It is Friday, Troy and Bono's payday. Their responsibilities as garbage collectors are done for the day. Troy and Bono reach Troy's house for their weekly ritual of drinking, catching up on each other's lives and sharing stories. Their dialogue begins in the middle of a conversation as they reach the dirt front-yard of Troy's house where the entire play takes place.
Troy recounts a story about a co-worker named Brownie who lied to their boss, Mr. Rand about having a watermelon in his hands, and trying to hide the watermelon under his coat. Both Troy and Bono think that Brownie's embarrassment about the watermelon was stupid. Troy has asked Mr. Rand, their boss, why the black employees aren't allowed to drive the garbage trucks, but only to lift the garbage. Bono is eager to hear the latest news of Troy's conversations with Mr. Rand and the Commissioner of the union about his complaint. Troy says that Mr. Rand told him to take the complaint to the union the following Friday. Troy isn't afraid of getting fired.
Bono transitions from the topic of Troy's complaint at work to the subject of Alberta, a woman who hangs out at Taylor's, a bar Troy and Bono like to frequent. Bono does not ask Troy directly whether or not he is having an affair with Alberta. Troy insists that he hasn't "eyed" women since he met his wife, Rose. Bono agrees. But Bono pushes the issue further by revealing to Troy that he has seen Troy walking around Alberta's house when Troy is supposedly at Taylor's. Troy gets mad at Bono for following him around. Bono asks Troy what he knows about Alberta. Troy tells Bono that Alberta is from Tallahassee, revealing that he knows something about her.
Rose comes out of the house. Rose and Troy tell Bono about the ways Rose has changed Troy for the better as a married man. Rose tells the men that Troy and Rose's son, Cory, has been recruited by a college football team and the college coach is coming to visit. Troy was a baseball player in the Negro Leagues but never got a chance to play in the Major Leagues because he got too old to play just as the Major Leagues began accepting black players. Troy does not want Cory to play ball, but to learn a trade. When Troy exclaims that it was unfair to prohibit anyone who was good enough to play in the Majors from playing and then takes a long drink, Rose reprimands him saying, "You gonna drink yourself to death." Her comment throws Troy into a long epic story about his struggle in July of 1943 with death. Troy turns the time when he was sick with pneumonia in Mercy Hospital into a fanciful story about his fight with a character named Death. Even as Rose provides the real story to Bono, Troy continues telling his tale.
Lyons, a son Troy had before he met Rose, shows up at the house as he has tended to do on many Fridays in the past because Lyons knows it is Troy's payday. Lyons is a jazz musician. He asks Troy if he can borrow ten dollars. Troy continues his saga about Death, changing the times and situations in which he met Death and the Devil. This includes the time a door-to-door salesman that Troy claims is the Devil sold him a layaway plan to buy furniture. Lyons thinks Troy's belief that he has seen the Devil is as ridiculous as Troy thinks it is for Lyons to pursue music. Troy puts down the way Lyons was raised and Lyons accuses Troy of knowing little about the way he was raised because Troy was in jail for most of Lyons' childhood. Lyons and Rose convince Troy to give Lyons the ten dollars. Lyons abruptly decides to leave after receiving the money. Bono decides to go home to Lucille and the pig feet she made for dinner. Troy embarrasses Rose by telling Bono how much he loves his wife and brags that on Monday morning when it is time for work, he'll still be making love to her.
The first scene of Fences is also the longest scene in the play, possibly because Wilson uses this first scene to foreshadow several important elements of the plot and introduce elements he will repeat or contrast later in the play, enabling him to create a sense that the characters and time have changed. Wilson forces the audience to immediately acclimate to the world of the play by gathering information from Troy and Bono's conversation. The exposition in this first dialogue informs that Troy and Bono are close friends who work together. Bono agrees with Troy's negative opinion of their co-worker, Brownie, and shows that he sticks up for Troy at work, a sign he is a loyal as well as attentive friend.