Elisa and Henry Allen are a married couple living on their farm in Salinas Valley, California in the 1930s. Elisa grows beautiful, huge chrysanthemums in the sandy soil of their yard. She is out tending the plants when Henry comes back into the yard after striking a deal with business men from a meat company. It is early afternoon, and he suggests that they go to town that evening for dinner and a movie to celebrate. Elisa happily agrees. That evening before dinner, a travelling repairman stops by their yard with his wagon and asks Elisa how to get back toward the highway. Elisa gives him suggestions on which way to go, and he then asks her if there is any work he could do for her so that he can afford dinner. Elisa initially says no, until the man talks to her about her chrysanthemums. He asks for some to give to a client he claims has been wanting some and she eagerly fixes him a pot with small newly sprouted flowers. Their conversation turns very serious and intimate as Elisa explains what it means to have what she calls planter's hands, hands that function of their own accord as they prune the flowers and that can do no wrong. The man says he gets the same feeling late at night in his wagon. Elisa wonders if a woman can live that way and the man says it would not be impossible, but that it is not a life meant for women. She fetches him two pans with holes in them and pays him fifty cents to mend them. He leaves with the flowers in the back of the wagon in a pot full of damp sand, promising to take care of them. She heads back into her home and gets ready for dinner. Her husband is surprised by how beautiful she looks and tells her so. Elisa is callous and defensive in response, and her husband wonders what has gotten into her. They head to town and Elisa sees the chrysanthemums on the side of the road, dumped out, and the wagon with the traveling repairman headed down the road. She realizes he was not actually listening to her words, but was just pretending to care so that she would pay for his services. She stops being defensive with her husband and becomes warm and delicate again. He immediately notices and tells her he should take her out more often and promises they will drink wine. She asks him about the fights, as if she wants to go watch them. When he asks her if she wants to go, she says no and that she will be more than happy with just drinking the wine before turning her face to the window and weeping.