Frank Bascombe is a real estate agent, divorced and living away from his children. Over the long holiday weekend, he is trying to sell a house to a difficult couple, as he worries over his personal relationship with his girlfriend, Sally Caldwell. He is also trying to connect with his fifteen-year-old son, Paul, who has gotten into trouble. Bascombe’s plan is a trip to the basketball and baseball halls of fame, a father and son weekend together.
Bascombe is trying to collect rent on a pair of houses he owns near his hometown of Haddam, New Jersey, where he lives in his former wife’s old house. He had moved here when his former wife Ann, remarried—to Charlie O’Dell—and moved with him to Connecticut. Bascombe bought her house so their children would feel some stability, especially since they no longer live in the same town as their father. He is especially worried about Paul, who has been arrested for shoplifting and for a physical confrontation with a security guard, which Paul blames on surprise rather than malevolence. Ann has sent Paul to a therapist, worried about his behavior, which is oddly distant and full of worrisome behavior, including making dog-barking sounds.
Bascombe has no luck collecting the overdue rent; in fact, he is threatened by his renter. He turns to his next task—taking Joe and Phyllis Markham to look at potential houses to buy. They have already looked at dozens of houses and are nearing a breaking point. They are interested in moving from Vermont, looking for an area to raise their daughter, but they cannot afford the home they dream of and are unhappy with the places they have seen in their price range. Bascombe arrives to pick them up, and Joe is surly and angry, dressed inappropriately for going out in public. Bascombe takes them to see one more house: a beautiful home that has just gone on the market. It has one flaw—forming the property’s back boundary is the wall of a minimum-security, country-club-style prison. After arguing with Joe, who essentially fires Bascombe, Bascombe returns to check on his overdue renter. A neighbor calls the police, believing Bascombe is trying to break into the house.
Bascombe leaves for one final errand. He has to stop by a root beer stand he owns, to check on plans to sell hotdogs on Independence Day. His employee insists...
(The entire section is 954 words.)