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, August 31, 2011

We lost a lot of good people to gazebos this year. I've seen crazy things in my years as a cop, but nothing quite like this.

Latest is over at Briar Hill Park. This is how it happened: 

Girl's name is Mandy. Boyfriend's name's Rick. The two of 'em have just been out to the show. Saw that movie Paranormal Activity, of all things. Witnesses can place Mandy and Rick at the theater. After the show, they take a little walk over to Briar Hill. Lotta kids go that way to do a little messing around. Nothing any of us haven't tried in our day. 

So they get to Briar Hill and head over to the gazebo. It's a nice sheltered spot, which the kids like for a little privacy. And I've got a witness in the park who tells me what happened next. He says he saw them laughing and grabbing onto each other, and then Rick starts humming a tune and he takes Mandy and spins her around inside the gazebo. And she's still giggling and he's still turning her and humming and then...
One moment they're doing their best shimmy and the next, they're just gone.

I know what you're going to say. It sounds impossible. And it's true, our key witness is a vagrant who was on his own personal booze cruise in the park. But he swears up and down to what he saw. And I believe him, because here's the thing: there's been other victims just like these ones, in other parks. 

I'm praying that soon this case will break. In the meantime, keep your loved ones away from gazebos.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Kirby Newsom is saving for a sailboat. He's been saving for twenty three years, ever since he started working at Splish Splash Laundry.  It might take him twenty-three more years to get that boat. "No matter," Kirby tells himself, "it'll come." 

As the dryers spin round with people's clothing inside, Kirby sits on a wooden stool by the cash register and listens for the tell-tale sound of change forgotten in a pocket. Tickity-tick, tickity tick. Any money left behind in the dryer belongs to Kirby. And this is what he saves.

At home, Kirby feeds the coins into a small change bank with "Happy Days" written on it. As he does this, Kirby thinks of the Happy Days to come. His sailboat will be long and white. He will name it: Lady Suzanna, after his late mother.

Whenever the Happy Days bank is full, Kirby pours the money into empty detergent jugs he gets from the shop. There are many bottles clustered together in his living room. But not enough. Not yet.

During the long afternoons at Splish Splash, when the air is warm and smells of dryer sheets, Kirby reads the newspaper. He likes to come across odd stories. There are many unexpected things happening in the world. 

A homeless man in Utah was stopped by a private investigator who told him that his long-lost brother had died and left him an incredibly large sum of money. 

After a devastating earthquake in Haiti, a man who was trapped in the rubble for 27 days survived. 

Two decades after an elementary student in Seattle tossed a message in a bottle into the ocean, it was discovered by a man living in a small town in Alaska. The bottle had travelled 1735 miles. 

Will Kirby Newsom ever buy himself a sailboat using forgotten change? Stranger things have happened.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Casual Fridays: These Kings of Men

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
I miss my Dad. On Sunday, it would have been his 57th birthday. He's been gone for almost two years, and I'm still surprised to remember he's not with us anymore. It's like an electric shock. A bolt to the chest. 

Jack Layton's recent death has brought my Dad to mind. That is not to say that my Dad and Jack Layton were the same, but they were both good men lost to cancer way before their time.

Its been really touching walking the streets of this city and seeing all of the tributes to Mr. Layton, the signs and posters, flowers and candles. Yesterday when I got on the TTC, there was a notice in the window of the subway collector booth telling people how to get to Jack Layton's office to pay their respects.

When I have to deal with a loss, for me, memories and storytelling are key. Remembering someone and how their life affected mine makes everything bigger somehow. It helps me feel better. Because lets be honest, loss hurts. Something awful.

Happy Birthday, Dad. In so many ways, you are still with me.

Here's something I know my Dad would'a liked. Click here and sing with me now. Bonus points if you rock out a little bit.

Remember everything this weekend, story makers. See you back here on Monday. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reasons I don't love Carl: 
(In No Particular Order) 

1. He's always sweating. Not just when really exerting himself, but also when doing things like walking our dog, Lucy, or carrying groceries. 
2. He refuses to wear a suit jacket even when the occasion calls for it, such as Dom and Sarah's wedding or my Nana's funeral. He also won't get a haircut for these same events. 
3. He never apologizes for anything. Or when he does apologize to me, it's with a tone that says: "Lily, I am humoring you." 
4. He laughs when he's nervous and it's a bad, snorting sound, not the kind of laugh that makes you want to join in. 
5. He repeats his stories. Like the time he almost met Kevin Bacon, or the time he went on a fishing trip and got a lure in the face and needed twelve stitches. 
6. He can't dance. Not at all. 

Reasons I do love Carl:
(In No Particular Order)

1. He cries when he's happy.
2. He never, ever comments or raises his eyebrows if I order dessert, even if I've just told him I suspect that I am fat. 
3. He makes me laugh. Such as the time Dom and Sarah got us a portrait of ourselves for our anniversary and once they'd gone, he drew funny glasses and a beard on the image of his own face. 
4. He doesn't mind that I order things from the internet and return most of them.
5. He always snakes the shower drain for me when it gets clogged with my hair, because he knows that just the thought of doing it makes my skin crawl. 
6. He repeats his stories. Like the first day we met, when the bus broke down and we shared a taxi, and he pretended to live nearby just so he'd get to keep riding with me. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bea lived an unremarkable life. She was a pink watering can, made of clay and shaped like a pig. She'd been purchased as a gag gift for a woman who had a fondness for pigs. For a little while, the woman used Bea to water her flowers. But then she got a sprinkler system, and Bea was relocated to a rotting bench in the back corner of the yard. 

Beneath the bench were rocks, and sunning himself on those rocks was a brownish-grey lizard with a blue tail. The lizard's name was Fredrick. He arrived at that spot every day, and every day, Bea watched him. Fredrick was different than the other creatures in the backyard. He wasn't loud like the bees, or sly like the spiders. The squirrels made Bea dizzy and the German Shepherd frightened her. But Fredrick was calm and and seemed to observe the comings and goings of those in the yard thoughtfully. 

As the days passed, Bea's fondness for the lizard deepened into something like love. Can a watering can love a lizard? Well, why on earth not? 

For the first time in her life, Bea was happy.

And then something happened. It only took a moment, but to Bea, the seconds seemed to slow down and stretch themselves out. First, a shadow passed overhead. Then there was a screeching sound and a dark shape plummeted to the earth. Bea saw wings, and claws, and a horrible open beak. 

Fredrick darted for cover, but it was too late. The crow snatched him up but then miraculously, dropped him. The lizard lay on his back, too stunned to move and the bird swooped in for a second attempt. Bea knew she had to do something.

Without hesitation, she hurled herself off the bench and shattered into a hundred pieces on the rocks. Startled by the crash, the bird flew away and Fredrick escaped to safety.

Death wasn't the way she thought it would be. Bea was in shards, but somehow she still felt whole. And the happiness she'd discovered with Fredrick was still there.

To an unremarkable watering can, that was a very remarkable thing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Casual Fridays: The Laughing Heart

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
This weekend, I'm turning 33. I've decided I want to spend the next few days doing one of the things I love most. Camping. I can't wait to sleep in a tent under the stars again. 

Before I go, I thought I'd leave you with this poem.

 The Laughing Heart
 by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The fish has been missing for three days. They discovered the empty bowl and came for me. I was lying on the porch with a nice bit of warm sun on my back. 

"Mitzi, what have you done?" the woman shouted, slamming her hand down on the wood. The sound made my whiskers quiver unpleasantly. I gave her a look that said I didn't want to be disturbed, but the man scooped me up and carried me inside. 

He plopped me down in front of the empty bowl. "Just look at this," he said, "where's our fish?" 

I licked my fur where he'd rumpled it and then decided my tail could use a little grooming. I wasn't interested in the man's line of questioning. 

So it's been solitary confinement for me. They locked me in their bathroom, which I consider the ultimate insult. I'd never trap them in my litter box if they'd done something bad. 

And I didn't do it. It's not my fault that brainless little guppy's gone missing. 

It's terribly dull in here. I watched the tap drip for awhile but that got tiring. I stretched out on the floor to feel the cool tile on my belly, but then got a chill. I miss the sunspot. I miss the insects that float down from the plants on the window ledge.

I've been wrongly accused. The injustice of it causes me to chew on some toilet paper rolls and spread little bits on the floor. I howl at the door a little to tell them that I'm getting hungry and they'd better let me out soon. 

I didn't do it.  

Okay, maybe I did.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Louise's date is changing. It's only a matter of time before she'll have to kill him. 

More and more these days, people are becoming...something else. Especially after the Cutter Creek nuclear reactor exploded just outside the city. 

Toxic Contamination Shock, the authorities called it. At first there were just a few cases. People suddenly committing violent acts with inhuman strength. The first man to contract TCS brutalized nine people before he was finally captured. 

The Skyview Tower restaurant where Louise and Dave are having their first date is mostly empty. It's not safe to be out at night anymore. Some of the braver women are still dating. Most carry weapons in their handbags now, along with the usual lipstick. 

Even in the candlelight, Louise can see darkness clouding Dave's blue eyes, like a drop of ink in a glass of water. Soon his eyes will be completely black. He's beginning to drool into his plate of linguine. It won't be long now. 

"Let's go outside," Louise says brightly, leading Dave out onto the observation deck. 

Below them, the lights of the city twinkle as if everything is the way it used to be. The night air is chilly and Louise wants to wrap her shawl tighter against her body, but she can't because her left hand is disappeared into her purse, clutching the handle of her Revolt taser gun. 

They stop at the edge of the platform. She tries to keep a safe distance from him, but he leans toward her. 

"Please lean back," she says quietly, but firmly. 

He snorts and tosses his head as if trying to shake something off. But then he moves closer. 

Her voice is louder now and more forceful. "Dave, I am warning--" 

He lunges toward her. Louise raises the taser and delivers a bolt of electricity to his chest. Stunned, Dave freezes long enough for her to shove him hard over the guardrail. 

He doesn't have time to scream, but drops soundlessly, a dark shape falling through the night. 

"I said, please lean back," Louise says to the empty air, before returning the Revolt gun to her purse.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Casual Fridays: The Great Donkey Search

Hi guys. It's Britt. Two days ago, my sisters and I set off to find the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada

That's right, you heard me, the National Sanctuary for all donkeys!! 

When I first heard about this, (right after I giggled), I knew we had to locate it, this refuge, this resting place for forgotten and abandoned donkeys. Those donkeys had lived full lives! They had stories! So off we went. Along the way, we came across many different folks...

Are you a donkey?   

Are you a donkey?
 Then, just when we'd had enough of unexpected traffic, detours, and loosing our way, we crested a hill and there they were!

Looking every bit as relaxed and carefree as we'd hoped. 

 And we were too.

My sisters, Aly and Rach, post-donkey sighting.
 Get out there this weekend, story makers. And bring us back a good one!! 


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

If he could just figure out how to turn it on. He's watched his Dad do it a million times. Leo can barely wait to see his little sister's face when her favorite doll goes up in flames. 

Mary deserves it. She's always making trouble for him. Yesterday she told Mom that Leo and his friends were playing in the empty lot behind the school even though it's forbidden. Traitor. She was just jealous because he wouldn't let her play with them. He never lets her join in, because she's a little pest.

Last night he got three lashes on the backside with Dad's belt as punishment for being in the empty lot. He tried not to cry, especially in front of her, but tears rolled down his cheeks anyway.

Now it's payback time. He lifts the barbeque lid. It's heavy and he almost drops it, but finally manages to get it open. 

Leo places the doll on the grill. Her blue eyes close, as if she knows what's coming. 

Leaving the lid open, Leo crouches and twists the knob on the propane canister. What's next? The dial on the front of the barbeque needs to be turned on. 


Flames shoot upward so fast. Leo stumbles backward. The horrible smell of burning plastic mixes with the odor of his charred hair. 

Mary comes out of the house, rushing toward him. She sees her doll burning and ignores it, turning instead to her brother, fear and devotion on her face. "Leo," she says, "are you okay?" 

Monday, August 8, 2011

It was a Tuesday afternoon when James came home with her.

Lucy was at the kitchen sink peeling a cucumber. When she looked out the window and saw her husband lifting an orange and white striped mannequin from the trunk of the car, she was so shocked, she gated her thumb by mistake. 

She went out to the driveway, sucking on her finger, the taste of blood on her tongue.

"I'd like you to meet Angelique," James said, "I found her at the curb. She's a score, eh? Someone was just throwing this beauty away." 

He placed the statue in the garden and gave her a pair of goggles and a silver helmet. 

James started talking to Angelique whenever he watered the plants. Once, Lucy saw him pat her bare bottom on his way to the shed. Next, he started buying her things. A flowered scarf. A straw hat. A pair of silk opera gloves. Lucy watched as he slipped the gloves over her stiff fingers and eased them up her arms. 

She stared at the mannequin, at her slick, brightly colored body. "I hate you," she whispered. 

One of them had to go. "It's the dummy or me," Lucy declared at dinner one night.

"Have you lost your mind? You're jealous of a piece of plastic." James laughed, but his cheeks were flushed, and he looked rattled. "Angelique stays," he said. 

That night, Lucy lay awake staring at the ceiling. Then she sat up in bed. She finally knew what to do. 

The next day, James was in the garden pulling up weeds when Lucy arrived carrying a nude male mannequin. She placed him down and James took in his bronze skin and sculpted physique. 

"Meet Christos," Lucy said to her husband, grinning.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Casual Fridays: We're getting married!!

Hi guys, it's Britt. 
Okay, when I say "We," I don't actually mean that I'm getting married. Tomorrow is the wedding of my dearest friend, Alison and her beau Tyler. 
They're picking me up this morning and we are heading to Belleville to Alison's mom's gorgeous farm, where the ceremony will be. I'm so excited! 

Send us some sun, dear story-makers and let me know if you've got any suggestions on what my karaoke song should be. (What's a wedding without a little karaoke?) 
See you back here on Monday for a new story. 

(Sorry, couldn't resist!!) And here's one more, just cause!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

That lobster is a villain, I'm telling you.
Every day he goes on about how badly he wants to eat us, clicking his pincers together for emphasis. The little shrimp statue is terrified and so are the stuffed shorebirds.

And do you think he gets purchased and taken home by some lucky customer? Noooo. No one wants to buy a lobster knick-knack. No one wants to buy any of us, which is why we're going to all be here at Mr. Willard's Trading Post collecting dust for all time.

I'm a lovely china teapot with golden sheep emblazoned on my side. The lobster's not interested gobbling up a teapot, so I'm safe, though I'm sure he'd just love to nip at the heels of those dear little sheep. Brute.

Today the lobster is intimidating the crystal snail on the edge of our shelf. "You," the lobster says to him, and there goes the click clack of his claws, "will make a very fine dinner."

But then heaven almighty, Mr. Willard places a big brass seal on our shelf.

"Who wants to be eaten first?" the seal barks. And though none of us is thrilled to have another bully in our midst, we're all a little bit pleased to see the lobster tremble.

"Food chain," I want to remind him, "it's all about the food chain."

Monday, August 1, 2011

There is a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. The cake has 31 candles, one for each year of her life. She carries it to a table covered with a white tablecloth and sets it down.

She is blonde, thin, pretty in a sparse sort of way. Her name is Darling. She's always hated the name, but could never bring herself to go by anything else. And so her whole life its been: "Darling this," and "Darling that." 

Darling sits on one of the chairs and admires the cake. The icing is thick and creamy and has little dips and peaks like water. Maraschino cherries sit on top with their stems in the air. The sides of the cake are coated with dark chocolate shavings. It is a Black Forest cake, the second one Darling has ever made. 

Last year was the first. She remembers the hours in the kitchen puzzling over the recipe, the counter covered in icing sugar and flour. And finally there was cake, like a miracle, a beautiful thing she had made. She lit the 30 candles and carried it to the table. And John had been sitting there, waiting. 

But when it came time for Darling to make a wish and blow out the candles, something happened. John starting talking. His words came out in a rush like he'd been holding his breath. 

"Darling, it's not going to work between us," he said.

She sat in her chair staring at the bright bits of flame until the candles had all melted and ribbons of wax covered the cake.

But this year, she is alone at the table. And this second cake is all hers. Darling lights each one of the candles, closes her eyes and makes a wish.