By Maddie Raymond
Part One: Dry Leaves
This is an exercise
In holding your head up high
Walk down a dirt road
Any will do
But they’re best up north
Ignore your white shoes
They don’t get dirty, darling
If they do, you won’t care
That’s the whole point of the exercise
You know you want to
You’re doing this in the middle of the day
Let the sun touch you
Sing along to your music
No one’s around
Smell the leaves
You’re a part of that
Let the crown of your head align with the sky
You’re a part of that too
You’re born from this earth
You live here
So, my darling
Use this exercise
Practice holding your head up high
You deserve to be here
Part Two: Lavender Soap
This is an exercise
In remembering who you are
Take a shower
Make sure the water is hot
Darling, you deserve comfort
Tip your head back
Close your eyes
Pretend you’re standing in the rain
While the water pounds on your scalp
Who were you
Before all of this
Watch the drops dribble off your fingertips
Until they start to prune
You’re a clean slate now, darling
Take that memory of the real you
Lather it on like lavender soap
It’ll hang around you for days, now
Step out the way you really want to
But be careful not to slip
You’ll probably need a bathmat for the first few tries
If it doesn’t work the first time
Darling, don’t despair
Sometimes it takes a few showers
To be born anew
Part Three: Scented Candles (preferably red)
This is an exercise
In being here
Stay up late
Everything is softer at night
And existence has so many jagged edges
Remind yourself you’re real
It’s nice and easy, darling
In the velvety dark
Light a candle
And smelling of something warm
You have nothing to prove here
Breathe in the scent
Let the warmth reach your palms
No matter what you’ve done, darling
You’re still allowed to have this
Wrap yourself in blankets
Hug your pillows tight enough to remember them
When the light of day makes you start to fade
Have faith, darling
That you are solid
Part Four: Two Glasses of Water
This is an exercise
In picking up the pieces
Don’t be ashamed, darling
We all fall apart sometimes
This is a partner exercise, darling
I know you’re ready
Pour two glasses of water
It’ll help, with the rawness of your throat
And your heart
Tell them something about yourself
Something they don’t know
Let the stillness of the room
And the water
Keep you focused
Like baby chicks lose their down
And the trees shed their leaves
We all have to expel parts of ourselves sometimes
Now, I know this part is scary, darling
But let that person take those parts
And put them somewhere safe
Sometimes it takes more than just us alone
To be made whole again
Part Five: Imperfect Camera (it just has to take pictures)
This is an exercise
In being the center of attention
Pick your head up, darling
I know what you’re capable of
Stand in front of a mirror
The bigger, the better
If there’s natural light, use it
You’re allowed to smile during the day, you know
Take out a camera
It doesn’t have to be a good one
It just has to take pictures
Snap a photo
Keep them all
Even when your leg looks off
Or your hair flies in your face
Notice the sparkle in your eyes
It’s working, darling
Pose in the way
You’ve always wanted to
But never let yourself
Even if in this moment
The only person who is aware of that
Maddie Raymond is 16 years old and lives in Goshen. Through writing, she has gotten to explore new perspectives, discovering things about herself along the way. What she loves most about writing is getting to experience something other than the day-to-day. Her favorite part about Woven Word has been the friends she’s made within the local writing community.
By Maddie Raymond
The first thing I knew was that I was in a basement. The musty smell was unmistakable, and even though I'd only been conscious for a few seconds, that along with the concrete floor told me everything I needed to know.
"Jesus, what did I eat?" My slightly groggy voice seemed to bounce back at me.
"I mean, this isn't the first time I've eaten a bad hot dog or something and gone out like a light, but man, where am I?" Once again, my voice bounced. I reached my hand out, trying to feel my way around the dingy little room. My palm was met with a wall of glass. Cursing softly, I got to my feet, closing my eyes as black spots danced across my vision. Even when I was god knows where, my iron deficiency knew what to do.
"Hey, buddy, I think your basement's a little cramped." I called out, trying to keep cool. In only a matter of moments my adrenaline kicked in, turning me from slightly groggy to something more like agitated. "Huh?!" I hoped someone would hear and realize. "Can I please get a glass of water?!" I hoped whoever decided to bring me to their basement appreciated being polite.
"Hey, I’m getting you some water. You’re probably as dry as a raisin after your night." A man's voice came from out beyond the glass. I heard the sound of scrambling footsteps. The light flicked on, illuminating the man who had just spoken.
"So, Margaret, I finally meet you." Instinctively, I stepped back, hitting my head on the concrete wall behind me. I bit my lip, trying not to show him how disoriented I was as a show of strength or something.
"Uh, hey...buddy...nice to meet you too." The man clasped his hands together, a smile appearing on his somewhat familiar face. If I hadn't been meeting him down there, I would have guessed he was a barista, or a pizza delivery boy, or something like that.
"I'm Jerry, nice to see you. Now, there's a 98% chance you're feeling pretty disoriented right now. Not to worry, I've prepared a little something." I was half expecting Jerry to produce something along the lines of a death ray. Instead, he pulled down a screen from the ceiling and rolled a projector in front of it. He flicked the switch, and the projector sputtered to life, displaying on the screen a PowerPoint titled "Welcome to Jerry's Lair". I could barely contain my laughter, stifling a snort with the back of my hand.
"So you're in the business." Jerry pursed his lips, acting as though I should've known the whole time.
"Margaret, come on! You really don't remember me? I'm Jerry Spier, Dylan's old roommate." I thought back, bringing up an old memory from sophomore year of a guy in a pikachu onesie brushing his teeth in Dylan's bathroom. Dylan had always been more of a Nike guy, so it had surprised the crap out of me. It was my turn to pout.
"Buddy, you didn't answer my question. Are you in the business or not?" Jerry chuckled, his laugh too strange to call anything else.
"Maggie, darling...is it okay if I call you Maggie? Of course I'm in the business. Going on three years of villainy this coming August 29th." I snorted once more. Of course I had to get the guy who was particular about dates.
"Call me Maggie again and I'll cry." I threatened, knowing well enough how uncomfortable tears could make someone. It was usually more effective than punching.
"Oh, yes, Maggie, that reminds me!" Jerry continued on, seemingly oblivious. He now had a laser pointer in one hand, and had flicked to the next slide on his PowerPoint.
"Since you and Dylan have now been dating for over six months, I figured it was time to integrate you into my plan." I blinked once, and then again.
Jerry, I..." was all I had time to say before he pressed a finger to his lips.
"Maggie, that's only the beginning." He flicked to the next slide, labeled "Background".
"A year ago, when I still lived with Dylan, I had this project for my stats class. Naturally, I calculated a plan for world domination, and to my surprise, it came out as nearly 90.25% likely. Unfortunately, getting rid of Dylan is crucial to this plan, and for that I need you, his beloved girlfriend." He seemed breathless after speaking, so I took that time to get a word in.
"Jerry, I'm not his girlfriend. I dumped him a month and a half ago." Jerry looked mortified, his eyes going wide.
"Oh, my mistake. However, I did calculate for this event. In the event that we collaborate, the likelihood of my plan goes up to a whopping 92.3%."
I leaned against the glass on one elbow. Sure, Jerry wasn't number one on my list of ideal coworkers, but Dylan deserved whatever Jerry had in mind. "92.3, huh? I'm in."
Jerry crossed his arms, striding across the room to where I was standing.
"Yes! I mean, huh. I had a feeling you'd say that. A 98.6% feeling, to be precise." For a split second my fingers curled into a fist as I imagined punching the wall.
"Oh, come on, Maggie darling." Jerry sighed. I closed my eyes, thinking of every sad animal video I'd ever seen to conjure up tears.
"If we're going to be comrades, you need to get used to my calculations. They're very useful." With that, I burst into a violent fit of sobs, sliding one damp hand down the glass as I sank to my knees. Through the fog of forced sadness, I caught sight of Jerry, who had the one of the most uncomfortable expressions I'd ever seen on a man to date. Sure, I'd used this tactic before on the odd professor, but I'd never seen anything like Jerry.
“Oh, please, Mag- Margaret, don't cry. I've spent so much time on this plan just for you!" He reached down and pressed something on the remote he was still holding and the glass came away with a soft hiss. Jerry ran over and knelt down beside me.
"We're going to Florida, Mags. Can I call you Mags? It's the first step from slide one of the plan." I sniffled loudly, letting my hair fall into my eyes as I shook my head. It was taking a lot of energy and thoughts about puppies dying to keep the act up. Jerry grimaced.
"Margaret it is, comrade. My apologies." I finally let my tears subside, feeling an overpowering smell of sweat and energy drinks hit me as Jerry helped me up.
"Less crying, more villainy, alright? I may have to reconsider my calculations." I rolled my eyes, my fake sadness quickly replaced by the annoyance from before.
"Reconsider my calculations, my ass. This is why I dropped stats freshman year." I forced myself to sling an arm around Jerry's damp shoulder.
"C'mon, buddy! We're going to Florida!"
Jerry grinned, showing off a smile that still boasted bright yellow and blue braces. My stomach rolled. Jerry, on the other hand, was oblivious.
"You like 'em, Margaret? Had 'em since I was fifteen but my Ma keeps forgetting to schedule orthodontist appointments, so here we are." I blinked, trying my hardest to comprehend this man.
"I...like the colors." Jerry's smile broadened, showing off more metal.
"They're my villain colors." He explained with glee, his whole face lighting up.
"Blue and yellow, for the Statistician!" Jerry then leaned closer to me, his smile lumping up the way a kid's did when they were going to tell a secret.
"Someday, soon I hope, they'll strike fear into the hearts of Dylan's fans." It took the entirety of my will power not to lock myself back into the glass holding container.
"Okay, buddy, good luck with that." With that, Jerry marched me up the basement stairs, a spring in his step that almost sent me sprawling.
"Oh, good luck indeed! I'll need to recalculate, but my chances of the Statistician taking off have most likely increased tenfold!" Jerry then pushed the door at the top of the stairs open and delivered us into the first floor of his home. Within moments, my suspicions about what kind of family Jerry belonged to were proven correct. The entire room was painted a cheery peach, and was lined with old family photos, mostly of a young Jerry. There were still some Legos scattered in the corner, and the smell of lasagna wafted from down the hall. The basement I had just been trapped in had been in Jerry's parents' house.
"Oh, yes. Of course he lives with his ma. Surprised he's not sleeping down there in that basement." I muttered to myself, the feeling of being right so intense that I couldn't not say anything. Jerry didn't seem to notice, and instead began clomping down the hall.
Not exactly wanting to stand in Jerry's living room any longer, I followed him into the kitchen. I was greeted with the sight of what I could only describe as Jerry in the form of a middle-aged woman. As soon as I'd entered the room, the woman slammed down her spatula, ran over to me, and smothered me in a bear hug.
"Oh, you must be little Maggie!"
"Margaret." I mumbled into her sweater. The woman stepped back, keeping her hands on my shoulders.
"I'm Jerry's mom, and I can't even begin to say how proud I am. You and Jerry, out there, wreaking havoc. I'm so happy he finally found a little friend."
Maddie Raymond is 16 years old and goes to Northampton High School. She has been part of Woven Word since eighth grade. She loves having a place to share her writing and all the friends she’s made through the group.