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, November 30, 2011

Louise? It's Gertie calling. Listen, I know it's early, but there's something I have to tell you. Billy, my next-door neighbour has been abducted by aliens again. 

Just now when I went to let in Mr. Whiskers, I saw lying on the sidewalk, the sole of Billy's right shoe and the butt of one of his cigarettes. 

I really can't explain why those aliens didn't want to take the sole of Billy's right shoe. I suppose you never can tell about things like that. 

Like in Zimbabwe, with those women who don't wear anything to cover their chests and they just walk around with their knick-knacks out and hanging low.

All I'm saying is, there's no accounting for taste. 

I know what you're going to ask me, Louise. No, this isn't the first time Billy's been taken. 

Once, he woke up on a ship covered in blinking lights like the Las Vegas strip. These tall creatures with slanty eyes asked him all sorts of questions without speaking.

You read me, Louise? Their voices were inside his head.

The aliens wanted to know things like what does chicken taste like, and what is the purpose of foosball, which I don't understand myself, so it's a good thing it wasn't me on that spaceship! 

Billy answered as best he could, and then the next thing he knew, he woke up in his own bed. Like nothing happened. But this time--

What's that, Louise? Yes, I have been taking my medication. I don't know what that has to do with--

Listen, Louise I don't think I like your tone. I don't think I care for it one bit. 

Well that's rich. Billy is lost somewhere in the cosmos, but you just have yourself a good morning, Louise. Sorry to have disturbed you. 

Click.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Have you ever had a "hair splinter?" It's when a dog hair gets stuck under your skin. Like a regular splinter, but with hair instead of wood. 

Today, I've had four of them. A schnauzer and two collies have humped my leg. My head aches from these twinkling lights, and my hemorrhoids are flaring up from all this sitting with dogs on my lap.

Still, it's worth it, taking this job. I've been waiting all year for my revenge and it's almost time. I can see that blonde woman standing in line with that Jack Russell terrier in her arms. When her turn comes, she'll plop the little mutt in my lap.

They make me fill my pockets with dog treats. After each photo is taken, I feed the dog a biscuit and everyone says: "Santa's so good with animals." Today, I made a special cookie for that terrier. Chicken and Drain-o. Deck the Halls. 

It's all because of Tina, who worked at Chubby's Christmas Cupcakes in the food court. Last year, I used to go there on my breaks to see her. Tina had the most beautiful smile. Like a light turning on. One time she got a glob of green icing on her cheek and I felt dizzy from loving her so much. The day before Christmas, I finally got up the nerve to ask her for a date. 

We were both off at 5, so I was going to do it then. I had one more dog to go and it was that Jack Russell. His owner placed him on my lap. I was distracted, working out what I was going to say to Tina, and then I felt this warm wet rush on my groin and thighs. 

What woman in her right mind is going to go out with a middle-aged Santa covered in dog piss? I couldn't ask her.

The next day Chubby's was closed down for the season. This year they got a different girl frosting cupcakes.

And here's that same Jack Russell. They put him in my lap and I'm all smiles. "Have you been good this year?" I ask, which gets a chuckle out of the crowd. Once the photo's been taken, I reach into my pocket. "A little treat from Santa," I say, pulling out the cookie. 

But it's too late. I can already feel the warm stream seeping into my pants and running down my legs.

Trying something new, everyone! If you'd like to listen to an audio recording of this story, click below! And let me know how it goes for you. 
 

Friday, November 25, 2011

3  9  17  26  32  43

Whenever she takes an apple from the bowl, she peels off the sticker and attaches it to me. As the days pass, she's slowly covering me up.

First it was just the words on my front: Lotto 649, and then the barcode on my bottom. But now it's my numbers. 3 (covered), 9 (covered).

Tomorrow will be 17
then 26
next 32
and finally 43.

Her husband doesn't eat many apples. When he ventures near the fruit bowl, it's to sit on a nearby stool and discuss their troubles. Their troubles are mostly his troubles. "He's lost his sense of direction," he tells her, "and he feels like the best years of his life are spent. He wants to take a trip, get a new job. A haircut. Sometimes he thinks about being with other women." 

She plucks up an apple and takes a bite. Another sticker covers me while her husband's words fill up the kitchen. 

If I had words of my own, I would whisper something into her ear.

I'm a winning ticket.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Casual Wednesdays: A gang of turkeys

Hi guys. It's Britt. This week I'm doing "Casual Wednesdays," because I'm camped out at my sister's house waiting for her baby to arrive and I can't think of anything else, much less write a story. 

Aly's due date was yesterday, and although due dates are something of an approximation, we were pretty sure this little one was going to make an appearance.

No dice. Not even a little cramp, much less a contraction.

Although the waiting game is frustrating, we are having fun just being together as a family. So, in honor of families, I've decided to leave you with a list of some of my favorite collective nouns for groupings of animals. 

A battery of barracudas
A shrewdness of apes
A sleuth of bears 
A murder of crows
A wake of buzzards 
A flight of butterflies 
A poverty of pipers 
A bed of clams 
A rabble of gnats 
A quiver of cobras
A bevy of swans 
A weyr of dragons
A business of ferrets
A gaggle of geese 
A bloat of hippopotami
A stand of flamingos
A smack of jellyfish
A muster of peacocks
A knot of toads 
A mess of iguanas
A sneak of weasles
A gang of turkeys

Have a goofy day, story-makers. See you back here on Friday. 
Britt

Monday, November 21, 2011

When he was five years old, Brandon Pike realised he wanted to kill people. The urge arrived like a sudden storm, but it took him 28 years to be ready.

In school, his teachers said: "learn from those who came before you." Brandon took this advice very seriously.

He read about murderers, those killers who were caught, and those who were never found. He learned the difference between them. Brandon dissected numerous animals and made detailed drawings of their organs. Over time, he'd collected all the weapons he could possibly need.

Brandon also prepared his body, running every day and lifting weights until he was as lean and muscular as a jungle cat. It was time.

Charlotte O'Hansey pulled into the gas station just before midnight. She got out of her car, opened the hood and stared at the smoking insides. Damn thing was making that same sound again, and she'd just taken it in to be fixed.

"I'm going to give that mechanic a piece of my mind," Charlotte said, though that was a lie. She hated confrontation, and so she often paid too much, waited in lines, and never sent back a meal in a restaurant if it wasn't what she ordered.

Charlotte rifled through the emergency kit for a flashlight. Shoot. She'd used it a few weeks before when the furnace went, and never put it back. All she had left in the kit was a rope, a raincoat, and a box of flares.
   
It had been hard living alone this past year after she and Mike spilt up. Charlotte knew her parents worried about her. They'd finally convinced her to make the four hour drive to visit them for the weekend. And now this.

Charlotte slammed the hood of her car and noticed she'd somehow gotten a smear of grease on the front of her light cotton dress. "Great," she muttered, heading into the gas station. She bought a fountain Coke and a tube of Sweet Tarts. Then she noticed a man by the magazines, watching her. He was handsome and out of her league, but most definitely looking her way. 
 
In a parallel universe, Charlotte might've been bold. She might've sauntered up to this beautiful man, rested a hand on his muscly arm and asked him if he wouldn't mind giving her some help. But on this plane of existence, Charlotte merely blushed.

Outside, she climbed back into her car. The engine started easily and Charlotte decided to keep going and pray the car would make it.

She didn't notice the man from the gas station get into his car and pull out behind her. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Casual Fridays: Who needs the fashion police?

Hi guys, it's Britt. 
So as I mentioned last Friday, I've been obsessing over buying a winter jacket. When I was at Value Village recently, I found a truly amazing wool blanket coat that I fell madly in love with. It's got reindeer on the pockets!! 

The problem is, the coat is a little on the big side. Still, my deep love for it led me to proclaim: "I'm just going to decide to be someone who wears a too-big coat." 

Sometimes when I see someone wearing a particularly wacky outfit, I like to think about them in front of the mirror before they left the house saying: "I am just going to be someone who wears tear-away pants," or a Hawaiian print shirt, or a trench coat, or dangly earrings shaped like cats, or Schnauzer socks. (I love you, Jaime!)  

It's pretty wonderful and awesome to get to wear whatever we darn well please. I think different wardrobe choices make life more interesting. 

Imagine if the world were a big Catholic school and we all had to dress in uniform. How dull would that be?

So when I'm out there this winter in my too-big coat, I'll be scoping for the folks in the reindeer sweaters, the leopard print ear muffs, the velvet pants.  

And I'll be grateful for what they bring to this world.

Be yourself this weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday.
Britt

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

She was the best, brightest thing to happen to Adam in a long time. He lived for the moment she'd come in to the Happy Market. 11:18 every night. Right after she finished her shift waitressing at the diner next door. 

She'd always get cheese Doritos and munch them while she waited in line. Sometimes she'd buy a bag of fertilizer and laugh as he rung her through. "A little snack for me, and one for my flowers," she'd say.

She loved her flowers. "There's something special about watching things grow." Adam didn't know her name, and so he called her 11:18. 

Then one night, she told him she was sick. She'd said it to explain why she fumbled counting her money. 

"Gosh, I'm sorry. It's the chemo. It's making my brain fuzzy." 

When 11:18 had gone, Adam escaped outside for a break. He hid behind the dumpster and cried. He felt like his heart was breaking. She'd lit up his life like a sudden unbelievable sunrise he'd never see again. 

Sometimes she still came in to the Happy Market for the chips, but she stopped buying the fertilizer. 

"What about your flowers?" Adam asked. 

"Don't have energy these days for flowers," she said, shaking her head sadly. 

That night, he followed 11:18 home. He stood outside her house. Her back patio was covered in planters filled with brown, crusty plants. Adam didn't know how to grow her flowers back. But there was something else he could do. 

The next night, he planted plastic windmills in the soil. He hoped that in the morning, she would look out the window and see the bright spinning colors and feel better, even for a little while.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Salt kills slugs. It says so in Better Homes and Gardens, and when Russ read that, he thought: "I will have a Better Garden when those devils aren't devouring my cabbage."

And so, without bothering to to either finish reading the article, or consult his wife, Lynn, who would most certainly object, Russ plucked the green and brown salt shaker from the kitchen table and went outside to reckon with the beasts. 

He hunkered down in his garden and waited. Russ got hungry waiting (he hadn't eaten breakfast), and so he munched on some kale and took in the beauty of the morning. It was a lovely one. The kind of morning where it was almost possible to believe you were a man who ruled his own fate. 

Then Russ looked down, and there beside the toe of his right boot, sitting on top of a purple cabbage leaf, was a slug. Russ raised the salt shaker and was prepared to sprinkle damnation, when something inside him hesitated. 

It wasn't really the slug's fault, was it? The slug could no more change its "slug-iness," than Russ could become a different man. And most days he knew Lynn wanted him to be a different man. Tidier. More Handsome. Less Impulsive. Better in Bed. She never hesitated to tell him what he ought to be. Russ lowered the salt shaker. 

After that, he didn't much care about the state of his cabbages. And every morning before breakfast, he'd return to his garden to visit his new friends. 

He didn't mention it to Lynn.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Casual Fridays: Those squirrels are nuts!!

Hi guys, it's Britt. Have you seen what's happening to the squirrels? It's that time of year when they become even more, um...squirrelly.

 They're racing around, clinging to tree trunks, hanging upside down like little furry ninjas.
Of course, the squirrels are getting ready for the cold weather ahead and preparing themselves for the scarcity of food.

What about you? What strange things do you do at this time of year? I've been obsessively shopping for a winter coat. Like, obsessively. I also can't seem to get enough wool socks and I'm filling my freezer with soup like the apocalypse is coming.

How do you start acting a little squirrelly when winter is on its way? Don't be afraid to share your comments here!

Might I introduce you to a special squirrel? He's from the mind and pen of artist, Ryan Berkley. (click here to say hello.) I adore everything Ryan does, and dream of owning tons of his work someday soon.

Gather some nuts this weekend, story makers. See you back here on Monday. 
Britt

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

That monkey is taking liberties, I tell you. He's got no respect. We're in this burlap bag together for not even ten minutes and his paws are already wandering south. 

Maybe he can't help it. It is a tight fit in here. You think I'm being too sensitive? True, I am feeling out of sorts.

It's just that I gave that human boy the best years of my life and once I got a little long in the tooth, it's "bye-bye, Panda." Out to the curb. Out to the curb with a flag, a purple creature who is, let's be honest, a bit of an idiot, and a no-good monkey.

What's going to happen to me in my old age? I've never been concerned with that before. Sure, I've coasted by on my looks. What young stuffed animal hasn't?

But now it's a future collecting dust at the Goodwill for me, or (gasp) used as a dog toy.

Wait, here comes a lady. Oh, she looks nice. She's smiling at us and it's a warm smile, a "I want to put you on my shelf and not feed you to my dog," kind of smile. 

Looks like I've still got a bit of that ol' Panda magic left in me. Ho! ho!

Wait. She's taken the monkey and is walking away. No! I'm the one you want. I'm the one. 

Now it's just me and the purple guy. "You come here often?" he asks me.

Cripes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

You Will Need:
1 1/3 Cups Water 
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil 
3 Large Eggs

After school, Randy buys Devil's Food cake mix at the Price Chopper. At home he stares at the oven. He's never baked anything before. And so he moves slowly, carefully following the directions on the back of the box.

1. PREHEAT oven to 350 F for metal or glass pans, 325 F for dark or coated pans. GREASE sides and bottom of each pan with shortening. FLOUR lightly.

Randy's hand covered in butter slides along the bottom of the baking pan. He thinks of Dara, imagines her eyes widening in surprise at the sight of this cake. He sees her smiling, and hears her say: "Randy, it's so beautiful."  

2. BLEND dry mix, water, oil, and eggs in a large bowl at low speed until moistened (about 30 seconds). BEAT at medium speed for 2 minutes. POUR batter in pans and bake immediately. 

When the cake is in the oven, Randy sits cross-legged on the kitchen floor. Through the small window in the oven door, he watches. He can feel the warmth radiating from the oven and thinks of Dara's body.

3. BAKE following chart on box. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. COOL in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

Randy takes out a tub of chocolate frosting and begins to ice the cake. He makes sure to apply the icing evenly on all sides.

It's 5 o'clock and Randy's Mom will be home soon. He doesn't have much time. He removes a fork from the silverware drawer and lifts a forkful of cake to his mouth. 

The cake is warm, the frosting slightly melted and sweet on his tongue. Randy closes his eyes, savoring it. He eats another forkful. Then another. Randy finishes Dara's cake and washes the pan before his Mom gets home. 

When you bake a cake, it's a special treat for the special people in your life. You care enough to take the time to bake a cake, so make it the most delicious cake you can.

Randy sees Dara every day in the halls at school. He hopes that someday he will be brave enough to talk to her.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Casual Fridays: Our lives are important

Hi guys, it's me again. I just read something that I want to share. 
It's from Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg. Sometimes when I'm working on a story, I pick it up Natalie's book, read an excerpt, and keep going. She inspires me.
I think I'm going to copy this down and put it over my desk.

"Our lives are at once ordinary and mythical. 
We live and die, age beautifully or full of wrinkles. 
We wake in the morning, buy yellow cheese, and hope we have enough money to pay for it. 
At the same instant we have these magnificent hearts that pump through all sorrow and all winters we are alive on earth. 
We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded."  

Feel how beautiful your life is this weekend, story-makers. No matter how ordinary it might seem at moments, your life is yours, and it matters.
See you back here on Monday. 
Britt

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

There are a lot of things people don't know about sewers. And Andrew Moses is going to show them. 

Starting with his Mom. He's just picked her up at the airport for her yearly visit. When he helps her into the car, she wrinkles her nose and says: "gracious Andrew. What's that smell?"

Mid-afternoon downtown traffic is bad. The car inches forward.
"Have you decided where you're taking me for dinner tonight?" she asks him.
"Uh. Not yet," he says, and she clucks her tongue in disapproval. 

Andrew can't think of much right now, because they're getting closer to his storm sewer. He's on the maintenance department for Public Works. On his latest survey, Andrew discovered this sewer was badly clogged and in need of replacement.

He ordered the parts and helped to install it. He was so proud of what he'd done, he poured a bottle of water onto the pavement, just to watch gravity take it smoothly over the fresh grates. 

And now he wants his Mom to see it. He needs her to see it. Yesterday, he got a can of white paint and sprayed: NEW in front of it, so they'd know from the car which sewer was his. 

"It's awfully cold here," Andrew's mother says. "Is it always so frigid?"
"It's Canada, Mom."
Four years ago, she moved down south to a place called: Casa Grande, which Andrew has never seen, but imagines has a lot of horses and folks with guns.

"My poor bones are aching already" she says, fiddling with the heater. 
"The heater doesn't work," Andrew says, and then realizing how close they are to his sewer: "Mom, there's something I want to show you." 
Her head is bent, face close to the dials so she can read the buttons, "Work doggonit," she says, smacking the vent with her palm.

She'd wanted him to be a lawyer or a dentist. Something where he'd have to wear a clean coat.

"Mom, forget the heat. There's something important..."

Someone behind them leans on the horn telling Andrew to move. Another car joins in, and soon there is a chorus of honking all around them.

It's not until they've driven past his sewer, that Andrew's Mom finally lifts her head. "You need to get that heater fixed," she says. 

Andrew says nothing.