I was standing on the wrong side of a cold little stream off Laurel street while my wife was out returning Christmas presents when I saw a tire that had a tree standing on it like it was a table. The tree was thin and deciduous, and whether you looked at the tree or the tire, the result was satisfactory.
"I wonder where this tire came from?" I asked my faithful guide. My faithful guide is a perpetually near-empty flask. His answers are sometimes satisfying, and always illuminating.
I sought another answer and my faithful guide doled one out, but the half-buried tire held her own secrets.
She was the kind of tire you had to think about. Had to roll around in your mind like it was some kind of axle. I wanted to know everything about her. Had she escaped some rat-fink tire fire? Had she leaped from the bed of some overloaded truck?
Things were bleak. This tire might be a tale of lost potential, a perfectly good tire that someone had loved, and now it was in this shady ditch on the wrong side of the good side of town.
There was no way to know and the whiskey was no longer answering my questions with anything but a bitter stomach and a mind to match.
I headed back, trying to get out of that dreary cold of early January, the kind of cold that makes you happy to find a vent over a steaming sewer. I avoided the icy stream as I steered myself, well guided, back to civilization.
I knew I had a story. The story of the thick tire - but I knew it could wait. That tire wasn't going anywhere. And neither was I.
I've seen a lot of tires. I've seen tires rolling down the interstate with no car attached. I've seen reefs of tires spread along the shores. A tire can be your best friend. Or your worst enemy, like when it lies resting and rotting in some shallow swamp, collecting water for the most dangerous animals on Earth.
I'm no fool. I knock those over when I can. Doing my part, you know. Like the tire. Tires come in bundles of four. But tractor tires come in pairs. I never thought I'd see another tire from that pair. It's a big swamp, after all, and that uptown tire might not see her downtown sister, or maybe she lived even further up, in parts of town so fancy they got servants to cook you dinner and they don't let guys like me in the house without two cops and a lawyer on hand.
I'd put that tire out of my mind. Spring had come and tried to flood us, and summer tried to beat us all to death with deadly solar radiation. Fall was here, bringing tornadoes and thunderstorms. My line of work is dangerous.
My guide had brought me south, to the world of Creosote Slough. It's a rough part of Flowood, but a pretty nice part of Jackson. It's like a wart on Flowood, the one little bit on the wrong side of a river. But not just any river. My river. There's parts of that old Slough you just can't get to in the winter, or spring. Water's too high.
So like the Bad Detective I am, I headed down there on a cool fall day, the water was low and the drinks were cheap. The law of supply and demand doesn't always hold up. All I could see was my one trusty guide, and he was giving them away.
The demand was plenty even though I'm just one man. I have a thirst for two things: Whiskey, and answers about tires. The whiskey wasn't giving me any answers, just more questions. The swamp is my office. Nobody comes into my office. Business is bad.
Still though, there past the banks where I'd found my old friend, Westinghouse, I knew that the steep bank down into the Slough could be hiding something. Something important.
I made my way down the steep earthen bank, cursing my guide. Nothing but some old footballs and empty bottles. Sure, it was a good haul, I knew that, but that day, something was bothering me. Not the clean water in the ditches, not the dead and vacant looks from abandoned shoes.