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.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of sidewalk chalk

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
Give a little or a big kid a stick of sidewalk chalk and they'll got absolutely nuts. I love walking down streets in the summer and checking out the works of art.

Chalk art drawings are spontaneous little gifts. They catch you unawares and brighten your day. Look at this one. My talented friend, Sara called it: "Sweet Sunsets Sinking into the Pavement." Sigh... 

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

People have names. Animals have names. Little porcelain seal figurines do not have names. 

Irene, the antiques dealer wants me to go home with anybody who's got the money, but I've been waiting for someone. 

I'm not exactly sure who yet, but I'll know it when I see them. 

It's Sunday at the St. Lawrence Antique market and we've just opened. The crowd spills through the doors. 

Irene's got on her red lipstick that always leaves a smudge on the rim of her paper coffee cup. Wisps of grey hair have come loose from her bun. She smiles her best smile at the customers. 

"I've got a set of silver thimbles from the Art Deco period," she says, "or maybe, you want a porcealin seal figurine?" With that, she lifts me into the air. I am passed around from hand to hand and then returned to the edge of the table. They don't want me, but it doesn't matter. I am waiting for someone. 

He isn't a customer. He's snuck in without paying the entrance fee. A small boy with brown curly hair that looks like it hasn't seen a brush in days. His shirt is too big for him and unraveling at the bottom. 

He comes closer to Irene's booth, where I am sitting on the edge of the table. He reaches out his small hand and strokes my head, strokes it as if I were a real seal and not just a figurine. "Hi," the boy says, "I'm Jonah. What's your name?"

Irene notices him. She takes in his unwashed appearance and dirty frayed shirt. "Get away from my booth, you filthy little scamp," she barks. 

Startled, Jonah backs away. He turns and leaves the market. But not without slipping me inside his pocket first. 

I found who I was looking for. And, he found me.

Monday, July 25, 2011

First there was George. Then Allan. And now, Richard. 

Did I tell you, doctor, that the first time I saw Richard, he was having dinner with his wife? Allan and I were at Le Vecchia and they were at the next table. I remember how handsome Richard was in his suit jacket and tie. Like a politician. And his wife was beside him, Barbara? Or no, Donna. 

"Excuse me," I leaned over and said to him, "do I know you from somewhere?" Of course, this wasn't true--I'd never seen him before in my life--but it got his attention, which was all I needed. He smiled at me and I knew it was on. And his wife barely even glanced up from her Chicken Kiev to notice.

Doctor, may I have a mint? Ooh. These are good. Caramel, not just the regular kind. 

You know, I never would've thought of going to therapy. But my friend, Cheryl has been seeing a therapist and he's fixed her right up. She's got anxiety, poor thing. Won't go anyplace where she can't see the exit. No grocery stores. Used to break out in a cold sweat if I even said the word: "Costco." Now she's at the mall every other day and doesn't even care if she can see the exit or not. It's a real miracle. 

What's that, doctor? 

Oh yes, we're here to talk about me. Right. 

Those wives are everywhere, looking smug. They think they're safe cause they've got a ring on their finger. Do you know how easy it is to land a married man? It's a world of starving husbands and there you are, just dangling the bacon. 

But then once you start in with those married men, it's never enough. And ordinary relationships just don't have the same thrill anymore. 

Maybe I'm not totally a lost cause. If Cheryl can get over her problem, I can too. Tell you what, next time I meet an interesting man, if I see a ring on his finger, I am going to head the other way. No more motel rendezvous, or calling me on the private line. My next relationship is going to be as healthy as a fresh patch of grass. 

Ooh. These caramels really are good aren't they? Delectable.

Tell me something, doctor. Are you married?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Casual Fridays: For the love of clothes lines

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
Okay, well, you might think this is weird or pervy, but I really love clothes lines. When I'm traveling, or even just making my way through my day, I love to take pictures of them. I think the clothes line tells stories. 

Stories about the people who live in a place, what they do for a living. Little hints as to how their lives are lived. 

Socks and shirts and nightgowns fluttering. Table cloths and wool socks.

I dunno, I find something romantic about it. And you can't beat the smell of sheets that have dried in the sunshine. 

Am I crazy? 

Hang yourself out there this weekend, story makers. See you back here on Monday. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kabir waits for her under the evergreen tree in the backyard. The space between the lowest branches and the ground creates a secret room. She joins him and they crouch on sharp needles. The air is fragrant with pine.

They are fifteen. He says her name: "Jenny." Coming from his mouth, it sounds like the word for a precious thing.

Between them on the ground is a spool of thick cord. "Take this," he says, "when you get back to your room, throw the other end to me at my window. It will be our tightrope. We can cross between."

Kabir and his family live next door in their suburb in Oakville, though the two houses are so different, they could be on separate ends of the earth. His house is a loud, bright, clamorous place. Hers is hushed and dim. He has three brothers and two sisters. She is an only child.

When Kabir's family first moved in, Jenny went to see them one afternoon and returned with her stomach full of sweet pastries and fizzy pop. On her wrist, clinked bangle bracelets given to her by Kabir's two beautiful sisters. On her forehead, was a red bindi dot. She was sticky and flushed, and deliriously happy.

"It's shameless," her mother said, scrubbing Jenny's forehead. Then she said something that broke her daughter's heart."Those people are not like us. You will not spend any more time with them."

Every day after that, Jenny watched Kabir and his family from her window.

Then one day, a note appeared in Kabir's bedroom window, written large enough for Jenny to read. "Meet me under the pine tree at the back of our yard." 

Now as he gives her the spool of rope, Kabir leans forward. His lips brush her cheek. "You must go home now, my Jenny," he says, "don't forget to throw the line." 

She rushes upstairs to her bedroom window. He is there on the other side and she unwraps the rope and tosses the end. It arcs into the air and lands in his outstretched hand. 

They both know they can't actually cross. But for now, this line strung up between them is enough. And in time, Jenny will find a way over. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Josh's keyboard was causing problems. When he wasn't looking, it wrote: "Mr. Beaver must die," on the screen. 

The courser blinked like an accusing finger. But Josh didn't type that message. It was the keyboard. The keyboard was to blame. 

Josh unplugged the keyboard and carried it downstairs where he left it beside the dumpster. 

He decided to get a new one and stood in the store for a very long time, examining the different models until he found one with honest-looking keys. 
But the next day, Josh discovered the same words: "Mr. Beaver must die," on his computer screen. 

Josh stomped around his apartment. He kicked over his kitchen chairs and ripped the sheets from his bed. He wrenched on the ends of his hair, which he usually did when he was upset.

When his third keyboard wrote the same thing, Josh began to wonder. What did those words mean? And who was Mr. Beaver? 

Then it came to him. He would find this Mr. Beaver and get some answers. And if this mystery man, whoever he was, caused any trouble-well, Josh couldn't say what would happen then. He hoped it would go well. But he would do what had to do, to stop all this. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Casual Fridays: Mountain Lions & Bunny Rabbits

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
I'm right in the thick of party-planning, hosting a bridal shower for my bestest friend in the universe. Here she is with her little bunny, Harry: 

Alison and I have been thick as thieves since grade nine when I asked to borrow her lipstick after gym class. We immediately bonded over scary movies (Pet Cemetery), Meatloaf (the band, not the ground beef cake), and McDonald's french fries (with bbq and plum sauce for dipping). 

As teenagers growing up in a small town, we spent a lot of time dreaming about the grand shimmering lives we would have as adults. And our grown-up lives are actually pretty cool. Alison's started a business, Coriander Girl, a flourishing flower shop, and in three weeks, she's going to marry a wonderful guy.

And we still get to share our triumphs, disappointments, false starts, and big dreams. We're still around for the adventures and the snacks. (though neither of us will actually eat McDonald's fries anymore.)

It's amazing to me that our stories have played out side-by-side for long. And I feel really blessed that I get to watch the rest of our tale unfold. She's a mountain lion, my Alison.

Okay, I gotta get back to the kitchen!

Be grateful for what you have this weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Margo and the Red Umbrella: Part 2

To read Part 1 click here.

The raindrops smack-spattered the top of the red umbrella. Margo, the cat, and the old man walked on. 

Ahead, they could see a woman wrestling with a small and flimsy-looking black umbrella that had turned itself inside out. The woman was dressed in a grey suit and her wet hair clung to her face. She shook the umbrella violently. "Come on, come on!" she said, but it refused to co-operate.

The woman noticed them watching her. "I'm late for a very important meeting," she said. 

Margo didn't know what it was like to be late for a meeting, but she certainly understood what it was like to struggle. "Come and join us under here," she said to the woman, "we'll get you there." 

The woman grinned and pushed her wet hair out of her eyes. She ducked beneath Margo's red umbrella. 

It wasn't even all that crowded under there. Sure they, had to huddle a little closer together, but there was certainly enough room. (Margo caught the scent of peppermints on the old man's breath. She smiled at him and he passed her a candy. The cat's breath was rather bad, but they were all too polite to mention it.)

When they passed an alley, Margo could see a man crouched in a doorway.  

His head was down and raindrops were falling down the back of his frayed coat, but he didn't seem to care. One of his shoes had a hole in the toe and Margo shivered at the thought of those wet feet.

The man looked up and took in the sight of the umbrella and the little group clustered beneath it. He sighed.

"I don't have anyone," he said, "not a soul in this world."

 Margo didn't know what it was like to sit in an alley with it raining into your coat, but she certainly knew about loneliness. Loneliness was the one thing Margo knew about the most.

"I was wondering if you might like to join us?" she asked him. 


"Because it's raining awfully hard. And it's dry under here. There's even peppermints." 

The man gave her a little half-smile. Then he rose shakily to his feet.

It had been a most unusual morning. Margo looked around her and saw that under the red umbrella were some unexpected friends.

And you know the strangest thing? None of them were quite so sad, so confused, so frustrated, or so lonely ever again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hi guys. It's Britt. Now I know I did say that today's post was going to be Margo and the Red Umbrella Part 2, but this little story has got me giggling this morning, so I wanted to share it with you instead. Look for Margo and the Red Umbrella Part 2 on Wednesday.  

Welcome. I'm your new Supervisor. Name's Barry Sparks, but you can just call me Sir. Ho ho! 

Here at Master Steaks, we're a real team. There's no "I" in team, but backwards, it spells "meat." I always say that. It's my little thing. Course, it doesn't spell meat. Team, backwards. But most folks just appreciate the joke.

And speaking of jokes! Your new co-workers in this factory are a real bunch of kidders. You'd better watch out for Stan and Carlos especially. One time, we discovered my hard hat sitting right on top of a steer's head on its way to slaughter. My hard hat. Ho ho!

And that Belinda in the office, she's a real pistol too. She's called the Food Safety Inspection Agency on us, I don't know how many times. And once she said: "Sir, there's a surprise for you," and it was an audit, when I thought she'd gotten me something for my birthday.

But then, don't think we're not safe in this factory. We're all about safety. 

Just look at this sign over here. We've been a whole 19 days without an accident. 

I know what you're thinking and let me tell you, if you do ever find a severed finger (or a hand), don't try to be a hero. Just leave it where it is and call for Medical. There's a procedure, see. And don't forget that if you discover a finger, a team member nearby is probably having a lousy day and could use a little cheering up! 

Now I know some folks think that there's nothing for them in this line of work. They'll tell you it's dangerous and there's nasty working conditions. 

These people just don't know how much fun we have in here. We're a real team at Master Steaks. And as you know, there's no "I" in team. But there's meat!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Casual Fridays: Be in love with your life

"Be in love with your life...
Write what you want 
Bottomless from the bottom of the mind 
Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition 
Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.
-Jack Kerouac

Amaze yourself this weekend, story makers. See you back here on Monday. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Margo and the Red Umbrella: Part 1

When Margo's mom left their family and never came home again, three things stayed behind. The first was a half-empty bottle of baby powder. The second, was a key chain that said: "Flora" (her mother's name) on it. And the third thing was a large red umbrella. 

Margo took these items from her parent's room. At night, she dusted her sheets and pillow with the powder so she could fall asleep inhaling her mother's scent. She carried the key chain in her pocket, even though she had no keys. Whenever she thought of it, Margo would hold the key chain and make a wish. Her wish was always the same.

Of the three things her mother left behind, Margo loved the red umbrella most. 

It was much too big for such a little girl, and she wobbled slightly under the weight, but Margo insisted on carrying it. It was a bright red sky above her, keeping her safe.

Then one day it began to rain. It rained harder and longer than the town of Aberdeen had ever seen. 

On her way to school one morning, Margo passed a pine tree, and along with the sound of the raindrops pattering on the umbrella, she could hear a cat crying. She stopped. "Here, kitty, kitty," she called. And sure enough, a little orange cat emerged from beneath the tree, drenched and shaking.

Margo didn't know what it was like to be a wet cat. But she certainly understood what it was like to cry. "Would you like to come under my umbrella?" she asked. The cat studied her with its green eyes and then joined her. 

Margo and the cat continued on and discovered an old man standing beside a car, fumbling with a set of keys. Water droplets fell from his bushy white eyebrows. His soggy plaid cap sat limply on his head. 

"I can't seem to locate my car," he said, blinking and stamping his feet. 

Margo didn't understand about cars or keys, but she knew what it was like to be lost. "Come under here and dry off a bit," she said, "then you can try again." 

The old man smiled and joined Margo and the orange cat under the red umbrella. 

To be continued on Monday...

Monday, July 4, 2011

We're stuck. How was I supposed to know about the construction? I thought we'd take a shortcut, and now look at this.

You sit in the passenger seat with a tuna casserole on your lap. I wrapped it in foil, but it was still too warm, and sweaty little beads of condensation formed along the shiny surface.

The car smells of fish and rich cheese. I feel that we're steeping in the smell, and when we get to Barbara's we will stink of it.

Impatient, you drum your fingers on the top of the tinfoil. Put. Put. Put.

"Stop it," I say. 

"I'm not hurting anything," you say. And then: "Looks like we're stuck.

The elastic of my Spanx "body-shaping" underwear is digging into the flesh of my stomach. I hate feeling like a sausage in a casing and I hate the way you always point out the obvious.

You've got to get out and direct me as I reverse the car. You leave the casserole on the passenger seat. 

I got Wild Caught tuna at the health food store and it was 8 dollars a can. But it's worth it to use ingredients you can believe in. 

You are standing behind the car, windmilling your arm, telling me to "Back up, back up. That's it. More. More. Whoa. Stop." 

You run around, calculate the remaining distance between the fence and the car and then your arm begins to twirl again, telling me to keep coming. 

I lied about the tuna. I bought the Wild Caught only because I wanted to tell Barbara's smug friends, the ones who feed their children goji berries in place of raisins that I used it. It's the same reason I'm wearing Spanx under my sundress in this heat, because I care too damn much what these people think of me. 

Wouldn't it be nice to stop caring? Wouldn't it be glorious to turn around and drive home? I imagine you and me in our pyjamas, forks digging into the 8-dollar-a-can tuna casserole. 

And when you reach the car and pull open the door, I smile up at you because I know exactly what I want to do.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Casual Fridays: The 100th Post Prize Winner!!!

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
Today marks my 100th blog entry and I am thrilled to announce the winner of my 100th Post Prize. The contestants entered by sending me the name of any character who appeared in any of my previous posts.

To select the winner, I used a sophisticated three-step process. 

STEP 1- The names of all the entrants went into a hat....

STEP 2- I selected a folded name (without peeking!!) 

STEP 3- And the winner is....

Congratulations Melissa!! 
 You will receive a $50 Amazon Gift card to spend on whatever your heart desires. 

Thanks to everyone who entered. Its been an honor entertaining you with this blog, and I hope you guys will stick around for the next 100 posts. 

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