Lindy, a high-school senior about to graduate, has a job waitressing and busing tables at the local Steak Chateau restaurant. An average student and an amateur astronomer, she has a Frankus reflector telescope that she bought with her own money so she can watch the night sky. She enjoys examining Jupiter and the constellations, but notes that on a clear night the stars are so bright that they are swimming in their own light.
Lindy often double-dates with her mother, a young-looking thirty-five-year-old. On these dates, they pass themselves off as sisters, and it is the mother who always gets the best-looking men. Lindy’s parents are divorced, and her father has remarried and is living in Toledo. When Lindy wonders aloud what it would be like if her father came back, both her mother and grandfather respond that he had better not. As her grandfather observes dryly, it would cut down on her mother’s dating.
The two women share a home with the mother’s father, a retired, self-employed tailor. Although he claims that he sometimes forgot to tie off the threads, so that some of the clothes he made fell apart, his business was successful, and he now has enough money to take care of all three of them. Because they are all night owls, the grandfather keeps them informed of the late-night horror movies on television. The grandfather is seldom serious about anything, often resorting to juvenile responses such as "Poof you’re an egg" when the girl asks him to make her an egg for breakfast, and "Not I, said the pig" when asked if he has seen something that is missing.
He lies, too: He insists that Harriet, Lindy’s mother, attended Lindy’s graduation ceremony, but sat back in one of the cooler seats, under the trees. The narrator knows that he lied to her and that her mother did not go because "She was scared of the ‘going forward into the world’ parts of the commencement speeches."
Lindy’s mother is one of the fastest comptometer operators in the state, but quits her job because she thinks people at work do not like her. Besides pretending to be her daughter’s sister, the mother fantasizes other things; for example, she usually decides after two dates with a man that he must be married or running away from someone. She makes up a story about a ring of thieves stealing cars from the neighborhood; she talks about poison, taking "light pills," and having a brain tumor; and she determines that a stranger on a bus is a police detective on the bus for them. She also tries to have herself admitted to a nearby institution, but the hospital "didn’t have space for her, or they didn’t think she needed to get in right then." The narrator observes, "The problem I saw was that Mom really needed to keep occupied."