The night Ann Deever returns to her old neighborhood to visit Chris Keller and his family, a tree in their backyard blows over in a storm. The tree was planted as a memorial to the older Keller son, Larry, a fighter pilot who was lost in World War II. The morning after the storm, family members and neighbors gather in the yard to chat, to read the newspaper, and to discuss Ann’s return.
Ann’s father, who was Joe Keller’s partner in a wartime business, is in the penitentiary for having allowed cracked cylinder heads to be shipped, which caused the deaths of twenty-one pilots. (Joe was jailed, too, but was later exonerated for his part in the incident.) After the neighbors leave and while Ann is still inside the Keller house eating breakfast, Joe and Chris—a father and grown son who obviously admire each other—discuss Larry’s tree falling and the effect it will have on Kate, the mother. Chris also tells his father that he asked Ann to visit because he wants to ask her to marry him; Joe responds that his mother will not like the news because she still thinks of Ann as Larry’s girl. Chris explains that if he is to stay with the family business, he will need his father’s support in convincing Kate that Larry is not coming back from the war and that Ann and he have the right to be happy.
When she enters the backyard, Kate tries to downplay the significance of Larry’s destroyed tree, but she notes the coincidence of Ann’s return. She reminds the two men that she is sure Larry is not dead and that Ann must share that sentiment. Chris tries to reason with her, but she insists that it is possible that Larry is still alive. She mentions that a neighbor is working out Larry’s horoscope to establish whether or not Larry’s plane crash could have occurred on one of Larry’s “lucky” days.
Once Ann joins the Keller family in the yard, the talk turns to old times and ultimately to Larry. Ann makes it clear that she is not waiting for Larry, but Kate tells her that she should listen to her heart, “because certain things have to be, and certain things can never be.” Their talk also turns to Ann’s father in prison, and Ann reveals that her sympathy for him came to an end once she heard of Larry’s crash. Joe explains that Steve—Ann’s father—is not a bad man, just the type of weak man who buckles under pressure. Joe goes on to say that in spite of Steve’s claim that he, Joe, approved the damaged shipment, he would be willing to let Steve come back to the business, not as a partner but as a worker. Ann marvels at Joe’s magnanimity, and Chris agrees that he is “a great guy.”
After the group makes plans to go out for a celebratory dinner, Chris and Ann talk...
(The entire section is 1118 words.)