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, December 30, 2011

Casual Fridays: The turtle in the sweatpants

Hi guys. It's Britt. Today I'm thinking a lot about patience.

I'm sick and feeling rotten, and so the cat and I are at home keeping our germs to ourselves. As I write this, I'm wearing a pair of entirely unattractive, but super comfortable navy blue sweatpants. There's a mug of chamomile tea and a box of tissues beside the computer.

In a few days, we'll begin a whole new year. 2012.

There was so much I was supposed to get done in 2011. Wasn't this the year I was going to start a successful business? Have a book published? Find true love? And now there are only a couple of days left to accomplish all that, and I'm sick.

Here's where the patience comes in. That old hare and tortoise story. Because, by the look of things, I am not going to so much vault into 2012, as plod into it. And that's okay. As long as I keep taking these steady steps, and doing it with my heart, I'll get there.

What about you? Are there ways you need to be patient with yourself?

Love to you, story-makers. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kim stares at the tray of hospital food. A disc of ham in a puddle of greenish gravy. Mashed potatoes flecked with potato skin, like a mound of dirty snow. For dessert, a dish of canned peaches, slick and glistening.

What Kim really wants is a hot dog. There's a man outside Sick Kids hospital selling them from a cart. If she raises herself on her elbows, she can see him from her bed. She can only hold herself up so long before, klunk, she drops back to the mattress. 

Kim is wearing one of her own flannel nightgowns from home. On her feet are red cotton socks. Not from home. Around her wrist is a tight hospital ID bracelet. She pulls at the plastic and her mother slaps her hand away. "Leave it," she says to Kim. 

It would be so much better if Rory, their dog were here instead of Mom. He'd lick her face and sleep at the foot of her bed, covering up those red socks. Rory would understand about the hot dog. 

All of the patients on this floor wear color-coded socks. The lucky ducks get green ones. The sort-of loosers get yellow. And then there are those kids who get red. Red means stop. It means you must stay in this bed, attached to machines that whir and beep and hiss. Don't you dare even think about popping out for a hot dog. 

Very soon, Kim will get up and walk, no, run outside. She'll tear the hospital bracelet from her wrist and let it fall to the ground. She will smell the smoke from the barbeque and stand under that big yellow umbrella and order herself a hot dog. Then she'll eat it with mustard dripping down her chin. 

She will do all this. She has to.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Maple Dip Mondays: Robinson the Christmas tree

Robinson, the Christmas tree didn't have much time to flirt with the new ornaments before they were packed away till next year.

And oh, how he loved an attractive young ornament hanging from his boughs. The porcelain doe wearing the Santa hat. The silver angel with white feather wings. Come next December, none of those adornments would be new, and they wouldn't seem quite so...appealing. 

But every December, just as he started to work his charm, there was Magda, that ancient ballerina with the chipped nose and dirty tutu, chattering non-stop. 

"Robinson, your branches look extra green this year." 
"I do hope they sing "Oh Christmas Tree." It's the best carol, Robinson. Don't you think?"
"There seem to be more presents this year, Robinson. Wouldn't you say?"

He wished the family would toss Magda into the trash. Their cat batted at some of the decorations dangling from his lower branches. "Take her," he prayed, "break her." 

But this year, the man and woman pulled Robinson from the cardboard box, shook him out, and just when they'd started to decorate him, they left. 

He felt naked and wished they'd given him some tinsel or at least a couple of candy canes. 

Then they returned carrying something. It wasn't until they'd plugged it in, and he saw the blinking lights that Robinson knew what it was. A Christmas tree. Different and strange and...new. 

Robinson was stuffed back into his box and left on the curb in front of the house. 

How could this have happened? he wondered. They replaced me. Robinson started to cry and his sobs echoed inside the cardboard box, a damp and dismal sound. 

Then he heard something else. 

"Do you think we'll have snow for Christmas this year, Robinson?" a voice asked. 

Madga. They must've hung her first, and not noticed when they threw me out. 

For the first time, Robinson wouldn't have traded that grimy old ballerina for any shiny new decoration in all the world.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
Some of you might remember the competition I held to celebrate my 100th blog post. The winner received a $50 Amazon gift card to spend on whatever they fancied. And the winner was....

I thought I'd check in with Melissa and find out what she got. Here's the scoop in her own words: 

"Back in July I was thrilled to learn I won Britt’s first contest. With the prize of a gift certificate for Amazon.ca I bought a book called A Fortune Teller Told Me

Author Tiziano Terzani tells the true story of his year spent travelling the Far East in search of traditional fortune tellers and spiritualists.  

Whether in bustling metropolises or tiny mountain top villages, he seeks these enlightened men and women who are believed to hold sacred and ancient secrets.

Sometimes the stars align and a book falls into your lap that so perfectly suits your temperament you can’t help but let it guide you toward your own adventure.

On a piece of paper tucked away between the pages of this book, I quietly planned my very own fantasy trip to the Far East! A fascinating, exciting, and thoughtful read; Let A Fortune Teller Told Me inspire your adventurous side too!"


We're getting close to 200 posts, dear readers, and TSS 200th Post Prize is going to be fantastic. Look for contest details, coming soon!! 

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jenny's best friend is a tarantula named Lenny. 

Lenny sleeps at the foot of her bed, curled into a ball no bigger than a walnut. In the morning, he climbs into Jenny's red suitcase and they set out together to school. Jenny keeps a mirror inside the suitcase so Lenny can look at himself. (Tarantulas are a little bit vain.)

During recess, Jenny retrieves the red briefcase from the coatroom and sits under the biggest elm tree by the fence to tell Lenny what she's learned. 

After school, their favorite place to go is the library. Lenny likes Charlotte's Web best, though when she reads it to him, Jenny does change the ending, so he won't get upset.

But there are things a spider and a little girl can't do together. 

Sometimes Jenny plays catch with her Dad. He throws the ball so hard it hurts her arm when it lands in her glove, but Jenny doesn't complain. 

Saturdays, he takes her shopping at Murphy's Hardware. As her Dad walks up and down the aisles, examining the different nails and bolts and wires, Jenny follows. She stays very quiet and doesn't cause any trouble at all, so he'll want to bring her along the next Saturday too.

Jenny knows a secret and she whispers it to Lenny: Her Dad didn't want a girl. He wanted a boy. 

Lenny understands. Nobody likes tarantulas either. Most of the time people prefer they were a bunny or a kitten.

One night, Jenny woke and didn't see Lenny sleeping at her feet. She climbed out of bed and crouched on the floor, looking underneath her bed. No spider. 

Out into the hallway, Jenny went, whispering his name: "Lennnny. Lennnny." 

Her parent's bedroom door was ajar, and when she looked inside, Jenny gasped. This little girl who was not a boy did her best to be good. But now she was about to cause some major trouble. 

Because there on the chest of her sleeping father, was Lenny. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Paul's New Year's Resolutions

1. Quit job. Letter of resignation to be handed in to Mr. Robinson by January 3rd. DO NOT CHICKEN OUT AGAIN!

2. Go to the gym 5 times 3 times a week. 

3. Read things that will help me sound smarter and more appealing at dinner parties. War and Peace. Autobiography of Malcolm X. That Vagina play.

4. Buy new tie. Not from secondhand store. Learn how to tie it without help of roommate's girlfriend.

5. Get a girlfriend. Possibilities include:  

-Sheila, from Human Resources department.
-Brown-haired barista at Beans, Beans, Beans.
 Calvin's sister, Maria, the yoga teacher.
-Nice teller at Royal Bank on Roncesvalles Avenue. Donna? Dara? Denise?

6. Take exotic cooking classes. Thai. East Indian. Sushi. Possibly meet women at cooking class.

7. Eat better. No red meat, except for beef. No more coffee from vending machines at work. Can eat donuts, but no cream filled, or anything bigger than a hockey puck.

8. Make bedroom appealing to women. Throw out E.T. comforter and WWF sheets. Buy lots of pillows and good-smelling candles.

9. Cook dinner for Mom once a week using new Cooking Skills.   

10. Learn Kung Fu.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Casual Fridays: Letting go

Hi guys, it's Britt. 
Ever heard that saying: "like a dog with a bone?" 

Sometimes I read one of these Tire Swing Stories after I've published it, and a part of me cringes. I want to go back and fix something. I have to stop myself. I have to remind myself that the whole point of this blog is that the stories are spontaneous. Raw. No changes, no obsessing over this comma, or that word choice. Once a story is out there, I have to let go.

That's really hard, but I'm working on it.

What about you? What do you have a hard time letting go of?

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pat is an architect. When he was young, he thought he'd build another Eiffel tower. But Pat designs suburban homes.

Today he is decorating the Christmas tree. He and Jake are supposed to be doing it together, but his son is stretched on the couch playing a video game. Pat doesn't mind. He's enjoying sitting on the carpet with a glass of rum and eggnog, excavating their ornaments from a battered cardboard box. 

Pat hasn't seen most of these decoration in ages. He and Jake have moved seven times in the last four years, and have never bothered with a Christmas tree.

Pat's work requires they relocate every six months. They set up on the outskirts of a town while Pat oversees the building of a new housing development. In Oshawa there are homes that are exact copies of ones in Winnipeg. Right down to the window frames and shutters. 

Pat opens something wrapped in red tissue and discovers a Christmas ball. On it are the words: "Merry Christmas to a Wonderful Son."
1995. She'd got this ornament for Jake the year she was diagnosed. 

There was only one Mollie. She was utterly unique. His Eiffel tower. On their first date, he'd constructed a bridge out of creamers because he was so nervous. He thought he'd never get a second date. But she'd chosen him. She told him he was going to transform the world. 

Pat sits staring at the Christmas ball for what feels like a very long time. Then he looks up and notices his glass is empty. He knows without recognizing it yet, that all their moving has come to an end. 

"Jake," he says, holding up the ornament to his son, do you remember this?"

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cheryl is reading a book called: "Woman without her Man," by Doctor Eliza R. Hamm. On page 45, Dr. Hamm tells her to release her past. 

Cheryl sits with a photo album on her lap. The album is blue and made of fake leather. On the front, in a loopy gold script are the words: "Memories are for Keeps." 

She opens the album and peels up the clear plastic sheet covering the first set of pictures. The sheet comes slowly, grudgingly, making a suck-smacking sound. 

Cheryl lifts a picture from the page. She and Jon in Orlando on their first anniversary, sunburned, sitting at a patio table, their glasses raised in a toast. 

Cheryl tears the photo, removing Jon. The Jon half falls to the floor. 

On page 78, Dr. Hamm says time heals nothing. What you do with the time is what counts. 

Cheryl rips Jon out of the next one, and the next. When she discovers a picture of him and Elizabeth together, she shreds the whole thing to bits. 

On page 103 it says: "If a man is unfaithful once, he will be again. No indiscretion should be forgiven." 

There are little Jons all over the carpet. Jon at Amber and Dwyane's cottage. Jon at her birthday party last year with his mouth open, frozen forever shouting the word: "surprise" 

Cheryl knows she should throw all these Jons out. Toss them out the window and watch them drift to the pavement. Or burn them in some kind of ceremonial purging. 

Instead, she collects each one and slides them into an envelope. She keeps the envelope in a drawer, beside the photo album.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Casual Fridays: Who wants bagels?

Hi guys. It's Britt. This weekend, my stepmom and little sister are visiting from Arizona and I'm all wrapped up in loving them, and have zero blogging time. So, today, here's what I got for ya: 

Have a poppy seed covered weekend, story-makers. See you back here on Monday. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

It is night in the Acadia Antiques shop and two cockroaches are playing aboard a model ship. 

"Ahoy, land lubbers. Name's Captain James Quick and this here's me first mate, Scab. We've sailed the nine seas, plundering and pillaging. None who've battled us lived to tell the...

What's that, Scab? There be only seven seas? Friends, pirates, forgive me first mate. He's been long into the rum. 

Legend has it... 

Scab, if you'd stop interrupting me. What's that? 

You've found a treasure? On this here ship? 

We'll, I'll be an oyster's lover, it's a golden nugget so big. Bigger than us, Scab. I've never--we're rich! 

Wait, Scab. Put down the treasure. You don't look so good. You've gone all pale. Now you're on your back and convulsing something rotten. Looks like you're in Davey's iron grip. No, Scab! Scab? 

I've lost me best mate to a mysterious sickness. I had to toss his body overboard, sent to his meetin' with Davey Jones. Now I'm all by me lonesome on these vicious waters. 

I won't touch the deadly golden nugget, though it calls to me like a mermaid's song. 

What'ya think, me hearties? What's say I take just a little? 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Maple Dip Mondays: Sherri and the Reunion

Click the link below for an audio version of this story!
It's been three days since the white envelope arrived in Sherri's mailbox. She hasn't eaten since then. She's pulled out her old exercise bike and put it to use, though every time Sherri finishes a workout, her dizziness gets worse. 

Dear Sherri Barr: 
Please join us in celebrating the St. Mary's High School Ten Year Reunion. Let's dance the night away and remember the good old days!

Don't high school reunions only happen in the movies? But on Tuesday the invitation was in her mailbox, a white envelope heavy as a stone.

When Sherri gets hungry, she pretends to eat air. She takes forkfuls of it and chews slowly. 

She lies down in the space between her dining room table and the wall. From here she can see a slice of blue sky with patches of slowly-drifting clouds. She notices a small spider in the corner of her ceiling. There aren't any bugs dotting the spider's web. The spider is on an air diet too. 

Sherri hears the voices from her past. Remembers every one of her old nicknames:

"Scary Sherri" 
"Sherri Shortcakes" 
"Butterball Barr"
or just simply, "fat Sherri."

Ten years have passed and the words still shoot holes through her.

Her spider looks hungry. She can feel its desperation. Sherri struggles to her feet, and pinpricks of light cloud her vision. Her head spins, and she has to hold on to the edge of the table to keep from falling.

On Sunday, Sherri's spider is dead. Its body is curled into a tight little ball, so small you wouldn't notice it if you didn't know it had been there. 

Monday, Sherri drags the exercise bike outside and leaves it by the curb.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Casual Fridays: Introducing Maple Dip Mondays!

Hi guys, it's Britt. Click on the link below for the latest scoop.

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