Booth, an African American man in his early thirties, sits in a small, ill-conceived boarding-house room, playing three-card monte, a game of hustling and chance. His gaming table is composed of a plank across two mismatched milk crates. His manipulation of the cards is awkward, indicating a lack of skill and experience. Booth is startled by the entrance of his older brother, Lincoln, and he pulls a gun. Lincoln is dressed like his namesake, he wears a fake beard, and his face is whitened by stage makeup.
Link, as he is called by his brother, is employed as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator: He is assassinated in play by persons desiring to reenact history by pulling the trigger. Booth, on the other hand, is unemployed and deeply infatuated with Grace, the woman of his dreams. Because of his strong desire to succeed as a hustler, Booth decides to change his name to “3 Card.” Lincoln, prior to his new career as a presidential impersonator, had been a successful three-card monte player; he gave up the game after a close associate, Lonnie, was shot and killed by an irate customer. However, he is nervous about the security of his job reenacting history: It seems that he is about to be replaced by a dummy as a cost-saving move. He practices dying as Abraham Lincoln in an effort to defer his being let go.
The following evening, Booth enters dressed in an oversized coat, from which he extracts the booty he has lifted from various shops. In his cache are such disparate items as two new suits, girlie magazines, and a bottle of whiskey with two glasses. Though not skillful at three-card monte, he seems adept at shoplifting. Lincoln wants to practice dying, but Booth has a rendezvous with his girlfriend, a woman “so sweet she makes my teeth hurt.” Upon his brother’s departure for his date, Lincoln is left with the whiskey and begins to drink.
Upon his return from a successful date with Grace, Booth finds a drunk Lincoln. Because of his need to win Grace, Booth insists...
(The entire section is 817 words.)