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A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
THE DISPLACED PERSON
PLOT SUMMARY (Synopsis)
Father Flynn comes to visit, and Mrs. McIntyre has to drink some whiskey just to get the nerve to talk to him. She tells him that Mr. Guizac is not satisfactory, because he does not understand the Negroes. But Father Flynn doesn't really listen in confrontational situations. He waits, and then tries talking about his interests--the fabulous bird, the peacock, for instance. The peacock fans his tail, and Father Flynn is so amazed, he says that "Christ will come like that!" Mrs. McIntyre says that she is not responsible for all the extra people in the world, and that Mr. Guizac didn't have to come here. He says that he came to redeem them, and absently shakes her hand, and leaves.
Mr. Shortley returned. Mrs. McIntyre saw the black car drive up and realized she had missed Mrs. Shortley something terrible. Mr. Shortley got out, and said that his wife had seen through the Pole from the first, and that the Pole killed her and she was dead.
Mrs. McIntyre felt terrible about Mrs. Shortley for days. She rehired Mr. Shortley, though she really wanted his wife. They agreed that it would be a relief to see the Pole leave, and Mrs. McIntyre promised to fire him and give Mr. Shortley back the dairy job. Mr. Shortley said he didn't care for foreigners, since being in the war, and that one looking like Mr. Guizac had thrown a grenade at him. Mrs. McIntyre reminds him that Mr. Guizac is a Pole, not a German. Mr. Shortley says they are all alike to him.
The Negroes were happy to see Mr. Shortley, because he didn't make them work so hard, though he was even slower than ever without his wife. Mrs. McIntyre was irritated by seeing the Pole working around the place, so fast and efficient. He got work done quickly, but she had a moral obligation to her people, to Mr. Shortley who had fought in a war, not Mr. Guizac who merely took advantage of coming to this country. She meant to tell the priest her reasoning on his next visit, before she fired Mr. Guizac, but then the priest didn't come on his monthly visit.
Mr. Shortley gets disgusted with her weakness and reminds her that he is a veteran--this has an effect on her. He also knows that Mr. Guizac would have his own place in no time, he works so darn hard. Mr. Shortley notices that Mrs. McIntyre doesn't look so good, since she's had other white help on the place, that Pole.
The old priest finally comes for a visit, and in the middle of his preaching about Jesus, Mrs. McIntyre impatiently says that she wants to talk serious. She repeats her objections, about having an obligation to her people, not those who just want to take advantage of what they get. Father Flynn doesn't really look at her, or really want to listen. She gave him the whole lecture about how they were all the same, the people she hired, and how they all took advantage of her and that she wasn't made of money. He leaves.
She promises Mr. Shortley that she will fire Mr. Guizac, now, on the first of the month. He doesn't believe her, but says nothing. His wife was a different kind of woman, the only kind he knew like that, not scared of no one. Mrs. McIntyre looked more awful all the time, while the Poles were getting fat. Mr. Shortley did what he pleased on the place--she hardly noticed. Then he suggested that the Pole would buy her out one day soon.
The first came and went. He was not a violent man, but Mr. Shortley hated to see a woman taken by a foreigner. Meanwhile, she had nightmares (the priest reminding her of the boxcars, the ovens, in Europe)--she'd never fired anyone before. She went out right out to fire him one morning, but all she could say was that she had bills to pay--he said he did, too. Mr. Shortley heard, and decided he was no longer keeping his mouth shut. He complained to everyone in town: he had risked his life in Europe, and now look what happens. He asks Sulk why he doesn't go back to Africa, and exclaims that at least in Africa and China you can see who is who. Not Europe. They shouldn't let them learn English over there--like his wife said, it messes everything up.
Mrs. McIntyre hears the talk in town and realizes she has a moral obligation to fire the Pole, and she can't hardly do it. She tries again on a cold morning, walks on down to the tractor shed to give him his notice.
Mr. Shortley is there, backing out one of the big tractors, while Mr. Guizac is on the ground, trying to put a new part in another tractor. Mr. Shortley stops and gets off his tractor, and Mrs. Mc Intyre watches Mr. Guizac work, resentful that he never left on his own. Mr. Shortly turns his back. Mrs. McIntyre sees the tractor starting to roll, right towards Mr. Guizac, who doesn't see or hear it. The Negro jumps out of the way, and Mr. Shortley turns his head, slowly, and Mrs. McIntyre's eyes meet their eyes. The tractor rolls over Mr. Guizac and kills him. She faints.
She comes to and the priest is there, over the body, with Mrs. Guizac and the children. The priest slips something in the dead man's mouth, and Mrs. McIntyre can sees the priest's withdrawn face. She feels not quite herself, like she is in some foreign country.
Mr. Shortley leaves that night, without notice, and Sulk went off to see the world. Mrs. McIntyre got a nervous affliction, and went to the hospital. When she returned, she couldn't keep the place up and had to sell off the acreage and take to her bed, with only a colored woman to look after her. And the priest. He came to see her, and preach the doctrines of the church at her bedside, and feed bread crumbs to the peacock.