Poor Jimmy Poor Miriam
Billie loves the sky and sunlight, grass, the horizon, waves on water, earth and the trees planted in it. She forgot how much she liked the writing that day. In the next year she twice has to spend time in hospital, once for bad kidneys and once for a serious foot injury. She misses a lot of school, though she passes all the exams. Actually, she spent a lot of time thinking about school, it kept her mind occupied and interesting; it's her way of coping. Billie did not know this of herself at the time.
At home, her ordinary life is to look out for Miriam who is forever getting screamed at, backhanded or belted. So too, Jimmy, her older brother is always 'rubbing his father up the wrong way'. In fact not one of the seven children escape his wrath, and, as time goes on, the children's mother also takes her frustrations out on her brood. She will use the electric jug cord or the shaving strop, hung conveniently on the inside of a table leg. right at that spot where their father sits - at the head of the table and as the head of the house.
Especially reading homework fuels the mother's rage at Miriam; if she stumbles on a word or a spelling error. Miriam's mistake is a Que for her mother to let out everything else she is cross about - as if she has made lists.
Miriam has a terrible bad habit of sucking the two middle fingers of her left hand; something that always provokes her mother to scream at her to the point of frothing at the mouth. Every kind of punishment is foisted onto poor Miriam. Mustard, pepper, soap, chili; even threatening with a knife and a chopping block. Nothing works, as soon as a crisis passes, straight away, Miriam has her two middle fingers back in her mouth, and Billie, always coming up the rear, telling Miriam to 'get her fingers out of her mouth'.