The Tire Swing


The oak stands alone on the side of the road with its branches splayed in bedazzling chaos and looking like something biblical, something made for him by an old testament God as a warning, or a lesson in humility. The tree is enormous. Itís black in the rain and leafless, it appears to have arms; frozen in the midst of a violent eruption. It reminds him of a sea monster he once saw in a forbidden book of myths. Itís good, he thinks, that the traffic slows here, on the curve of this old country road. Itís good that this tree exists. Every day he traces the course of its branches, and imagines the depth of its roots, and he marvels at the miraculous juxtaposition of the tree and that which hangs from it Ė a rope and a tire. Two creations. Two worlds. The reality and the dream in a field of amber grasses beside an abandoned farmhouse where a child no longer plays because heís gone, he moved away long ago when the road came through, not knowing that his tree might survive or that the rope might hold despite the sun and the wind and the rain.

It sways gently and sometimes spins, so that the whitewall seems to wobble and tricks the man into thinking that a ghostly ellipse hovers above the ground at roughly the same level as a belly-button. Could that boy have known that his private joy would transcend time and become the vicarious and ephemeral pleasure of a man who drives the long road that displaced him to a job he goes to for nothing but money?

And the man, who knows nothing of the boy, how his grandfather planted the tree before automobiles and paved roads, that the tire itself is from dark green Packard that was the first car the family ever owned Ė this man feels something wonderful when he sees the tire hanging from the rope. In his daily glimpse of the tree he experiences what he used to feel from jazz music, and great oil paintings, and those times when his mother would lay her hands on his shoulders to help him fall back asleep, and from his father, when he stood with his head in the crook of that manís arm as he showed him how to cast a fishing rod and hold it, and from himself when he mastered the art of steering a sled so that it cut through the frozen snow like a luge, giving him for the first time a surge of power and control and speed. The tree and the tire swing are all these things Ė love and freedom and joy. The tree on the road that he passes each day is a collector of dreams, a thing that doesnít move or talk, a thing heís never even touched, that is simply a reminder of other things he once loved and other days he once lived.