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Melinda, the eleven-year old daughter of dour parents, members of an obscure religious sec, finds solace in small things: a spun silver spider web, her box of treasures, and a stolen afternoon at Silver Lake on her "day of days." As the movie progresses, Melinda experiences ageless comforts and pains. A disgraced famous writer and a waylaid college professor, two exciles in the small Mid-Western town, enter her sheltered life. A warmhearted waitress introduces her to the blues and a fizzy drink called Coca-Cola, and she receives her first exlorative attention from a boy (Zac Efron in his screen debut.) Escalating tragedy, the death of her beloved Aunt Calla, is climaxed by her father's eruption into angry drunkenness, shattering Melinda's innocence forever and sening her fleeing into the night. The ultimate triumph of Melinda's spirit culminates when at years's end she once again visits her treasure box with its bittersweet memories.