It is September 24, 2008. On the national news, President George Bush explains to American viewers that a $700 billion bailout package for Wall Street is essential to improving and maintaining the health of the US economy.
It is October 15, 2008. In the national news, American military forces will soon begin to withdraw from Iraq; the goal is to withdraw the entire American military presence in Iraq by 2012. Another news report addresses the fact that “US stocks [have] plunge[d] 733 points, the second biggest point loss in history.” Reports of the last debate between John McCain and Barack Obama are also televised. In the local news, a drug ring in Reading has transformed some homes into marijuana farms.
At the parole office, Evan and Chris talk about Chris’s recent encounter with Jason. Chris talks openly about the anger he feels toward Jason, and Evan encourages Chris to consider the benefits of forgiveness. During this conversation with Evan, Chris reflects on the thoughts going through his head right before the fight, as well as his plans to go to college. Chris acknowledges that he had an opportunity to leave the bar before the fight; he regrets that he did not take this opportunity. Chris complains about the “way people be looking at [him] now” and his chronic anxiety, both of which he blames on the fight at the bar and his consequent jail sentence.
Evan changes position onstage; Chris is no longer visible, and Evan is now talking to Jason. When Evan suggests that Jason talk directly with Chris, Jason smiles, but his smile is ambiguous. Evan acknowledges that Jason’s desire to avoid difficult situations is natural; he also mentions to Jason that he has heard rumors of Jason’s fights with other men at the shelter. Jason tells Evan that he is now sleeping in a tent in the woods; he refuses to stay with his mother, because it is “too depressing”—and besides, camping is free. Jason changes the subject back to Chris and the fight that landed them both in prison. When Jason tells Evan that he often feels confused by intense feelings of rage that persist to this day, Evan explains to Jason that he is experiencing shame, an emotion “that eats [people] away until [they] disappear.”
The lights onstage shift, and Chris appears. Chris and Jason acknowledge each other.
It is October 18, 2008. In the national news, many Latin American immigrants are returning home as their job opportunities become fewer and fewer. In the local news, the Republican Party in Pennsylvania accuses a community activist group of voter registration fraud; the Republicans have decided to sue the group. The 2008 World Series is nearly underway as the Philadelphia Phillies prepare to play the Tampa Bay Rays.
Oscar is bartending when Chris enters and sits down at a table; the bar has been refurbished, and the clean appearance of the bar reflects careful attention. Oscar breaks the silence between them first, and the young men talk with one another casually. Chris calls Oscar by his name, which surprises Oscar; after Oscar explains that he is shocked to find out that Chris knows his name, he offers to pour Chris a beer. Chris compliments the new appearance of the bar, and Oscar explains that the bar’s customer base is college students now that Olstead’s plant is closed.
Chris asks about Howard, and Oscar informs him that Howard is now retired and has moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Oscar tells Chris that he is now manager of the bar; he also bartends on weekends....
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Chris tries to change the subject, but Oscar interrupts him, and Chris tries again; though the exact topic of the conversation Chris intends is not stated explicitly, Chris clearly wants to address what happened during the fight. At this moment, Jason walks into the bar. Oscar reacts with surprise, causing Jason to lose his nerve; Jason turns around to leave, unsure of his decision to come to the bar.
As Jason decides whether or not he will leave, Stan appears, clearly physically disabled and moving his body awkwardly due to the brain injury he received during the fight between Oscar, Jason, and Chris eight years before. When Chris tries to greet Stan in a friendly way, Oscar explains that Stan can’t hear well. The young men watch Stan try to clean the tables at the bar, and when Stan drops his towel, Jason picks it up for him. Stan thanks him, and his voice is changed due to his injuries. Jason praises Oscar for looking after Stan, and Oscar replies that it is “how it oughta be.”