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Summary

Scene One

The play opens in a sparsely furnished boarding-house room. As Lincoln will point out later, the place has no running water, and the only bathroom is down the hall. Booth sits alone, practicing three-card monte with a cardboard playing board laid across two milk crates. He is clearly inexperienced and keeps stuttering as he plays, pretending to hustle someone for $500 and then running from imaginary cops. Lincoln enters the room, dressed like Abraham Lincoln in a long coat, top hat, and beard, with white powder on his face. Booth is distracted by his card game and startles when Lincoln appears behind him in the apartment. Surprised by Lincoln’s strange attire, Booth leaps to his feet, brandishing a gun. Once he recognizes it is simply his brother in costume, Booth implores Lincoln to change, or to “take off the dam hat at least.” Lincoln obliges and takes off his coat as well at Booth’s further behest. The brothers discuss Lincoln’s job as a Lincoln impersonator, and Booth carries on about how that will reflect poorly on him, particularly when it comes to Grace, the woman in his life. Booth talks about the ring he stole for Grace; to ensure she will not be able to take it off, he has chosen one a half size smaller than what she said her size was. Throughout the brothers’ conversation Booth continues to insist that Link remove his Lincoln costume, because it makes him uneasy. Link explains he wore it home because he didn’t want it to be stolen, but he finally acquiesces to Booth’s request.

After changing into his normal clothes, Link shares the story of the young boy he met on the bus on his way home who asked the still-dressed Lincoln impersonator for his autograph. Link told the kid he could have the autograph for ten dollars, but the boy only had a twenty-dollar bill; Link took the twenty and told the kid “Honest Abe” would give him the change the next day. With his windfall Link paid for a round of drinks at a local bar and picked up Chinese food for dinner with Booth. The brothers sit down to eat at the makeshift table where Booth was most recently practicing three-card monte.

Unprompted, Booth pipes up and requests that he no longer be referred to as Booth; he instead wishes to only be called “3-Card.” Lincoln has difficulty remembering this, and his name remains Booth in the text. Booth continues to try to cajole Lincoln into joining him in his card hustling endeavors, but Lincoln refuses to oblige, claiming that he “don’t touch thuh cards no more.” In response to Link’s continued refusals Booth reminds Link of the morning, years ago, when Booth returned home to find their mother packing up and preparing to leave them. She insisted that Booth take care of Link, though Link was the older brother, and Booth uses this childhood trauma to accuse Link of standing in the way while Booth tried to make a living. At the end of the scene Link tells Booth their father named them because he thought it would be a good joke.

Scene Two

It is Friday evening, the very next day. Booth returns to the apartment dressed in a bulky overcoat and pants. As he undresses he pulls new shoes and belts from his sleeves, two ties from his pockets, and two shirts from the back of his pants. He is also wearing two full suits layered on top of each other. Everything is new and still has tags. He places one suit on Link’s bed and one suit on his own, and then he walks to the other side of the room and gathers up two glasses and a bottle of whiskey. Link enters, dressed in his street clothes this time, and he and Booth exclaim over the money he brought back from work. The two toast, and then Link notices the suits, which Booth brags about stealing earlier that day. Each brother tries on their respective suit, and they discuss budgeting the money Link brought home, albeit with questionable mathematical calculations. Link, worried about his job security, asks Booth if he will help him practice dying that night, but...

(The entire section is 12,504 words.)