Midwife in the Tire Swing

Chapter Synopses

The Story So Far

Prologue—The Radio Hour of the Little Flower

Fr. Coughlin gasped, struggled for breath and sank to his knees on the Berber carpeting—twelve-fifty the square foot, beige in color and Belgian in origin, the shearings of an untamed Moroccan mountain goat imported at great expense by the Radio Vestrymen’s Guild.

Chapter 1—Lucy and the Mouse

Boom. That was how explosions were supposed to be written down; Young Lucy was an avid reader and knew this. But this was more of a Thump, felt through the soles of his feet rather than heard, and impossible to write down.

Intermezzo 1—Lucy’s Bicycle

The widow Schultz and the Old Testament Jehovah—ineffable, unnameable.

Intermezzo 2—The Tire Swing

The tire part of the tire swing was grown and nurtured, some say personally watched over, by Frank Seiberling in Akron, Ohio. Lucy would stand there in the dusk, holding the rope, touching the tire and its blackness until he was missed. “Lucy? It’s dark,” his mother called. “The bugs’ll eat you alive.”

Chapter 2—Gilgamesh among the Tinkers

Lucy pauses his walker at the edge of the state road, just enough off the asphalt that if he were hit by a passing car, he could sue and win.


Chapter 3—Paper or Plastic

The tiger on the wall above the bathtub was painted with the foreshortening of a heroic tableau. “The damned thing grows on you,” said Harriet Thwaite, just home from a cruise with Roger, Mr. Thwaite. Head-on it looked stumpy, but by a trompe l’oeil trick assumed its intended proportions when viewed from below. “It’s sexy. You know... wet.” It slavered: lust, rage—indigestion, perhaps.

Chapter 4—Clear-eyed Alicia

Alicia Drye shuffled to the kitchen with its calendar thumbtacked neatly to the center of the cellarway door. Thup thup thup. Her pink mule’s loose heel flopped as she walked. One foot was bare where, interrupted in one thought, another had taken its place.

Chapter 5—Dave the Angel

Dave Peel coughed up blood. Fr. Charles E. Coughlin offered a handkerchief. “Not TB. In case you are worried. The consumption and all,” said the angel.

Chapter 6—Makepeace Inglehall, the Judge and Phineas Gage

“I am Joseph Force Crater; I am a judge of the New York State Supreme Court. I am not the Adversary. Your chastity is safe with me, I am a Democrat.”

Intermezzo 3—Left-handed Lightbulbs

Benjie Stallings, an eighth-grader, showed up for home room roll call with a back pack full of left-handed lightbulbs and was a big shot for the rest of the day. Pauley and Jerry have tried this once, stoned—harvesting subway bulbs—and considered themselves pioneers in two-man pyramid research.


Chapter 7—Riding in the Front of the Train

Lucy has wired the oil tank with an incendiary device to beat out the state at any tax sale that might be forthcoming at his death: “Kaboom, The Big Bung, so I know where they’re going to get it—straight up the ass,” he says.

Intermezzo 4—Busting the Maumau

Beholden to no man, Willipaqers had trudged to town on Election Day with only an occasional rebellion since the Aroostook War of 1839. Voting involved the heroic consumption of alcohol supplied free of charge by the candidates, and not a few bullet wounds, gouged eyes, broken limbs and missing teeth. Albeit tales of cannibal sacrifice by roving bands of free-lance desperados persisted, they voted their consciences and split their tickets.

Chapter 8—Ed Hobart checks his answering machine

When Ed got back to the office there was another Mason jar of carpenter ants waiting for him outside the door. “The ant guy,” Ed said.

Chapter 9—Lucian Hobart confesses to the murder of Archimedes Drye

“Truth, daughter mine, is finicky, fickle and, like yogurt and Patagonian gopher cheese, does not suffer travel gladly.”

Chapter 10—Miss Taken Identity

Sarah is unmoved by the recounting of Archie Drye’s murder. “Wherever he is, I’m sure he is grateful,” she says. However, “It is time you were dead, too. I have come to help.”


Chapter 11—Ed Hobart is tempted

Alone in the silent Extension office, Ed got up and walked over to the wall behind his secretary’s desk where a large, loud clock spun away the seconds, minutes, hours. It came from Walmart and lost five minutes a week. “I want to get laid,” said Ed. He held his head against the clock’s plastic face; it felt cool without being cool, a caress of plastic.

Chapter 12—Samantha Rear-ends Sarah at the Phaneuf Gas Station

The sun sliced through her sunglasses with icepick intensity; Sarah signaled for a turn, hoping there was nobody in the oncoming lane. Dino, the Sinclair dinosaur, smiled down. Stop! Clean Restrooms! Sarah’s ears volunteered a make-believe sizzle as the sweat droplet between her eyes evaporated. She was alone and lost. Yesterday’s reptile trolled on for vacationers, a smiling lie set to misdirect one last wagon train.

Intermezzo 5—Words vs. Context

It had been two days since the incident with the medicine cabinet. Samantha looked forlornly toward the bathroom where silver duct tape formed a fragile barricade. Inside were Xanax, Prozac, her toothbrush and the last three rolls of toilet paper.

Chapter 13—True, I talk of dreams

Catherine Armstrong Hobart dozes in her chair; Hollywood Squares blares unattended from the television. Lucy shuffles over to mute the set and bends to kiss his wife on the forehead. “True I talk of dreams, which are the children of an idle mind,” Lucy whispers in her ear. Cat stirs but does not wake up.

Intermezzo 6—Talking Furniture

Lucy had resisted the cable hook-up, for that meant they would have to buy a television set to go with it. “Something at the end of the wire? Where the pictures come in? That would be nice,” Cat said.


Intermezzo 7—The Discovery of Pluto

It is 1930 and at the Lowell Observatory at Flagstaff, Arizona, scientists report finding a ninth planet. Zorro, Robin Hood of the Old West, is unaware of the discovery.

Chapter 14—Tad II and the Naming of DazL

Cat’s efforts to get the window down were thwarted by the perplexing ingenuities of the visiting nurse association’s leased automobile. The keys were in the ignition. She turned the key; four cylinders softly pooted to life, and three of four windows rolled down. The driver’s side stayed shut. She abandoned the nurse’s car on a traffic circle, neatly parallel parked, and hitchhiked home.

Chapter 15—Lucy Hobart ponders Yard Rot

The Chevy 6 roadster was under a blue tarp piled with baled hay and weighted with stones. The old car was the only memorial to Elliot, who had died falling off a ladder.

Chapter 16—Judge Crater speaks of Kumquats

“From distant California the Democratic Party supplies fresh fruit daily to pacify its voters. A grand vision.”

Chapter 17—The Titan City

Sarah chewed nicotine gum by the wad, by the box, yard, fathom and furlong. Sarah developed large, strong jaws. Billie Sundae, proprietrix of Quilts by the Mile, read a singleness of purpose into Sarah’s clenched teeth and felt she was ready for more responsibility. Sarah was moved up to paper-piecing and appliqué.


Chapter 18—The Horny Goat

“Hoplitomeryx must have had a smile like a wolf,” said Sarah Drye as Jerry Levy nibbled at her gluteus maximus. “Wolves smile after dinner. Not many get to see a wolf smile,” said Sarah. Jerry looked up and smiled.

Chapter 19—Moribund

“Moribund.” Billie Sundae thrust her rosy cheeks and perky nose around the corner of the door. Sara’s appliqué and paper-piecing class was just breaking up. “Moribund is to have passed a point of any possible usefulness, to be redundant, dead without the presence of mind or the stick-to-itiveness to lie down and stop breathing. My father, Sarah thought.

Chapter 20—These Violent Delights have Violent Ends

Elder Jesse Youngblood of the Church of the Divine Satisfaction was hunting. His cuffless corduroy trousers were tucked inside heavy toeless woolen knee-highs. Elder Jesse favored two pairs of socks in his boot preceded by a wad of tissue in the toe. “Groundhog. Mighty fine eatin’,” said Elder Jesse. He fingered in a pocket, counting his .22 caliber cartridges.

Chapter 21—Ian and the Camera

Ian Emory Hobart learned about lenses, processing and depth of focus, and attended high school with no serious malfeasances. He raked blueberries on the down-county barrens in the summer for pocket money. Considering his boyhood steeped in the Puritan work ethic—honest sweat, honest toil, value given for value received plus ten percent—this was not unusual, despite Lucy’s best efforts.

Chapter 22—Ta-Ra-Rah and Boom-De-Ay

Cat had wedded Lucy in the same house, before the same familiar faces, amid the same furniture with identical rows of the orchards marching parallel ranks to the Atlantic shores three miles away. When I came to this house as a bride, things were different, thought Cat. But not much different.


Intermezzo 8—The Head of Jim the Baptist

It was the artist in Cat’s mother; she wanted to watch somebody die. The thought came upon her as she was catching up on the darning in her workbasket. People went somewhere else to die.

Chapter 23—Ian Emory decides on a Visit

Ian Emory learned from Lucy who taught him the life skills that had served him when he was In The War: how to shoot craps kneeling on cement and fade a low roller; how to shave with a straight razor on a moving train; how to shoot a .50 caliber machine gun.

Chapter 24—The Spamish Prisoner

Ed watches Heidi. Sarah watches Jerry.

Intermezzo 9—Cooks, Heats and Makes Ice

“So he really flew. Superman. That’s the only answer. Special effects were limited. This was the early eighties—special effects weren’t digital yet.” Dorothy Needy, Mrs. Tad Two, swept Sarah’s plate away from under her nose.

Chapter 25—Golf with Jesus

“I fear death has slowed my libido. Possession by demons, I fear, is pure hokum, a liturgical flim-flam. The real, the corporeal me is moldering in a Brooklyn landfill.”


Chapter 26—Under the Boardwalk

“I promised you the advent of a Miraculous Child. Three wise men and a virgin and all that good stuff. How too, too theosophagous: you have swallowed the whole thing, hook, line and Thessalonians.”

Chapter 27—A Short History of Wallpaper

That the Long Walkers could have found their way back each year was puzzling to the ants. It was also observed that the Walkers were not urinating at all times, thus creating a scent trail. Perhaps they had nothing to say.

Intermezzo 10—The invention of Television, Jesus arrives, etc.

Sixteen, Fr. Coughlin didn’t think sixteen was too young. The girls in high school were doing it like rabbits, giving it away. Or so he thought, so they told him in the confessional; they never gave him any.

Chapter 28—Ian calls Philomena. Francyann answers. Cat listens in.

“Alicia is dead. You’ll have to call an undertaker. A woman called me from Vancouver. They found my address on the body. An Asian woman’s voice. ‘You mother here. You come get her.’ By the accent, probably from Hong Kong and a new arrival. Hong Kong women, very Asiatic, exotic—you see them in the Kung Fu movies. She probably has her PhD. Now she works in the bus depot, freight forwarding.”

Chapter 29—Ed Hobart and the Patrons of Husbandry

Ed was driving at night, a thing he had sworn he would not do. He had the radio on and his gaze fixed on the white line painted to warn of where blacktop ended. The white line was a conscience sop against a bond issue—fair warning that there was no shoulder, just a drop into nothingness.


Intermezzo 11—The Wives of Midlothian

“Lucy, that stuff’s going to kill you,” Ed Sanders, the pharmacist, was referring to Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia. He spoke with the same depth of concern an AA sponsor might spend on a postulant discovered with a quart of J. W. Dant under his arm.

Chapter 30—A Near-birth Experience

“Nighty-night, Lucy.” The voice came from a roseate dawn far through the billows of gathering rapture, at a far off horizon.
“Ninety-nine,” said Lucy as he counted backward from one hundred. “A rose-red city half as old as time...” Lucy mumbled as he drifted off. “Match me such a marvel...”
“Demerol will do it,” said Amberson Nichols, anesthetist. “Let me know what the gods are saying.”

Intermezzo 12—The Conception of Elliot Hobart (as witnessed from Heaven)

From their Olympian lawns a goddess and a god watched with interest as Lucy Hobart’s Chevy 6 rocked with a regular, unhurried motion. “Nice moves,” said the god.

Chapter 31—Francyann Gets Stuck in the Pantry

“I am in the pantry and shall spend the rest of my life in here.” It was, somehow, a comforting thought. Francyann Kennealy was a devoted redeemer of coupons.

Intermezzo 13—The Father of All Demons

“Our Joanna hates you, Little Davey. Not in anger, but in accommodation. This is love seen from beneath, past its lacy drawers as it were. Welcome home, Odysseus.” The green timber raspy edge of the voice sounded like the Old Scrimshander himself, thought Dave Peel.


Chapter 32—Lucy has a Close Call

The rent-a-nurse eyed his physician’s emergency kit and wondered if there was a ready-filled syringe with a happy shot, injectable Demerol, Darvon, whatever. The old guy didn’t look violent, but you never could tell. He was strapped in and coughing his lungs out.

Intermezzo 14—Nameless into Battle

I undid my harness and went up to the cabin where I shot the captain in the back of the head. We dumped him out over the oil refineries.

Chapter 33—Elder Jesse Youngblood speaks of the Illuminati

“...I dreamt soon after, that I was in a room and the devil entered... The next day, it was answered me, ‘It is the Christian minister, he will come to thee in disguise.’”

Chapter 34—Sarah in the Tire Swing

“I misspoke today quoting the Bhagavad-Gita. I bestowed a superfluity of appendages upon the Almighty. Four hands should be enough even for the Mormons, let alone the evangelists.”

Intermezzo 15—Retreat from Consciousness

“I don’t want a funeral,” said Lucy. “They will mutter fictions. Lucian Hobart: His Life and Works. What a crock of shit. I’m just making room for tomorrow, some kid. The Chicken Wizard, they call me that, Samantha and the boy. I don’t want any ill will between him and me.”


Chapter 35—It’s What You Get Done

Jerry installed a two by three foot corkboard on the wall. To this he thumbtacked three-by-five recipe cards with inspirational mottos. “It’s not what you do; it’s what you get done.” “I want to be part of the food chain.” And, beside a collage with Sarah’s face superimposed over the faces of porn stars, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

Chapter 36—Elliot is born and the Weasel returns

Old Doxology’s house was defined more by its shortcomings than by its worth as an architectural wonder. The house lay some miles from town and was last stop on Homer Ackley’s horse and buggy mail route.

Chapter 37—Plants have Feelings, too

Peaches was not her name; it was the name Sarah had given her, assuming the girlfriend and the woman she had seen screwing in the airshaft were one and the same.

Chapter 38—“I can feel her. Everywhere.”

Oceana Carter Hobart had grown up in the shadow of the American Civil War—the War Between the States—and solaria (the word) had connotations of all things bright and beautiful. At solaria (the reality) tubercular veterans lounged behind glass, their backs to the wind, and waited for death.

Chapter 39—Elder Jesse and Heidi discuss Mayonnaise

“Binoculars. The object of your affections is a peeping Tom. And nearsighted to boot. Lots o’ folks are both. No problem there. Is he crippled?”


Chapter 40—Ed Hobart dreams of a lost love

The day that Ed Hobart shot himself in the foot it was a misunderstanding, there was no malice involved.

Chapter 41—Heidi writes a Letter

“Rejection. You fear rejection,” said Elder Jesse Youngblood. “With all due respect, no man ever turned away a free piece of ass. Those few who do will be so flattered that they’ll treat you like a princess forever after, sex or no sex.”

Intermezzo 16—Middle-aged Virgins

Ed played the part of the dutiful suitor, pushing the shopping cart while Heidi carried a list.

Chapter 42—The New Ashmoleans

“What about you—married all those years to an anesthesiologist who puts his own jones to sleep. When the sleeper wakes—it is written—there goin’ be a Great Fornication.”

Chapter 43—Truth, Justice and the American Way

“There have been signs. A new revelation might well be at hand. On the other hand... we’d still have Clark Kent. And this time we will be allowed to read what he has written. Did you watch the TV show?”


Intermezzo 17—The Miraculous Child

“I was raised to be in fear of the wedding night. Even substantial men become animals, this is common knowledge.”

Chapter 44—Philomena and the Seer

“Nutty as a fruitcake, our Joanna. A religious zealot. Comes with the job, I’d suppose.”

Chapter 45—Real Butter on Request

The beer came out all foam, an alcoholic cotton candy that went flat and dried on the sides of the glasses, looking like spun sugar, a bubbly bit of crusty fluff with an inch of liquid on the bottom.

Chapter 46—The Quality of Grace

Lucy sent away for a mail-order weight bench and a set of dumbbells which he set up in the barn. Where nobody went because of the smell. This was to be his secret.

Intermezzo 18—The Starving Time

“Hiya, deer,” Lucy said. “Heard any discouraging words lately?” The dead deer’s one remaining eye winked, then fell out. “Bet your ass, kemosabe,” said the deer.

Chapter 47—The Antlered God (Chicken Wizard 1)

“Then you don’t have your son buried in an old car. Too bad, I mean like that sounded nice. Thoughtful. Like where he began? There was this guy in Escondido who got buried in his Corvette with his pet Chihuahua. And his golf clubs. The car was red with chrome wheels.”


Intermezzo 19—Nasty business, peace

George and Azalea own the hardware store. They are children of the nineteenth century who will not even in the afterlife have accepted Roosevelt or the germ theory.

Chapter 48—Lucy cranks the Chevy Six

Downtown a half-mile procession of desperate adolescents varoomed by in battered trucks showing off their new-found independence of transport, waved on by admiring and equally sex-starved high school girls. The car culture had created rolling rendezvous. The Chevy 6 began life circling Willipaq’s Commercial Block, cruising for girls.

Chapter 49—A Confederation of Adepts (The Chicken Wizard 2)

“Neverland. Peter Pan. Abide with me, great-granddaughter, and I’ll take you to Newfoundland. Where the airplanes disappear.”

Chapter 50—Riding the Hag (The Chicken Wizard 3)

DazL, the miraculous child, awakened and let out a furious howl. He was being ignored and this was not to be allowed. He crawled through the stubble of flattened pasture to the chicken and put its head in his mouth. The chicken was still out cold.

Chapter 51—Philomena Tries the Tire Swing

Philomena found herself singing wordlessly. “Sub-vocal expression” is what Lucy would call it. She resolved to not mention her new-found ability. Never.


Chapter 52—Strangers, the Kindness of

The barn was moving in ever-widening arcs above his head, a behavior no properly built barn would exhibit. Funny, thought Lucy, it never did that before. The peaked barn roof, the ridge pole in particular, grew foreshortened and flew up, away from him.

Intermezzo 20—Fr. Charles E. Coughlin practices a Homily

Dave Peel arrived in the Radio Priest’s study to find him in rapt contemplation of a fish tank. A small turtle floated on its back. Fr. Coughlin wept as he thought of brave baby turtles, hatchlings scampering to the sea, attacked by predators from every side. The Radio Priest took off his chasuble and rolled up a sleeve. He reached into the tank and righted the turtle. It sank.

Chapter 53—The Vertical Ferryman

Dave Peel took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the air in the elevator cage. His face became blue, then red. He turned to exhale into the shaft outside. “Any of you here named Lucy Hobart?”


Many and effusive thank-yous, picture credits—brickbats, accolades, etc.

Notes, Links and Appreciations

For more about plumbing the wonders of Midwife in the Tire Swing, see the notes pages for Joanna Southcott, Bride of Christ; Abraxas and Jesse Ventura; Fr. Coughlin and Ludus Litterarum.

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