Across the horizon: the rising sun and endless possibilities

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Scene Six

Tom tells the audience that the following evening he brings Jim home, and that he had known Jim a bit in high school. Jim was fantastically popular, a basketball star, the captain of the debate club and president of the senior class. He was also in the glee club in which he sang male lead. Jim sounds quite accomplished, in fact, and destined for great things. But, Tom says, after high school Jim's luck slowed down and six years after they've graduated, Jim's job is little better than Tom's.

Jim is Tom's only friend at the warehouse, and knows about Tom's secret habit of hiding in the bathroom to write poetry. Jim's nickname for Tom is "Shakespeare." Tom knows that Jim and Laura knew each other at Soldan, and has heard Laura speak well of Jim, but doesn't know what Jim might think of Laura, or if her remembers her at all.

The light shifts focus from Tom to the apartment. There has been a transformation that the stage direction describes as "astonishing." Amanda has made up the apartment quite romantically. It looks lovely and the lighting is soft. Laura is having her dress adjusted by Amanda who crouches at her feet fixing her hem. According to Williams' notes, Laura looks "fragile," with an "unearthly prettiness." She, Williams says, even looks like a "piece of glass" herself.

Amanda tries to stuff powder puffs down Laura's bra to enhance her breasts. Laura resists but eventually accepts them.

Amanda next dresses herself and makes a production over the fact that she's wearing a dress that she wore to a cotillion when she was a much younger woman. She tells a lengthy story, recounting memories of her glory days in Blue Mountain. She once wore this dress not only to the cotillion, but also to a Governor's Ball. She also used to receive gentleman callers in this dress on Sundays. One begins to wonder if Amanda is regarding Jim's visit as something for Laura, or for herself. She brags that even though she had "'malaria fever'" all spring in Blue Mountain, she wouldn't let herself be stopped from going to parties and picnics. Her mother tried to get her to be less social, but she was incorrigible in this department.

When she offhandedly mentions that the name of the man coming to dinner is Jim O'Conner, Laura reacts dramatically. She declares that she won't come to dinner if it is the Jim that called her "Blue Roses" in high school. Amanda says that she refuses to excuse Laura from dinner, even if it is the Jim she once knew.

They hear the men coming up the stairs. Amanda claims to have work to do in the kitchen, leaving Laura to open the door, though Laura becomes hysterical at the thought of having to encounter Jim. When the two men ring the bell, Laura runs to the kitchen and begs Amanda to open it. Amanda refuses, but Laura says she's incapable of answering it and is sick. The doorbell continues to ring. Amanda orders her to open it and Laura complies. Tom introduces Jim to Laura and they shake hands. It is the Jim of Blue Roses. Laura acts terribly nervous and runs back to the Victrola, announcing that she needs to play some music. Jim laughs and asks Tom what's the matter with his sister. Nothing, Tom tells him -- she's just shy. Jim seems quite interested in Laura's shyness and says that he doesn't usually meet shy girls these days.

Tom and Jim get into a conversation about Jim's public speaking class. Jim tries to argue Tom into taking it with him; he says that with a little help in the poise department, both of them could soon be executives down at the warehouse. Tom seems uninterested in such things, and Amanda interrupts the conversation. Before they close the discussion, Jim warns Tom that his job could be in jeopardy. Tom replies that he's on the verge of making a big change -- one that doesn't involve career advancement at the warehouse. He says he's tired of going to the movies where people just watch figures moving across a screen. He wants to move himself, he says, and have adventure. He criticizes the American attitude towards adventure, saying that only war provides Americans with the opportunity for excitement. He wants to make adventure himself, without waiting for a war. He tells Jim that although he seems "'dreamy,'" he's actually "'boiling'" inside. He wants to set out, to travel. He shows Jim his Merchant Seaman Union membership card. He's paid dues to them this month, he tells Jim, instead of paying his family's electricity bill. Jim warns Tom that he'll feel regret about that when his lights get shut off, to which Tom replies that he won't be living there anymore when it happens. He tells Jim excitedly that he's just like his father -- "'The bastard son of a bastard!'"

At this moment Amanda comes out onto the landing. She is dolled up like a Southern schoolgirl. Tom and Jim are both surprised, and Jim seems unable to handle conversation gracefully despite his course in public speaking. He's charmed by the display. Amanda launches into a discussion of southern hospitality -- which she delivers with a very strong southern drawl. She begins speaking quite distractedly, jumping from topic to topic. It's not quite summer yet, she drawls, and yet it's already so warm. She suggests that they leave the door open while eating, and worries briefly that it will be too hot to eat dinner. But they're having a very light meal she reminds herself. This launches her into a discussion of "'light things'" in general -- light things are better for this time of year, she says. Light clothes. Light food. she says that summer surprised her this year -- coming up so quickly. This leads her right to where she wants to be: discussing her dress in front of the boys. She's clearly flirting. So summer crept up on her, she says, and she wasn't ready for it. She just "'ran to the trunk an' pulled out this light dress.'" This is her excuse for wearing something so skimpy, we assume. She begins seductively talking about how good the dress feels to wear: it "'feels so good - so good an' cool, y'know.'" Tom interrupts her at this point, reminding her about dinner. Amanda suggests that Tom go find Laura and ask about dinner. She takes this as an opportunity to sing Laura's praises to Jim, listing her domestic merits and talents.

Tom announces that supper is ready, but that Laura isn't feeling well and won't be coming to the table. Amanda heads inside and tries to persuade Laura to come to dinner. Laura comes into the kitchen looking weak. Her lips are trembling. She almost faints, but catches herself on a chair. A thunderstorm starts up. Laura goes to lie down and the three sit to dinner and Tom says grace. As the scene closes, we see Laura on the couch, struggling to hold back tears.

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