Forever and always, the Caretaker of Great Park brought those who were hurt or frightened, sick or broken to his wife, Mercie, because she was wise and whatever she touched was made better. . . .
Except a girl named Dirty. Dirty refused to become better. Caretaker had found her outside Stonegate Entrance, rooting around for food after a Burner had beaten her. The child was covered with welts and bruises.
When Caretaker approached the girl, she immediately stood to her feet and shouted, “I’m Dirty! I never wash! I never cry! fight anything that raises a fist to me!” Then she fainted from her wounds and hunger.
Caretaker brought her to Mercie. But all of the old woman’s efforts could not help the girl to enjoy life in Great Park. Dirty hated the cottage. She despised the people who lived there. She thought Caretaker with his tree hat and jingling pockets was stupid. She hated Hero’s ugly scar. “I’m not going to live with those creeps,” she declared one day as she stomped off to the barnyard to make her home with the pigs.
From that day on, she tromped in the mud and slept in the sheds. She practiced pig grunts. She learned pig calls, “Hoi-soi-soi-soi-hoi!” She watched the sows give birth to litters, and made pets of the piglets. And because the pigs were gentle, she loved them.
But she refused to love people. Another outcast was living in the cottage, a girl Dirty’s age who had a disease that had made her crippled. Dirty hated the Crippled Girl because she was ugly.
“Sui! Sui!” she would say to her pigs. “How can they live with that ugly thing? Why don’t they just get rid of her?”
Dirty sat on a big sow and watched when Caretaker carried the Crippled Girl on a pallet into the warm sunshine. She heard that crone of a housewife sing songs. Dirty made pig grunts to drown out the sound.