To keep meals from getting all gritty, dusty, and generally inedible, Ma asks Billie Jo to set the table with all the dishes turned upside down. When they turn them over, the spots where their plates covered the tablecloth are neat and clean and surrounded by dust.
Even then, there's still dust all over the food. Daddy makes jokes about having pepper on the potatoes and chocolate milk.
Billie Jo got a letter from Livie saying that her family can't find work in California and her brother has gone off to make it on his own; Billie Jo becomes frightened thinking about what her family would do in their situation, especially with the baby coming.