Last Updated August 17, 2023.
It is a Friday night in 1957. Two Black men in their fifties, Troy and Bono, enter. Troy is a large, hardworking man; Bono is "obviously the follower." Both are garbage collectors.
The pair are joking about a workmate who was convinced that Troy was going to get everyone fired because a "man from the union" was seen talking to Mr. Rand, their boss. Troy had asked Mr. Rand why white men do all the driving and Black men do all the lifting and was advised to complain to the union, which he did. He says he wants to change the job description so that anyone can drive a truck.
Troy asks Bono how he is progressing in his attempts to woo a woman, Alberta, whom Troy himself has bought drinks for. Troy assures his friend that since his marriage to Rose, he hasn't strayed, and was simply being polite. Alberta is from Florida and is much admired by Bono.
Rose appears. She is ten years her husband's junior and wants to know what the men are doing. She asks Bono if he'd like to stay for supper, but Bono demurs.
Troy says that he married Rose when she insisted that, if he didn't, he move so "the marrying kind could find" her. In their early days, they had no yard. Bono says that he and Lucille used to live in two rooms with an outdoor toilet.
The group discusses the A&P and weighs the benefits of shopping there versus shopping at Bella's, which is more expensive but independent. Troy says he is glad that Cory has a job at the A&P; he has also been recruited by a college football team.
Troy is skeptical about the likelihood of Cory, as a Black boy, progressing in football, but Bono says that times have changed and that Cory is an excellent sportsman like Troy. He and Rose point out that Jackie Robinson opened up the field of baseball to Black athletes.
Rose criticizes Troy's drinking, but Troy argues that he drinks only one night of the week and has no worries about drinking himself to death—nor of death itself. Even when he was hospitalized with pneumonia, he was unafraid, despite a three-day "wrestle" with death. Bono is skeptical of this story and tries to coax the bottle of liquor away from him.
Lyons appears. He is thirty-four and Troy's son from a previous marriage. He is a musician.
Rose offers him dinner, but Troy says he knows Lyons is here for the money. Accordingly, Lyons asks for ten dollars. Troy tells a story of how, ten years ago, when he was unable to get credit, a white man came and offered him enough furniture to fill his house in return for ten dollars a month. He suggests that this was the devil, as he has been paying the ten dollars for fifteen years now and is afraid to stop paying.
Dismissive of the story, Lyons asks again for the ten dollars, saying that Bonnie is working. Lyons himself doesn't want to work at a job like his father's, but Troy tells him he is lazy and that he has no extra money.
Rose persuades Troy to hand over the ten dollars, which he grudgingly does. Bono says that he needs to go home to Lucille. Troy drunkenly says that he loves Rose so much he has "run out of ways of loving her."
The following morning, Rose is singing a spiritual song while she hangs clothes. She tells Troy that Miss Pearl won a dollar in the...
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lottery, and Troy says that "playing numbers" is a waste of money, particularly among those who can't afford it. He tells the story of one man who won the lottery, bought a restaurant, and then refused to let anyone in, giving all the meat from the stew to white men and ignoring his own people.
Troy has been called to the Commissioner's office on Friday but tells Rose he is sure he won't be fired. He wants Cory to help him with the fence and is unsurprised that he isn't in, saying "that boy scared of work" and refusing to accept Rose's comment that Cory is at football practice. Rose asks him why he is in such a bad mood.
Gabriel, Troy's younger brother, is singing in the house. He has a metal plate in his head from a World War II injury, carries a trumpet and a basket of fruit, and believes he is the angel Gabriel.
Gabe chats with Rose, but when Troy doesn't speak to him, he tells Rose that Troy is angry at him. Troy denies this. Gabe says he has taken two rooms in the basement of Miss Pearl's house, having previously lived with Troy.
Gabriel tells Troy that his name is in Saint Peter's book, a story he has told before. He resists going into the house for breakfast, saying that he has already eaten and needs to go and sell his plums. He leaves, singing, "Better get ready for the judgment."
Rose worries that Gabriel needs help, but Troy says there is nothing else he can do to help. However, he feels guilty because he was only able to buy his house from compensation received for Gabriel's war wound, money which Gabriel himself was not fit to manage.
Troy leaves to listen to the ball game at Taylor’s, saying he will return soon.