Onetia Mae Wilson meets Willie Talmadge Cothern at Topeka High School in 1930. Having seen him at some dances, she's aware of who he is and that he has a reputation for drinking. On the first day of school, the students there to register before going back home to chores or to finish picking cotton with their families, Onetia is standing with a group of her girl friends near the door of the school. Just inside the doorway, sitting on the edge of a desk, W.T. watches them, no doubt with that sly Cothern smile. The girls chatter about their summer, their hopes for the upcoming school year, and, probably, there is talk about the boys, gossip and the inevitable judgment about their looks. Glances are exchanged, perhaps a shy smile from Onetia, perhaps a slight nod from W.T., some acknowledgment of the future.
The two weeks at home, daily chores of cooking, mopping the broad plank floors in the house, feeding the chickens or wringing their necks, those days before school starts, before Onetia can see W.T. again, those days drift ever so slowly along, stretching out ahead like an horizon that never seems any closer.
W.T. never drinks beer or any homebrew before coming to see Onetia. Sometimes he uses his father's automobile to travel those rutted red clay roads in Mississippi, sometimes a bicycle, and a few times he walks those dusty miles. Once after getting a late start home, still miles to go, he spends the night on the porch of a colored family, perhaps before drifting off to sleep, his head propped up on a piece of firewood, listening to nightsounds and watching stars wheel above the tin roof.