Scene 2. Barbara, Bill, and Violet are in the dining room with coffee and pie, and Violet's pills are kicking in. While Johnna reads in the attic, Jean listens to music on the second-floor landing. Violet recalls the circumstances of Beverly's disappearance, that she thought he had just gone out on a bender.
Violet says that she never got on Beverly about his drinking, and that when he didn't come home she began to worry about their safety deposit box, where they kept some of their valuables. "I had a diamond ring in that box appraised at over 7,000 dollars," she says. She explains that the safety deposit box was important because she and Beverly swore to each other that "if something were to ever happen to one of us, the other would go empty that safety deposit box" so it could be rolled into the estate.
Barbara gets angry that Violet didn't have Ivy call her until 5 days after their father went missing, as Bill tries to get more clues about why Beverly might have left. Violet tells them that he hired Johnna a few days before he left. She elaborates that Beverly has always been mysterious, and that it was this mystery that led her to fall in love with him.
Barbara tries to tell her mother to call Johnna a "Native American" rather than an Indian, and notes that Johnna makes very good apple pie. Violet says it's strange that Beverly hired someone who cooks, since they don't use the stove or anything anyway. Soon enough, she starts scolding Barbara for moving far away, complaining that she never sees her or her granddaughter. She tells Barbara that she was Beverly's favorite, and that it broke his heart when she moved away.
Barbara defends herself by saying that the university in Colorado offered Bill twice the salary he was getting at Tulsa University, and that they offered her a job as well. Violet tells Barbara, "After "Meadlowlark" was published, [Beverly] got offers from everywhere in the country, lots better places than Colorado." Barbara reminds her mother that Beverly's book came out 40 years prior and that academia is much more competitive now.
Violet tells Barbara that Beverly was disappointed in her for "settling," and that he wanted her to become a writer, but Barbara doesn't buy it, calling her mother's assessment "horseshit." When Bill exits, Barbara asks Violet if she's high and scolds her mother for all the money she has spent on pills and on failed attempts to get clean. Violet begins to cry, saying her mouth burns from the chemotherapy and that she is distressed that Beverly is gone.
"You couldn't come home when I got cancer but as soon as Beverly disappeared you rushed back," Violet says mournfully, and Barbara apologizes for this. She then tells her mother that she thinks Beverly is alright and will return home safely.
In the attic, Jean finds Johnna and asks if she wants to smoke weed with her. Johnna declines, but allows her to smoke in the attic. Jean tells her that she hid the marijuana under the cap of her father's deodorant, and tells her that Bill smokes weed but not her mom. "He and mom are separated right now," Jean says to Johnna. She tells Johnna that her father had an affair with his student, and Barbara is now worried about Jean getting into drugs or losing her virginity. Jean asks Johnna if she has a boyfriend—she doesn't—then if she has parents—they died.
Johnna shows Jean a picture of her parents on their wedding day and Jean compliments their "costumes." Jean notices a beaded pouch in the shape of a turtle hanging from Johnna's neck and asks what it is. When Johnna tells her that it is a Cheyenne tradition and holds her umbilical cord inside, Jean is freaked out. "When a Cheyenne baby is born, their umbilical cord is dried and sewn into this pouch. Turtles for girls, lizards for boys. And we wear it for the rest of our lives...Because if we lose it, our souls belong nowhere and after we die our souls will walk the Earth looking for where we belong."
Scene 3. Barbara unfolds a pull-out couch and Bill enters with a hardback copy of Beverly's poetry book, wondering if it's worth anything. He opens it and sees that it's dedicated to Violet, before musing about what it must have been like to have such a success. Suddenly, Barbara snaps at him, asking him not to talk about it, and belittling him for being envious of the critical response to her father's work.
Barbara then brings up Bill's affair, saying, "They're all symptoms of your male menopause, whether it's you struggling with the "creative question," or screwing a girl who still wears a retainer." They fight, and Jean comes onto the stairs to listen, unseen by them. As she gets angrier, Bill tries to calm her down, saying that they will be able to talk about it calmly once Beverly is home. Rolling over, Barbara simply says, "My father's dead, Bill."
Scene 4. In the middle of the night, Johnna wakes Barbara up to let her know that the sheriff is there. Barbara and Bill get up as Johnna goes to wake Violet up. The sheriff enters, a man named Deon Gilbeau that Barbara knew in school. Without wasting much time, the sheriff tells Barbara that they have found Beverly and he is dead. Barbara immediately begins weeping loudly, as Johnna comforts her. The sheriff tells them that Beverly drowned, and that they need a blood relative to identify the body. After hesitating, Barbara offers to identify him.
As Barbara goes to get ready, the sheriff tells Bill that he thinks Beverly committed suicide, and that his body has been underwater for 3 days. On the landing, Barbara starts brushing her hair, but throws the brush when she realizes how irrational she's being. Then she tells Jean that she used to date the sheriff in high school, that they went to prom together. She tells Jean the story of prom, that Gilbeau's father stole his car on the day of prom and ran away to Mexico, so they had to walk three miles to prom, but abandoned the journey and went to the chapel instead. "Thank God we can't tell the future," she says to Jean, "We'd never get out of bed."
Violet enters, completely strung out on pills, misunderstanding what's happening and thinking that Beverly has returned. She turns on the Eric Clapton song "Lay Down, Sally" as Gilbeau tells her it's 5:45 AM, and she launches into an incoherent monologue, repeating, "And then you're here" over and over again.
At the center of the action is the mystery surrounding Beverly's disappearance. While he was always a somewhat secretive and "unfathomable" person, as Barbara points out, his disappearance is quite confusing for the family members left behind. Violet confirms that there was no inciting event that led him to leave, confirming that it all seemed rather out of the blue. This creates a curious dynamic between characters and audience, in that the audience has been privy to the first scene, the moment right before his departure where he hints at his plans for suicide, while the characters were not, and so have no closure.
Violet sees herself as a kind of truth-teller, although her mode of delivering truths is often aggressive and toxic. Propelled by her salty personality as well as the cocktail of pills that she downs throughout the day, Violet has no inhibitions when it comes to telling people about themselves. She ruthlessly criticizes Ivy, the daughter who lives close to home, doesn't hold herself back from telling Barbara that she's her parents' favorite, and criticizes nearly every decision anyone else makes. Her force of personality is alternately charming and disgraceful, as she cuts through civil conversations with what she believes to be the most crystalline take on the matter.
Underneath Violet's aggressive impulses is a surprisingly softer side, and when Barbara confronts her mother about her pill habit, Violet bursts into tears. The fluctuation between her comic charm, her cutting cruelty, and her soft, almost childlike vulnerability, is an additional conflict layered on top of the conflict of the missing Beverly. The unpredictability of Violet's moods, exacerbated by her pill addiction, send the family dynamic into chaos, as those who love her and are closest to her must alternate between acting as caretakers and dodging her sting.
The housekeeper, Johnna, acts as a kind of foil for the dysfunctional Weston family. As a Cheyenne person living in Oklahoma, Johnna contrasts with the white family not only in background, but also in temperament, personality, and views on family. Her interaction with Jean specifically clues us into the ways that she is very different from her employers. As Jean rattles on precociously about her parents' separation, Johnna listens placidly, before revealing that both of her parents are dead and then showing her a pouch where she keeps her umbilical cord, a Cheyenne tradition. The pouch with the cord represents both her connection to her ethnic heritage as well as her connection to her parents, a spiritual connection that transcends the petty squabbles and disagreements taking place in the Weston household.
Johnna's story about the meaning of the umbilical cord necklace strikes a stark contrast with the way that tragedy and spiritual matters are regarded in the Weston family. When she narrates to Jean the reason why she wears her umbilical cord around her neck, that it connects her to a broader spiritual belonging, and gives her a place to go when she dies, we see this as a very different way of talking about loss and the "spirit" than the way the Westons talk about it. While the Westons hurt each other and quibble about favoritism and loyalty, Johnna maintains a more grounded, but also more spiritual relationship to questions of life and death.