The yelling was really bad tonight. She sat in her own excrement, in the dark, hoping they would quit soon. She knew if she tried to escape her dank prison she would get a beating, so she crouched, quietly waiting. Finally the drunken adults passed out, and she opened the closet door carefully and crept outside to the bayou. She cleaned herself in the cool water, and washed the sores that covered her little body, like her Aunt Genevieve had shown her. The two of them had hidden the soap and medicines in a tree stump by the river. They knew if her parents and grandparents found them, they would throw them out. Her family was the source of her misery, hunger, and neglect. It was all she had ever known in her four short years on this earth.
Miranda LaVelle was born in 1921, an unwanted, bastard child of a stunningly, beautiful mother, Dee Dee LaVelle, and a wild, whiskey runnin father, Albert Newsome. They gave Miranda her mother’s last name, because, at the time, they weren’t sure who the father was. They lived in a run-down shack on the banks of a bayou on the south Arkansas line. Miranda and her ne’er-do-well parents shared the squalor with her equally reprehensible grandparents, Benjamin and Mazie LaVelle.
Benjamin was a tall, slender man with a striking, angular face and creamy skin that belied a Creole ancestry. Dee Dee took after him with her long legs, shiny black hair and gorgeous face, which, unlike her father’s, was not yet wrinkled from a life of excess. Mazie on the other hand, was a short, square woman with a porcine face and yellow skin from too much booze. Her remaining teeth and the corners of her mouth were permanently stained brown from the snuff she dipped. They seemed a mismatched duo but Benjamin loved Mazie’s “spunk”, as he called it, and he liked that she was a real asset in a bar fight. They imbibed in gallons of Albert’s illegal product and paid no attention to the child at all. Miranda would have already been dead had it not been for her grandfather’s sisters, Genevieve Woods and Priscilla Moretti. They came to check on her regularly and brought her new clothes, food and medicine. The clothes they brought usually ended up thrown in the corner, urine soaked and mildewing. They had watched the child closely and knew something would have to be done. They would have already taken care of it, except for the extenuating circumstances of their own lives.