nepal to work as a volunteer English teacher. Before my flight, the school principal told me by email that he was sending his son to the airport to pick me up, and lo and behold, he'd be carrying a "Brittany Smith" sign! 

But when I arrived at the Kathmandu airport and scanned the crowd, I couldn't see anyone holding a sign with my name on it. I was crushed. 

An associate of the principal eventually found me wandering the airport. As it turns out, a landslide had blocked the road from the village to the city and so the principal's son couldn't come. My dreams of the "Brittany Smith sign" were over. 

Next time you're in an airport, look around. Notice how immensely human the place is. See how all around you, there are reunions and departures. Goodbyes. Fresh starts. People returning home. It's beautiful. 

Leap continents this weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday. 

And I know it's cheesy, but it makes me smile. Click here to watch the opening minute of the movie Love Actually. Airport-love at it's finest.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today Mason is walking to school alone. His mom usually takes him, but she's got another doctor's appointment. She tried to get Mrs. Bunt next door to do it, but Mason refused. 

Mrs. Bunt smells like mothballs and she tries to hold Mason's hand when they cross the street. And she won't let him count. On days when Mason doesn't count, he arrives at school feeling light and insubstantial as a lost balloon. He knows the kids think he's weird. They call him "Mental Mason."

But his mom understands about his counting. "You're just different, Mayfly," she says, "I love you no matter what." It's only the two of them at home now since his Dad left. And they're doing okay, aren't they?  

So here he is, with his red backpack and blue ball cap and his two feet in sneakers, walking on his own to school.

Mason counts the things he passes. He always counts until he gets to eleven and stops. He taps his leg with his forefinger to keep track. 

Brown mailboxes. One (tap), two (tap), three (tap).

Tulips. Cats on porches. White doors. 

On and on Mason's list goes, as he takes stock of the world around him, tallying it up. 

He passes a lamppost and notices that not so much on it, as in it, is the letter K. 

Things that start with K.

Mason turns, scanning around him, his finger held up ready to tap his leg. "K," he says softly to himself as he looks. But nothing around Mason starts with the letter K.

Suddenly his breathing becomes very fast. He holds tightly to the straps of his backpack like it's a parachute.

"K. K. K. K. K." 

Mason feels very dizzy now. He is certain that his bones are filling with air. He knows if he can't find something soon that begins with the letter K, he is going to lift up and be carried away. 

He wants his mother, but she's far away at the doctor's. He realizes he is crying.

Then Mason looks to the sky and sees green and yellow fluttering in the distance. 


Relief washes through him like a warm wave. Strength returns to his legs. Mason continues on to school, keeping his eyes on the kite.

to be continued...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Something funny was happening to Everett. 

At night in the dorm, while all the other first-year law students were sleeping, Everett stayed awake making balloon animals. There was so much squeaking and hissing of air, his roommate had to get ear plugs. 

Soon, Everett moved on from dogs and horses, to dragons and tropical fish. As he walked through campus, Everett searched for new balloon shapes he could make. He wanted to bend the bright colors of the world. 

In class, he began drawing pictures of balloon animals in his notebooks. 

"Everett Lardiner, are we keeping you from something?" asked his Legal Reasoning professor. 

Everett looked up from his drawing. In his mind, the old man's nose began to stretch. His neck became longer and longer. His limbs extended. Then, in a few deft movements, Everett twisted his Legal Reasoning professor into an elaborate hat. 

He thought he might need some help. He went to the computer, planning to type: "counseling for law students" into the keyboard, but entered the words: "clown school," instead.

Mrs. May's Clowning College. Everett's heart thundered as he entered the site and read: "For Anyone Who Seeks the Way of the Clown." He knew then his life was about to change. 

The next weekend he went home to see his parents. 

They sat inside the screened-in porch. Everett and his father drank scotch and soda and his mother had iced tea. The May evening was humid and Everett could see the dark bodies of mosquitoes against the screen. He sympathized with them. He too, was searching for an opening.

"Tell us about law school, honey," his mom urged. 

From his pocket, Everett produced a bag of brightly colored balloons. He made his mother a Dachshund. She held it outstretched as if it would bite her. 

"What kind of nit-wit joke is this?" his father said. 

Everett put down his glass. He cleared his throat and then told his parents what he'd come to say.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of lists.

Hi guys, it's Britt.
Are you a list maker? I am. My notebooks are full of shopping lists and to-do lists. If I venture into a grocery store without one, I'm usually lost within seconds. "Do I need tofu?" "Do I have toothpaste?" "Is the toilet paper gone?" 
A list is a plan, a map to what you need.

Lately, I've been collecting discarded lists that I find on the ground. They're pretty neat--I think there's a story in each one. 

Have you heard of FOUND magazine? 
They collect odd and interesting findings that people send in, and publish them both in print and online. Click here to check it out.

In the spirit of FOUND, if any of you discovers an interesting tidbit in your wanderings, send it to me and I'll put it up here. A note tucked into a library book, a discarded to-do list, an old photograph, anything goes! I'd love to see it, and share it. 

Oh, and I don't know if I say this enough, story-makers, but thanks so much for coming here and reading my blog. I really love and appreciate you.

See you back here on Monday for a new story. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Come on in and have a seat. Excuse the mess, I've never been much of a housekeeper. Can I get you something to drink? A soda? Or maybe you want something stronger? Think I've got some Irish whisky. How bout a little of that? Puts hair on your chest.

So. You want to know about my car. Ol' Beaut is what I call her. Course, back in the day, she was Beauty. 

Lola and I were married thirteen years when we got Beauty. Drove home one night and parked the new car in the driveway, and Lola came outta the house with her hands on her hips and said: "Francis, what have you done?" Course, I knew she wasn't really mad by the way her lips kept wanting to smile, you know? 

We used to go out on the weekends, driving down to the beach, me and Lola and our three little ones in the back. And I can remember Lola had this silky scarf the color of butter and she used to tie it under her chin when we drove, just like Elizabeth Taylor. 

And sometimes when the kids were in bed, me an Lola used to sneak out to the driveway and into that car. 

Awh shoot, you're not here to talk about this. The whisky's making me sentimental. That's why I don't drink much. I do, and my eyes just start a leaking. 

See, there's not a day goes by I don't miss Lola. Course she was gone from me long before she actually went. She had Alzheimer's. Terrible thing, that. 

When she got real bad near the end and had to stay at Garden Gate Rest Home, nothing got through to her. She'd get real agitated when me and the kids came round, cause she no longer knew us. 

But there's one thing that calmed Lola down, and that was riding in Ol' Beaut. If I could manage to get her out of Garden Gate for a few hours, and onto the open road, she'd get a real peaceful smile on her face. She loved to have the window down and the wind blowing her hair around. Sometimes she'd even hang her arm out the window, like she was trying to catch the wind in her hand. 

I've gone and run away with myself again, haven't I? 

Well, I really do thank you for coming out here, but I'm sure you've probably guessed by now, that I just can't sell that car. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

 My friends say I always pick the wrong males. 

Oh sure, there was the Hawk who made everyone uncomfortable, and that Woodpecker who wouldn't let anyone get a word in. The Bowerbird tried too hard. And the Sparrow was a pushover. After that, I swore I'd stop meeting guys at the Feeders. 

But I've found someone new. A Cardinal. And he's perfect. 

I was digging for grubs in Mr. Donnelly's yard, when I noticed him standing there. And I had my beak full of larvae and dirt on my head, but he didn't seem to care. He's like that, my Cardinal. Nothing phases him. 

He's the strong silent type. He lets me speak and he really listens. I told him about myself and he didn't interrupt me or start preening. 

And he's cute! Bright red plumage and beautiful golden eyes. 

I'm a good-looking Chickadee. But I'm no Hummingbird, let me tell you. Still, my Cardinal seems to ignore the other females in the yard. He really knows how to make me feel special.

My friends are telling me to bring him around. I asked him if he's ready to meet them, and he didn't respond. He's just thinking about it, that's all. 

Say what you want about my track record. This time, it's different.