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, January 30, 2012

All I'm saying is, we found a license plate. And if it's yours, you can come up and get it. 

No, we don't have the car. We definitely don't have the car. For one, how would we get a car up those stairs, and for two, if we found a car, why would we just say we found a plate? 

Money? Ha! First of all, if we had your money, we'd be out spending it and not here talking to you. Second, how would we know it was your money? It's not like you put your name on your money. 

Oh, the money was in your wallet and your wallet had your name on it. I see. Well, I would see if we had your wallet, but we don't have the wallet or the money, so I don't see. 

Your girlfriend? We definitely don't have your girlfriend! Because for sure if we had your girlfriend, we'd put that on the sign, since having somebody's girlfriend is much more important a thing to put on a sign than having someone's plate. 

Your gun? Oh now, come on. We'd know if we found a plate and a gun, and since we only found a plate....

Oh. You found your gun. Good for you. Nice to see you got something you were missing. It feels good to recover a missing something, doesn't it? Okay, we've seen it. You can put it away now. You don't want to put it away? You want us to look at it again. Oh. You want us to look closer at the barrel of it, and try to remember if we found more than just the plate. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

"I am not Daddy's little girl. I'm a mountain lion in a skirt, with prayers in my heart." -SARK 

In honor of my 200th blog post, I am giving away one of four prizes. Each prize is from an amazing, brave woman entrepreneur who I feel honored to know. The winner can chose either:

1. A bouquet of flowers from Coriander Girl 
2. A dozen cupcakes from The Sassy Lamb
3. An autographed copy of The Little Green Pea, a children's picture book by Alison Barber 
4. A Restorative yoga class with teacher Sarah Martens

In the "comments" field of this blog post, simply enter the name of a woman who inspires you, someone you feel is a real: "mountain lion in a skirt." (Whether or not this gal actually wears a skirt is of course, irrelevant. If selected YOU win the prize, not this woman. You are more than welcome to give it to her if you like, though!) 

Winner will be selected at random and announced Monday February 20th.

GUYS ARE TOTALLY WELCOME TO ENTER! (we're celebrating bold women in this particular contest, but we also honor those fantastic, trail-blazing men out there.)  
Please enter only once. 
Email your contact info to: tireswingstories@yahoo.ca after you enter. 

If the winner is not located in the Greater Toronto area, we will ship your prize to you, or a fabulous alternative prize will be arranged with you in mind. 

Good luck, story-makers!
p.s. beautiful lion image above created by artist Nicole-Zeug. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chester's done it again. He's landed us right out in the open. 

A group of men playing basketball stop and stare, their mouths gaping, ball rolling away, forgotten. I've got no choice but to head over and make introductions. 

I clear my throat. "Afternoon, fellas. I'm here to speak with Lenny Fontaine." 

"He's Lenny," one of them says, pointing to an overweight, middle-aged guy in a grey track suit.

"Ah, yes. Lenny. Can I please have a quick word?" 

Lenny follows me back to the chair. As we walk, I fill him in. 

"You're going to die tonight in a car accident. I'm here for your soul. Course I'm early," I turn and give Chester a whack, "but things didn't happen according to plan. Never trust a demon from the fourth realm." 

"Are you crazy?" Lenny says, lighting a cigarette, his fingers trembling only slightly. "You expect me to believe this garbage? Who do you think you are?" 

I raise my eyebrows at him. "Who am I, Lenny? Have you been a good boy all your life? Kind? Honest? Forgiving? Or are you a nasty SOB?" 

I give him a little choking sensation followed by a nice hot flush.

"Lenny, where do you think I'm taking you tonight?" 

He pitches his lit cigarette onto the grass, turns, and begins to run. 

I had to inflict a heart attack just so he'd stop running. As soon as he'd finished twitching and his soul was free, I inhaled it, and got comfy on my Lazy Boy. 

"Alright, Chester," I said, pointing to the group of basketball players still gathered around Lenny's body. "Go take care of their memories, and then let's get out of here. And for the love of Pete, don't screw it up." 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Maple Dip Mondays: Winona's selling everything

How do you know if you're crazy? 

Today, Winona sold all of her possessions. It took most of the morning to carry things outside and write up the price tags. 

The neighbours came first, marching through her open door before she was ready, surveying the rooms. Winona saw their eyes widen as they took in the prospects. 

Mr. Frye, the old bachelor from down the street, left with her record collection, blue yoga mat, and a floor lamp. The Stewarts from next door got the couch, all of her cookbooks, the salt and pepper shakers, and her pots and pans. 

"What about these drapes, dear?" Glenora Stewart asked. Winona took the curtains down. 

Then the strangers arrived, people who parked their cars on her lawn and filled their arms with her life. 

One woman, a young blond with a purple wool hat, looked up from Winona's jewelry box. "There's some great stuff in here," she said, "where are you moving?" Winona smiled. "Oh, nowhere."

The clock on the wall said 4:15 pm. Winona sold it for 50 cents.

Finally, night came. Winona felt the damp grass beneath her bare feet. She walked up the steps and into her house, closing the door behind her.

In the darkness, she went into her living room and lay on the wood floor. It was firm and smooth, and she relaxed, feeling the floor hold her up. Every sound seemed amplified in the empty space. Winona could hear her own breathing, like waves breaking on a beach, and the hum of insects outside. 

How do you know if you're crazy? 

She had never felt so sane.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Casual Fridays: Be the cookie

Hello, dear story-makers. It’s Britt. 
Inspired by this photo I snapped of the New Moon Kitchen delivery van, I  declare today, “The Day of the Cookie,” and I encourage each of you to give a cookie to someone you love. Or better yet, give a cookie to a total stranger.
Practice Random Acts of Cookie. And don't forget to write to us here, and tell us how it goes! 
I love you. Here's a Ginger Snap.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Preston Garlic is going to be a magician. Right now, he's a dishwasher at the Purple Potato. In his spare time, Preston develops his magic. 

He's given himself a name: "Presto the Amazing." 

Presto the Amazing has a black cape and a felt hat with a red feather. As he performs his flourishes while practicing in front of the mirror, Presto's feather bobs up and down. 

He bought a lop-eared bunny with black spots named Houdini. He's mastered many tricks, including "The Split Coin," "The Blooming Bouquet," and the "Airborne Champagne Bottle."

But every great magician needs an assistant.

There's a pastry chef at work named Bonnie. Preston yearns to saw her in half. But though she regularly deposits her batter-encrusted pans at his station for scrubbing, Bonnie doesn't know he exists.

Tomorrow, the Purple Potato is catering a wedding. Bonnie has stayed late at the restaurant to construct the cake. Just as Preston finishes putting away the very last pot, she slips on her coat. "Goodnight," she says. Preston wants to say: "I'll see you home," but his throat has gone dry. The door of the kitchen closes behind her.

A few minutes later, he's walking down Brant street when there's some kind of commotion in the shadows ahead. A woman screams.

"Hey!" Preston yells. Dark figures flee.

He arrives to find Bonnie lying on the pavement.

"Are you alright?" he asks her.

"Yeah," she says, "but they got my purse."

He helps her to her feet. Then he pulls a playing card from behind her ear. The King of Hearts. Presto sees her eyes widen, and she smiles. And that feels Amazing. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Her name is Romaine. Like the lettuce. 
Romaine drives the 26 Dupont bus. Every morning she arrives at 8:04 am. Sometimes you're late and rush to the bus stop, but most days you are early, waiting with your coffee and a Globe and Mail newspaper in hand. 

You never look at Romaine as you flash your metropass and board the bus, but you know she's given it a cursory glance. An automated voice calls out the names of each stop. There's no need to speak to each another. 

Nothing seems different about today. 8:04 am. Here comes the 26 Dupont. 

The air brakes hiss and the doors swing open. You climb aboard and find an empty seat. You open your newspaper to the Report on Business page.

But then on Jane street, Romaine hits the breaks and there is a loud thump. Your coffee sloshes onto your lap, soaking your pants. When you look up, you see you are stopped in the middle of the street. Romaine leaves the driver's seat and rushes off the bus. 

You don't know why, but you stand and follow her. 

Curled near the front left wheel, is a dog. It has copper colored fur and a blue collar. You walk close enough to see the blood and to be certain the dog is dead.

Romaine is standing frozen with her hands covering her mouth. Cars are honking and veering around the stopped bus. You turn to her to say we have to go, we have to move. 

But then your arms are around her. She is making a keening, animal sound and her tears are wetting the front of your shirt. You are surprised to realize that you are crying too, and squeeze her tighter.

You stay like that, briefly, before pulling away.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Casual Fridays: These are the people in your neighbourhood

Hi guys. It's Britt. 
Last night I was on the subway heading home and the man beside me was eating tuna. My first thought was: "Buddy, I don't want to smell that."
But though it was annoying, and maybe a little rude, he really did have every right to gobble that fish. This got me thinking about neighbours. 

In the apartment building where I currently live, there's this one guy who likes to host "karaoke parties." Seriously. He gets a group of people together and they take turns singing into a microphone ALL NIGHT LONG.

Then there was this one place where I could hear the couple next door arguing. I remember lying awake trying to figure out what they were fighting about and whose side I was on.

We build houses with fences and tell ourselves we have "personal space." 
But there's always that neighbour's tree dropping leaves onto our yard, that t.v. left on, that baby crying into the night.

Personal space is an illusion. We're all mixed up in a fascinating, maddening human jumble.

What about you? What are some of the crazy, or perhaps wonderful, things your neighbours do?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

(Story based on a photograph found on the ground outside a grocery store.) 

When Damon was four years old, his Uncle Greg choked on a Maple Leaf's All-Beef sausage. They were at Barrie Speedway for opening day. Uncle Greg had the camera, and Dad held Damon on his lap. 

Damon remembers the smell of french fries, gasoline, and sweat. He was wearing a pair of yellow protective earmuffs, and sounds came to him as if he was underwater. He had to pee, but couldn't tell his Dad because they were about to take the picture.

Uncle Greg took a bite of his hot dog and raised the camera to his face. Click went the shutter. Greg dropped the camera and toppled into the aisle on his back. His hands went to his neck. 

"Help us!" Dad yelled, "someone!" 

Greg's face turned blue. His eyes were very wide and tears streamed down his cheeks. Then somehow, Dad hauled Greg up and stood behind him. He made a fist with both hands over Greg's chest and pumped hard. 

A chunk of sausage flew from Uncle Greg's open mouth. 

For a moment, everything was still. Then Uncle Greg gulped in air. The people around them started cheering and his Dad raised both hands in the air like he'd just won the trophy. 

Damon still had to pee. His bladder was cramped. And then, because he didn't know what else to do, he went.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Maple Dip Mondays: Lou's lost again

Lou's lost again. Really lost. He's wandering through the desert scrub, honking and bobbing his head, searching the sky for his flock, that tell-tale V shaped formation.

Sharon's right: he really has no sense of direction. In the summer months, his wife helps him out. But they winter separately, so she's not here to point the way.

Where am I? (honk)
Where are the others? (honk)

They'd stopped along their migration route to rest on a shallow lake in a golf course. Lou was mesmerized by the golf balls collected on the bottom, glowing like smooth stones. He dove under to have a look and when he surfaced, his flock had gone. 

Lou's webbed foot nearly slips into a snake hole. He flaps his wings in panic. There are rattlers out here here and other venomous creatures. Scorpions. Black Window spiders. Scaly yellow and black Gila Monsters with flicking, forked tongues. 

He tries to coach himself, like Sharon would do. "Lou, honey, keep track of landmarks. Blue plastic thing. Half a brick. Make a left at the tallest Saguaro cactus. No, honey--your other left. " (honk, honk, honk).

If only it wasn't so hot. Lou's head is spinning and he can no longer tell right from left, and up from down. He topples onto the ground with his chest heaving. It's the end. The Gila Monsters will get him and he and Sharon haven't even begun nesting yet.

Then he hears the flock, somewhere close and calling for him. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Casual Fridays: for the love of scars

Hi guys. It's Britt.
I've got this one on my knee from grade six camp. We were playing the "survival game, and I was a herbivore. I crouched beneath a bush, my heart knocking around in my chest. There was  the a crash of breaking branches. A carnivore. In my escape, a tree branch sliced the skin above my knee. Blood poured down my leg. I remember being proud that I didn't cry. Many years later, I've still got a faint white line running along my knee. 

A scar. 
Scars tell stories about where we've been. I want to celebrate all my scars today as a road map of my life experiences. What about you? What stories could your body tell?

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

p.s. I adored the Survival Game and wish I could play it right now. Who's in?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Carson's apartment is burning and he has to pick three things to take with him to safety. 
1. His vintage Dylan & The Dead concert t-shirt.
2. His autographed copy of Slaughterhouse-Five.
3. The receipt from the waitress at Hooters.

Instead of counting sheep, Carson likes to imagine the world around him engulfed in flames.

He gets out of bed and heads to the kitchen without switching on the light. He takes a bottle of Red Stripe from the fridge and sits at the table. The man from next door is up again. Carson can see him in his brown chair, staring out the window. The old bugger's face, lit by a small lamp, is wrinkled as a bulldog's. 

Carson doesn't even believe in Hooters. That's what he tells his sister, Katie. He goes there for the wings. But that's kind of like saying you read Playboy for the articles, isn't it?

He never sees a woman in the apartment next door. No one ever arrives at the man's side to coax him back to bed. 

Her tag said her name was Kristy. Orange short shorts, long legs clad in suntan hose. A big smile. When he paid the bill, she wrote: "I love you," on the receipt and he felt his heart lift.  She doesn't love him. But it doesn't matter.

Carson finishes his beer and cracks another. He's determined to outlast his neighbour. Does the old guy ever imagine his own apartment in flames? Does he have anything of his own he'd carry to safety? 

The next morning in the lobby of the building next door, Carson scans the mailboxes. Judging from where the window is, he guesses the man is R. Ward. Apartment #605.

He removes the piece of paper from his wallet. Its wrinkled and folded but there are her words, written in pink marker. Carson slides the receipt into R. Ward's mailbox.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A heartsick bear is a terrible thing. When a bear is in mourning, they sing. And I've never met one who can carry a tune. 

Simon, on the third shelf is suffering badly and none of us knick-knacks have slept properly in days. 

It started with the humans, as it always does. The mother and son were arguing again, their words sharp and fierce. And this time, the boy opened the door to his mother's cabinet, snatched up Vince the cat, and hurled him against the wall. 

Poor Vince was made of glass. He shattered, and the woman fell to her knees amongst the shards and cried. 

Three shelves down, a horrible sound joined her sobs. 

"Wise men say, only fools rush in. But I can't help falling in love with you." 

Simon, singing his heartbreak. No one had suspected his love for Vince. 

A few days later, the boy brought his mother a porcelain skunk. Her name was Layla, and she'd once belonged to an old woman with papery skin who smelled of jasmine flowers. The women held Layla in her palm and they'd rock in her wooden chair.

The skunk took Vince's place in the cabinet. She tried to share her stories of the old woman, but Simon ignored her and continued to sing. 

Then the strangest thing happened. Layla's song started small, barely more than a whisper. It grew and grew. They began to harmonize, the bear and the skunk. They sang together, their voices tracing a pathway through everything they'd lost. 

"Like a river flows, surely to the sea, darling so it goes, some things are meant to be. Take my hand, take my whole life too. For I can't help falling in love with you."