No Ride: A Finding Joy Excerpt

The winter stars twinkled above the streetlamps in the midnight sky. Porch lanterns glimmered through the fog. A lone car’s headlamp shone in the distance.

But shadows prevailed. Dusky hands swiped from the gloom. A blackness I’d never escape.

I kept running. Rushing forward in a race against no one. Each breath drew shorter. I started gasping, chest tightening with every stride.

Palm trees swayed overhead, their sharp fronds whispering like necromancers creating curses. Repeatedly, they murmured, “Dog. Freak. Outcast.” Meanwhile, wispy clouds became wraiths assaulting the sky.

Praying that speed would shrivel the words, I tried focusing on my feet. And raced on.

If there truly was a fairy godmother, she’d tell me to close my eyes to erase it all. But when I tried, Angie’s sneering face remained etched on the back of my lids.

 I sprinted up one street. Down another.

Then I turned the corner and flew head long into the street. Saw the headlights. Too late. A horn blared and tires screeched. 

The next thing I knew I was splayed out in someone’s yard, watching a man in a dark Camaro roll down his window.

“Stupid kid! Watch where you’re going!” he shouted before peeling out.

If I’d had any buzz before that, it sure as shit was gone now. Panting, I hugged my knees as the wet grass soaked into my Dittoes.

The street was quiet now. Shivers tingled my scalp and pulsed down my spine until I was shaking so much, I thought that big earthquake they always talk about had begun.

I want to go home. Sit on Mom’s lap like I had when I was little, feeling her stroke my hair as she told me things that weren’t true like sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you.

Take a deep breath, Joy. Think. You don’t’ know where you are, but you need to find out. It’s almost curfew.

My legs tightened as a full-on Charlie horse set in. Standing I limped over to a nearby street sign, grabbed the pole with both hands, and started to stretch out my right calf.

The sign said Malibu Avenue. Where had I heard that before? Wracking my brain, I tried to remember street names, but everything was fuzzy and mixed up.

Right or left? Both looked pretty much like dead ends, but I either picked one or stayed on this corner shivering all night. Eeenie meanie Minnie moe.

Left it is.

***

By the time I finally found my way home it was real late, probably past two. I thought maybe I could sneak in and my parents wouldn’t notice.

Turning the knob as slowly as I could, I slipped inside.

 “Where the hell have you been?” Ronny thundered, his eyes red and angry.

“Umm. At Janice’s.”

He grabbed me by the collar and pulled me closer. I could still smell the Seagram’s under the toothpaste on his breath. “Liar. We called. She was with her boyfriend.”

“But I was with them. Really.”

“You were whoring around, little slut.”

“No! I was with Janice and Lisa, I swear.”

Mom stepped into the entryway. “Tell us the truth Joy. Was it a boy?”

“No.” I sighed. Busted, I might as well tell the truth. “I was a party, okay? Some kids had a party.”

“Whoring around?”

“I don’t do that. just went to a party.” Then under my breath said, “Nobody’d want me anyhow.”

Mom’s face fell. “You lied to us?”

“I thought you’d say no. You guys are so strict-”

“I’ll show you strict you little slut!” Ronny raised an arm.

“Stop calling me that.”

Grabbing a fistful of t-shirt, he said, “Slutty jeans. Whore top.”

“Asshole!” I jerked away.

“Why you fucking little–” His fist recoiled off my face.

For the first time I ignored the pain and fear. Instead, rage filled me. Every punch Mom and I had ever endured. Every black eye and bruise. Every cruel word of derision. Every time I’d cowered behind my door. All turned to paper flashing flame.

I wish he’d just crawl in a hole and die.

I swung. Fists curled like he showed me. Connected with that fucking red face. Arms burning with rage. Imitating the blows he’d inflicted year after year.

Smack! Rapid fire strikes shot off from two pairs of arms. Child against adult. Girl against man. Victim against perpetrator.

 Mom’s screams did nothing to stop the conflagration. Too many years of fuel. I punched and punched. Not giving a shit as to how loud she cried or how much my face was swelling.

She got behind me and grabbed my waist. “Stop, now!” she said dragging me off him.

I stumbled back. Raised an arm toward her but then gasped when I realized what I was doing. A tear-stained face looked at me accusingly.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Ronny placed a hand on Mom’s back. “She’s a spoiled bitch, that’s what.”

Shaking my head, I backed up. Only now feeling the fire on my cheeks, I cupped them and froze. I hate him, fucking hate him.

 After lowering my hands, I ran to my room. With a loud door slam, I fell onto the bed and buried my face in a Tide-scented pillow. Pounding the mattress, I screamed, “I didn’t do anything!”

Asswipe.

And I’d really been trying lately. Not getting high so much. Working on my grades, friggin’ joined the school paper, even wrote two articles that got published. I tried getting home before curfew. Wasn’t my fault I couldn’t get a ride.

Why do I even try? No matter what I do, things suck.

A smoldering something changed in me that day. It blistered into a scalding char that burned under my skin. And the tears that flooded my pillow did nothing to smother it.

I fucking give up.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Banished Butterflies: A Poem

We live in an age of love’s corporeal metamorphoses

Where butterflies are banished back to chrysalides

Veiled in pupal gowns

They emerge as larva crawling and devouring

Ever younger and greener shoots

Until the garden is denuded

And it is time to call upon corporeal lust

To nourish an emptying sky of butterflies

And as the wind is hushed from the beating of astral wings

And skyriders descend into the venery of a mucinous desert

Gypsy moths dance on their aborted souls

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Martin Luther King Jr: A Quote

Dr. King said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact violence merely increases hate…Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

More than fifty years have passed since Dr. King spoke these years yet many still hold onto the false belief that violence can stamp out evil. But it is the violence itself that is a blight on society. Destroying a few individuals with hatred will not bring a stop to it. Isn’t it about time that we learned to walk a new path? I have seen children from gang families, abused kids, homeless students, and the impoverished act with more empathy than many adults.

We could learn a great deal from them. And by remembering these words spoken so long ago.

Elementary Students Volunteering to Create Peace at My School

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Azurean Zeppelin: A Poem

Past faces intent on lines

Drawn by others

And lights

Too often flashing

A helium soul

Floats over congested freeways.

Bobbing on the breezy radio

Waves of rock-n-roll.

The timbre of myriad voices

Inflate her imagination

Creating an

Azurean zeppelin

Drifting beyond

To a cleared road ahead.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Veteran’s Day: A History Poem

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Of 1918

An armistice began.

In the war to end all wars

And the world heaved

A collective sigh.

1919

A president speaks.

Commemorating this date with thanksgiving

And prayer

And exercises designed to perpetuate peace

Between nations.

They called it Armistice Day.

Years passed.

1954

A president speaks.

A new name.

Veteran’s Day.

And we came together

With thanksgiving

And prayer

And exercises designed to perpetuate peace

In honor

Of all who served.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Is This The Matrix?

Is this all an illusion? Am I truly here on this planet revolving around the sun or am I a dream in someone else’s imagination? Is my mind my own or the extension of a large factory?

The movie The Matrix poses these questions with superb symbolism and poetic ideologues.  Through the use of a futuristic world whereby a machine race has enslaved mankind as a renewable energy source, we both question our own existence and our purpose here on Earth.  If we are but a dream inside of an elaborate world of dreamers, and controlled by image-makers is there any free will?  How can we fight injustice and inequality if life is only a mirage?  Perhaps we believe we are at battle but truly all is a simulacra; a construct of our minds and we are in conflict with our own alter-egos.

As the story unfolds we find ourselves intrigued by the young man, Neo who searches for something he calls the Matrix.  Isn’t this a symbol of our own search for a spiritual existence in a technical world?  As we further remove ourselves from a nature and find comfort and company ever more in electrical images does it not make sense that a quest for spirit would take place on the Internet?  Yet when Neo delves deeper into this world of computers he finds not a God but a race of machines who have declared themselves God.  So, does he embrace them and kneel before their alters? No!  On the contrary! He joins a force which seeks to destroy their temples in a holy crusade.  He is an unbeliever at first.  He doubts what he cannot see or touch.  But then again, what has he ever felt or touched that he can trust?

Morpheus says, “Welcome to the real world.” But Cipher quips, “Why didn’t I take the blue pill?”

Do we constantly take the blue pill?  We wrap ourselves up in the digital world of computers, TVs, cellular phones, hidden behind cubicle dividers or car privacy glass. Hell, we could have hundreds of conversations in a day while never touching another living human being. Constantly cut off from real interaction with the world.

Although violence is often a gratuitous tool used by Hollywood to entice movie goers, the violence is essential to the plot in this film.  As Neo combats the machine constructs within the digital Matrix, he must face his own doubts and fears thus seeing that there is more to his world than meets the eye. It becomes a symbol of man’s struggle with himself. It forces us to ask what is more important in the intellect versus the body or faith versus fact questions that have long plagued human kind. Do we live the life we choose or one of enslavement?  Neo fights his way through and overcomes internal struggles in trying to discover who he is and where he is going.

Just like me.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Trampoline

Children

On fabric suspended by

Springs

Cartwheels

Hand springs

Pratfalls

Leaping ever higher

Making mystical nests of clouds

Touching dragons in the sky.

 

 

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet, and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Finding Joy: A Book About Abuse

My name is Joy, Joy Chappell. Over the top, I know, but my Mom wanted me to sound all innocent. And maybe I was, in my own way.

Can a car stealing, pot smoking, LSD tripping chick be innocent?  I thought so.

Even though it was always on my mind. It, the thing we never talked about. It that Mom hid with Cover Girl and I lied to my friends about. It, making me dream that someday the light of hippie sun would shine down as we danced barefoot in meadows.

Naïve, I know. But when you’re a kid you see the world through your own eyes. And when you’re high to boot, everything is tinged with a soft mist, like an out of focus camera, and you trust people, thinking they just want to give you a ride.

Even with It, I never knew people were truly ugly until that night. I really thought the face inside was just a mask, one I could melt away with my Kodachrome soul. But I was wrong. And by the time I figured it out, it was too late.

I was seventeen, and I was about to die

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Father’s Day: A Time to Reflect

This Father’s Day, take a moment to remember the magical times while creating anew.

Baby rubs her eyes.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

Binary Philosophers: A Poem

In the Desert of the Real

We are the creatures

Who lope, crawl, and slither

But here

On the circuit board

We are noesis.

Binary philosophers

Espousing 1 and 0.

We ask the screen:

When we are zero

In the hard drive of our souls

Do we lose mass

And become antimatter?

Or in the vacuity

Of nothingness

Do we escape the desert

And touch the infinite?

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

(Photo by David Stroup)