The story begins with the assertion that the grandmother does not want to travel to Florida. Instead, she begs her son, Bailey, to take her and the rest of the family to visit relatives in Tennessee, citing a news article which explains that a criminal called “The Misfit” escaped prison and is heading to Florida. She fears taking her children anywhere where such a dangerous man may be roaming free. Bailey, as well as his wife, ignore the grandmother’s arguments, but their son, John Wesley, retorts that she should stay home if she does not want to travel to Florida. His little sister, June Star, emphasizes that the grandmother insists on going everywhere that the rest of the family goes for fear of missing out on something. The grandmother is rather irritated with the children’s backtalk.
The next morning, the grandmother gets in the car with her large black suitcase and hides her cat, Pitty Sing, in a basket underneath. She sits in the middle of the back seat, with John Wesley and June Star on either side of her, and Bailey and his wife sit in the front. The grandmother, who writes down specific details such as their departure time and the starting mileage of the car, intentionally wears a blue and white flowered hat along with a navy dress on their trip. She makes this choice so that, in case of a car accident, anyone on the road would know she was a lady. As they drive, the grandmother warns Bailey about hidden police cars and makes observations about their surroundings. This draws the ire of the children, and in response to their attitude, the grandmother exclaims that young people in her era were respectful of everyone and everything around them. She then points out a young Black boy through the window and makes assumptions about his socioeconomic situation.
The grandmother continues to make observations as they drive, including pointing out a small graveyard in the middle of a cotton field. The children try to play a game but quickly begin arguing, so the grandmother tells a story from her youth in which a man named Mr. Edgar Atkins Teagarden brought her watermelon marked with his initials E.A.T. John Wesley laughs when she reveals that she never received the watermelon, however, because a Black boy ate it when he saw the initials.
Eventually, the family stops at The Tower for sandwiches and they come upon the owner, Red Sammy Butts, outside. They go inside and sit down with Red Sam and his wife, and after chastising June Star for her attitude once again, the grandmother talks with Red Sam about how it is impossible to trust anyone. Red Sam explains that he regrets his choice to let two men buy gas on credit the week prior, and the grandmother asks if he had read about The Misfit. His wife replies that she would not be surprised if The Misfit came to attack their place, and Red Sam continues to say that good people are hard to come by.