Piet is in the backyard of his house with an aloe plant that he is trying to identify from a field book, for names are important to him. Other potted aloes are set across the yard. His wife sits quietly nearby. Piet and Gladys have invited Steve Daniels and his family for supper, and because both are apprehensive about the impending visit, the waiting time is passing slowly. Gladys, to relieve her tension, goes into the bedroom of the house (visible to the audience) to get her sun hat and while there hides her diary under the mattress.
She returns and continues to discuss her worries about the expected visitors. Piet, trying to reassure her, sets the table and compliments her festive idea of the brass candlesticks. It shortly comes out that these will be the first visitors they have had since Gladys has been back. Where she has been is not fully revealed until act 2.
Piet returns to identifying his aloe. Gladys expresses her dislike of the plants, but Piet sees them as part of his Afrikaner heritage. To him they are hardy South African natives, surviving long droughts for brief flowerings. “Is that the price of survival in this country? Thorns and bitterness,” asks Gladys, who exclaims that conversations with Piet have become “a catalog of South African disasters. Is there nothing gentle in your world?” The aloes “are turgid with violence, like everything else in the country,” she says, a quality she refuses to let affect her. Piet nervously changes the subject by saying it is time to dress for the party.
Scene 2 takes place in the bedroom. Piet knocks and enters after Gladys has protectively retrieved her diary from under the mattress and put it on the dressing table in front of her. In the seven months since she has been back, not one of their friends has been around to see them. Gladys wonders if she is the reason, but Piet says people are simply frightened and have crawled into their own shells. He even admits to being frightened, which surprises Gladys, who remembers Piet’s strong sense of purpose to life.
Gladys would be lost without this diary for keeping all of her woman’s secrets and reminds Piet that she did lose all of her old diaries once, when the police came and took them. This is a painful memory for Gladys, who believes that that invasion of her privacy amounted to rape. Piet is...
(The entire section is 964 words.)