Grandma and Bella Kurnitz live in an apartment above Kurnitz’s Kandy Store and on this sweltering August day Jay and Arty Kurnitiz are awaiting a visit from their father. Eddie, the dad, owes a debt to a local loanshark on money borrowed to help pay off the medical bills accrued by their dead mother. Eddie is now in the position of needing Grandman and Aunt Bella to take care of the kids while he heads south to look for work in the metal scrapyards. Good dependable work during wartime like these dog days of the 1940s. Grandma refuses to allow the boys to stay until Aunt Bella—suffering from an obvious but rather vague mental condition for the audience at this point—threatens to leave if she doesn’t change her mind.
A letter arrives from Eddie and Jay reads it, thus learning and informing the others about Eddie’s development of an irregular heartbeat that he has developed as a result of all the traveling his new job requires. Bella, meanwhile, takes some guff from Grandma about going to movies.
A few weeks have passed since the letter from Eddie arrived, but in the latest missive he announces that he is having to rest as a result of overdoing things. In addition to Aunt Bella, the boys also have an Uncle Louie and a black car has been hanging around the neighborhood carrying a couple of thuggish-looking guys who are looking for him. Bella announces her intention to marry an usher down at the local cinema who is a bit hard of hearing. The plans already include lots and lots of kids to come down the pipeline in the future. The usher, it seems, also has some pretty big plans to open a restaurant, but is currently lacking funds. And, finally, Bella lets slip some vital info to the boys: Grandma has secreted around 15,000 bucks somewhere in the apartment and a clicking sound immediately starts inside Jay’s head as he mulls over the possibility of finding that money and sending it to this father.
Another week. Another letter. Eddie suggests that deciphering Dixie talk is difficult. Later that night after everyone has gone to bed and Jay comes up from store below in his desperate search for the money, Uncle Louie shows up in the bedroom of the two boys. Louie tells Jay he saw him looking for the cash. The boys immediately suspect that Louie is part of the mob what with the black car with the thugs looking for him combined with the gun that Louis carries in a holster. They boy agree to a five buck a week stipend for telling the men who are looking for him that they haven’t see hide nor hair of him.
A letter from Eddie indicates he has been hospitalized for exhaustion. Arty is also sick and men are driving around looking for Eddie. Eventually, the boys realize that Louie is being sought because he pulled a double-cross on the syndicate. Louie tells the boys he is going to leave town before the men looking for him find him. Jay asks if he can go with Uncle Louie and meanwhile Bella is preparing to announce to the family that she is going to get married.
A letter arrives from Eddie with money for Grandma to cover the expenses of paying for food and medicine for the boys. Louie tries to leave, but Bella’s stalling keeps him until he grows incredibly anxious, but that anxiety about getting out of town drains when he realizes that Bella is talking about marriage and kids. Eventually, it comes out that not only does the usher need $5,000 to open his restaurant, but that he has also spent time in a mental institution. Bella’s talk about babies in her future ultimately leads to Grandma leaving the room
Arty writes a letters to his dad to let him know that the domestic situation is getting worse and worse. Bella has been staying at Aunt Gert’s home and the next they confront each other, Grandma tells her daughter Bella that she herself is just a child and therefore not fit to raise her own children. Bella then divulges a long history of sexual experiences with men in the attempt to find the kind of love and emotional satisfaction missing from her home life. Bella also admits that Louie gave her the $5,000 that they need for their dream of opening the restaurant, but that she’s not going to use the money for that. It is also learned that Grandma’s losing two of her kids was the event that stimulated Bella to shut herself off from the world.
Eddie returns ten months after leaving. Louie has escape the thugs in the black car by going off to save democracy from the fascists in Guadalcanal. Bella offers Jay and Arty a football as a going away present. Bella begins cooking dinner for Grandma Kurnitz among news that a new girlfriend has a brother that she wants to invite over for dinner maybe sometime.