Friday, May 02, 2008

Billie Standish Was Here - booktalk

Billie Standish Was Here by Nancy Crocker

I lost so much the summer before sixth grade—my trust in people, my childhood, my innocence. It’s hard to believe that I gained even more. I never had a friend before Lydia Jenkins entered my life. Would we have become such good friends if we hadn’t shared such a horrible secret? I don’t know.

How a person as true and wise and giving as Miss Lydia could have a son as rotten to the core as Curtis baffles me. When you hang around like a shadow, like I do, you know people mainly by what you overhear. That’s how I first knew Curtis. And what I’d heard was that Curtis couldn’t find his ass with both hands. If it was on fire. And he had a map. Wink Sweeney said one time that Curtis was mainly a smart aleck, but without the smart part. But you can be stupid and still be good. Curtis wasn’t. Everyone knew he’d killed a girl in a drunk driving accident when he was in college. He’d been in jail more than once, and he couldn’t hold a job. He’d show up on Miss Lydia’s doorstep, and she kept taking him in. I guess she had no choice. Most of the time when Miss Lydia and I were first becoming friends, Curtis wasn’t around. But when he was, he gave me the creeps. Looking at him made me remember the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, who put on clothes and talked and was a good enough imitator to pass for a human being. Well, Curtis may have been stupid, but he was smart enough to know I’d do anything for his mother. So when he pulled up in his truck that day and told me Miss Lydia needed me to do some shopping for her, I got in. It wasn’t until he passed the store and pulled in behind the school that I really knew something was wrong. I tried to run, I swear I did. But I was eleven, and he was a grown man. I couldn’t get away.

When it was all over and I’d run home, it was Miss Lydia who was there for me. It was Miss Lydia who wiped off the blood and put me in a hot bath and tried to comfort me. And it was Miss Lydia who sat up that night with a shotgun waiting for her son to come home. It was Miss Lydia who pulled the trigger and saw to it that Curtis would never hurt another girl again.

Secrets can divide people or unite them. Our secrets bound us even closer together. We both had something to hide, something we’d never tell another soul. But how to keep a secret wasn’t the only thing I began to learn that day. I learned that love and friendship are powerful things. My life, my story, didn’t end when I was attacked. There was so much more to come. I have a future now. I have Harlan. And it’s all because Miss Lydia was here.

My non-booktalk thoughts on this book can be found here.

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