On a hot August day Deena and Becky are fighting the Tennessee heat and the lack of alcoholic beverages in the backyard of the house their two families share. Becky is nine months pregnant with her first child after five years of trying. Deena is in her forties and is nearly as far along with her fourth. Becky is excited and overwhelmed. Deena is more than a bit blue. Something seems to be wrong, but she insists it is merely the joy and responsibility of motherhood that is getting to her. The two try to give each other moral support as it becomes clear that their husbands are not reconciled to the prospect of parenthood.
Deena’s husband JJ is a Vietnam vet she rescued from the woods years ago. They have three teenage kids and each one worse than the next. JJ is sullen and resistent to a new baby but what is he going to do now? He reveals he has been laid off at work and the subject of abortion is broached, but Deena is seven months pregnant and she is having this baby. Every time JJ goes out the door to drink with his war buddies, Deena thinks he is never coming back. Their teenage daughter Lydia comes home at all hours in all states of drunkenness. So does Becky’s husband, Ronny who seems to be raising some kind of hell of his own.
Very late that night Becky is sitting up waiting for Ronny to come home to tell him she has gone into labor, but Ronny comes home drunk. How are they going to get to the hospital now? Lydia stumbles in to see what the shouting is about. Becky is not in labor after all. She was just hoping to scare Ronny as punishment for his late nights, but it seems to Becky that Lydia came home with Ronny and something is going on between them.
The next day when Ronny and Lydia are alone in the backyard, it is clear they have been carrying on for some time and both are enjoying an illicit relationship they have no intention of giving up.
When Deena tries to bring JJ closer she only pushes him further away. She tries to get him to feel the baby kick, but the baby won’t kick for him. He walks out, saying he wishes Deena had never brought him out of the woods and the lean-to where he used to live. Deena talks to the baby inside her, but when she does it appears that something is very wrong.
When Becky does go into labor, she and Deena run out to Becky’s truck only to find Ronny and Lydia having sex. A huge fight ensues and Deena and Becky drive off for the hospital upset and overwrought. As Becky rages at her husband and cries with pain, Deena, who is also feeling sick, goes faster and faster, apparently taking a wrong turn down a deserted country road. Between the chaos of their emotions, the pain they are in and the urgency of the situation they crash the car.
At home JJ has come back to apologize for walking out and finds Ronny and Lydia waiting for news of Becky and Deena. When the police call, it is very bad. Becky has died after delivering a stillborn baby and Deena has disappeared.
The scene shifts to the woods to the time after the car crash. Becky is dying. Deena, who has gone into labor herself, keeps vigil. As Becky dies, it is Deena who delivers the stillborn. She has know for a week her baby was dead inside her, and she has been secretly grieving, unable to have it removed. Using the contents of her purse she then performs a caesarian section on Becky’s body to save Becky’s baby.
JJ goes looking for Deena and finds her in the woods. She has been living in his old lean-to and nursing Becky’s baby. He tells her she has got to give the child back to Ronny. They will be saying all kinds of things about her when they find out the truth. There will be accusations of murder and kidnapping. But Deena can’t go back; and she can’t let go of the baby.
In the meantime Ronny and Lydia have set up house. But neither has got what they bargained for. The stress, the other children and the guilt they feel have destroyed their sexual fantasy. They snipe and worry and wait.
Deena finally returns with Becky’s baby, exhausted, defeated, transformed, unable to explain her actions or her motives. Only JJ, who has lived through firefights and jungle ambushes, seems to understand her actions as instinctive and right. Deena gives the baby to Lydia to raise. Lydia is thoroughly unprepared, but it only seems fair to Deena, who turns herself in to the police
In the final scene of the play, Deena is sitting in a
sinster chair with an IV in her arm. She is visited by JJ and the ghost
of Becky. She has been convicted of the murder of Becky and the kidnapping
of her child. Her last visitor is Lydia who has found strength and guidance
from the baby in her arms. That is the thing Deena holds in her heart
as the poison begins to flow in her IV.