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: War is like a big machine that no one really knows how to run and when it gets out of control it ends up destroying the things you thought you were fighting for, and a lot of other things you kinda forgot you had.
: What are you thinking? Stu
: If dad's watching... he can go now. Lidia
: He is watching.
: My name's Lidia Simmons, and I'm 12 years old, and these here are my memoirs. I can't really tell ya much about me, nor my life, without first telling ya 'bout my brother Stu. All spring Stu's being kinda quiet. Perhaps it was because a couple months earlier our father gone out looking for work and never returned. It wasn't the first time dad went away. Ever since he'd come back from Vietnam things haven't been just right. Mom held two jobs just to make ends meet. And we were still dirt poor, like everybody else in Juliette, Mississippi. But this June morning in 1970 was different. All the flowers were in bloom, and along with the color, and sweet smell of summer, our father had come home.
: Anyone of you bring any money? Elvadine
: All I got's 10 cent.
: You didn't even go on into Lipnicki's property. I'm the one who got everything. And quit nigger-lippin' my smoke. Give it here. Elvadine
: Excuuuuse me? What the hell you just say? Lidia
: Give me my smoke. What? Elvadine
: You know what. Girl, you'd better get outta my face. Lidia
: You call your friends that. Elvadine
: How I calls my kin ain't none of your business. Amber
: Ooh-ooh, it's a fight! What'd I miss? Lidia
: I'm sorry. Amber
: What's she sorry fo'? Elvadine
: I think you have somethin' that belongs to me - my mood ring. Lidia
: Where's my pooka shell necklace? Elvadine
: I'll see who gets it! Lidia
: Look, I said I was sorry. Elvadine
: My mama said I don't hafta hang out with nobody who degrades me that-a-way, even if they is my best girl. Elvadine
: But I'm gonna let it go this time. But you're on probation, and don't think I'm gonna forget about it neither. Now put your eyes back in your head and let's go.
: Dang, girl, I risk my neck all mornin' for you dumb behind. You think I at least entitled to a five-second break or a puff off of your scag. Lidia
: What do you mean, "riskin' your neck"? Elvadine
: Well, what you call trompin' 'round in them crazy, gap-toothed, banjo-pickin' no-eyelid hillbilly yard stealin' all their junk. Daaaang! They ever do find out we robbed' em, I reckon they gonna whup my behind 'til it's flat as yours.
: Lidia Simmons, what is the matter with you? Lidia
: It's you. You don't got good shoes, you hardly ever eat anything. You work all the time. This money was gonna be a new chance for you. Why are you always giving your chances away? Lois
: Now listen here. All your dad has ever done is fault to make this world a better place for us. Yes, he struggles. Yes, he has had dirt kicked in his face. All the more reason he needs our help. Now, you don't wanna help him that's okay... you gotta follow your instincts. But, I will not listen to you knock him. He's a part of me. You cut him down, you're cutting me down... you're cuttin' down yourself.
: Dad, how come you and Mom don't talk no more? Stephen
: Well, I been gone a long time Lidia, we just giving each other other a little space right now. Lidia
: Well you better start crowding her, Dad! You gotta put your arms around the woman every once in a while or she's gonna think you don't like her no more!
: Now, I'm giving you this advice cause I can see that you just don't know what you're doing. Stephen
: Well, I'm gonna take that to heart.
: [Lidia narrating
] They say he should have died instantly. They didn't know my dad. And he hung on. Stu never said much about that day. He just went straight over to the treehouse and started in on it. For the rest of that day and most of the night, he kept himself busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kickin' contest.
: I learned this summer that my brother was right. My daddy is the wisest man I've ever known. And that no matter what anybody tells you, with God's help, human beings can do anything.
: [reading her summer report
] My dad once said of fightin', we were meant for better things, you and I. And these days when ever I'm ready to haul off and belt someone whose got my dander up, I here him whisper those words in my ear. My mama says people's lives are like tapestries. The color and the beauty of the design is to bring all of the people you know, the things you've learned. Lidia
: [putting aside her paper
] But I learned this summer is that no matter now much people think they understand war, war will never understand people. It's like a big machine that don't nobody really know how to work. Once it gets out of hand, well it's breakin' all of the things you thought you was fightin' for. Whole bunch of other good things you sort of forgot you had.