An insufferable white man offers advice to a well-read, unemployed Black man holding a sandwich-board sign on a street corner on race relations, physical appearance, and how to improve his handwriting and thereby advance himself in society.
Edward, a white man, reads to Carl, an unemployed Black man holding a sandwich-board sign asking for money, from a handwriting analysis book. Edward critiques Carl's handwriting. He asks Carl about the life story he wrote on the board, which Carl says is "true with a kind of dismal inner truth." He asks Carl if he is a drug addict or a Muslim, to which Carl says Edward is a swinger. Edward insults Carl's appearance, saying people like people who look neat, and that's why Carl has little luck with offerings. Edward talks about his own whiteness as a redeeming trait for his foolishness and tells Carl to get a haircut and a new suit in order to advance in society. Carl asks Edward why he's so worried about his situation and why he doesn't leave to bother someone else. Carl makes a number of literary and academic references. Edward asks him if he stole a dollar and a half, which in the story on his sign he went to jail for but didn't do. Carl reasserts that he didn't. Carl recounts being turned down for a cotton-picking job. Carl says Edward doesn't like him and Edward objects. Edward asks where he steals his books. Carl answers drugstores, then continues to say stealing books is different from stealing money or anything else. Carl asks Edward if he's ever stolen anything, and Edward is upset to be reminded of his own life.
Edward recommends that Carl improve his handwriting. He says improving his character would take impossibly long, but that handwriting is the key to advancement in society. Carl says it seems like a superficial approach to the problem. Carl asks Edward to hold his sign, which cuts the hands, while he goes into the store to get warm. When he comes out of the store, they slap each other in the face.