Last Reviewed on March 3, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1249
It is September 28, 2000. The national news reports that as Venus and Serena Williams come in first place for women’s doubles tennis at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Hillary Clinton’s Senate race is going well. In Reading, three migrant workers from Mexico die in a car accident.
Brucie sits at a table at the bar as Jason and Chris enter, arguing about sports. When Chris sees Brucie, Chris appears relieved and asks his father where he has been. Jason also shows concern for Brucie, and the two friends talk with him about their lives since they walked out of the plant. Jason trusts that Lester, the union representative, will help them, but Brucie is pessimistic.
Chris tells his father that Cynthia has been worried for the last month. Brucie becomes defensive and argues with Chris. When Chris moves to sit at the bar, Brucie pleads with him to listen, and he tells Chris about the last time he walked the picket line. It began to rain, and at this moment, Brucie found himself unable to move, which frightened him. He tells Chris that he “hadn’t felt that feeling of being outta control since [his] mother died.”
Chris tries to offer Brucie support and buys him a beer, and Chris and Jason talk about their own feelings with Brucie. Brucie asks Chris about school, and Chris explains that he didn’t start as planned because he wasn’t able to save enough money. When Brucie questions Chris about his plans for the future, Chris describes a memory of a meeting at their house, when union members gathered after a fellow worker was maimed on the job. Chris remembers Brucie taking charge of the meeting; later, when Chris saw Brucie and the others in the picket line, the men looked to him “like warriors.” Brucie discourages Chris from following Brucie’s example, but Chris and Jason are determined to stand up to the bosses. When Brucie becomes upset, he asks Chris, “You really wanna know where I been?” Chris responds that he doesn’t, and Brucie warns Chris to focus on what he really wants in life, because the picket line will eventually “thin out.”
It is October 26, 2000. A school shooting appears in the national news as Reading locals camp out at an electronics store, hoping to buy the first Sony PlayStation 2.
At the bar, Jessie “sits slumped at a table,” and Stan confronts Oscar about crossing the picket line to work at Olstead’s, warning Oscar that trouble might find him if he continues to pick up part-time shifts at the factory. Oscar explains that the factory pays eleven dollars per hour, and when Stan claims that the “eleven dollars is gonna come outta pockets of a lot of good people,” Oscar challenges him to give him a raise. Stan deflects Oscar’s challenge, explaining that it is not his decision, but Howard’s. In response, Oscar explains that he makes only eight dollars per hour at the bar, that he is not scared of the men picketing, and that the people impacted by Oscar’s decision to work part-time at the plant are not his friends. Stan and Oscar compare stories of the hard work that characterized the lives of both of their fathers. Oscar ends the conversation by donning his apron and picking up a crate of beer.
Tracey arrives and greets Stan, ordering a double vodka and ignoring his small talk. She tells Stan that she has been picketing and making phone calls, but after nearly three months, nothing has changed. When she tells Stan to put her drink on her tab, he refuses, explaining that Howard has changed the rules because too many customers are not paying their debts. Tracey gestures toward Jessie, and Stan tells Tracey that Jessie pays for her drinks. When Tracey begins to count out her pocket change in a theatrical manner, Stan buys her the drink.
When Oscar emerges from the back room, Tracey insults Oscar and curses at him, and Oscar defends himself, which causes Tracey to approach Oscar as if she is prepared to fight him. Stan interferes, Oscar laughs, and Tracey implies that her son, Jason, will exact revenge.
It is November 3, 2000. According to the national news, Gore and Bush are “neck and neck in the polls” leading up to the US election. In Reading, the mayor plans to increase earned income tax.
Chris and Jason rush into the bar, where Jessie sits drunk at a table. Stan learns from Jason that there has been a fight at the picket line involving “the scabs.” Stan warns them that violence will not improve the situation and asks them what they will do as Jason takes a discreet sip from the bottle of whiskey in his pocket. Jason understands that others are accepting the deal, but he refuses, wanting instead to “teach some of those guys a lesson.”
Stan encourages Jason to move away from Reading and start a new life elsewhere, as Stan wishes he could; Chris agrees with Stan, and Jason mentions a possible plan to work “on a rig in the Gulf” in the spring. Chris discusses his plan to work wherever he can so that he can start college the following fall. Jason and Chris banter about Chris’s ex-girlfriend, who was “plenty happy when [Chris] was a paycheck” but unhappy at the prospect of loaning Chris money. Stan commiserates with Chris, and Chris wonders out loud if Stan is right about moving on from the picket line. Jessie interrupts with an unhelpful comment, and Chris tells her to “go to rehab.”
Tracey appears from the bathroom and asks Jason to buy her a drink. He protests, so Chris pays for Tracey’s drink, and Jessie wakes up enough to request a drink of her own. Oscar suddenly enters the bar to gather his belongings, and all conversation stops. Jessie curses at Oscar, Stan orders the young men not to do anything, and Jason directs a racist insult at Oscar. Tracey vents her anger toward Oscar and the other temporary workers, which angers Jason, and Stan and Chris try to defuse the situation.
Tracey and Jason grow increasingly angry, and Stan defends Oscar, blaming the factory and Wall Street for their problems. Chris supports Stan, which only enrages Jason more, and Stan threatens Jason with a bat after telling Jason that he won’t accept any trouble at the bar involving Oscar. Jason finally settles down, but Tracey starts inciting trouble again by talking to Jason about what his dead father would do if he were there. When Stan tells Tracey to be quiet, Jason defends her, and when Oscar appears with his bag, he and Stan shake hands.
Just as Oscar is leaving the bar, Tracey mutters a comment to Jason, and a moment later, Jason is standing in front of Oscar and blocking the door. Both Stan and Chris try to step in, but Jason pushes Oscar, knocking Stan to the ground. When Oscar tries to help Stan, Jason starts hitting Oscar; Chris tries to intervene but is hurt in the process. Chris becomes angry himself, so he also starts to hit Oscar. Jason takes hold of the bat and swings it at Oscar. When Oscar falls down, Stan tries to help him. Jason hits Stan with the bat, and Stan falls down, hitting his head on the bar. As Stan bleeds, Jason and Chris run out the door.