In the first act, subtitled The Dirty Picture Man, Stephen (Red) Ryder, the reluctant nineteen-year-old hero of the original play, is now a twenty-seven-year-old Vietnam veteran who has lost a hand in the war. Part owner and manager of a movie house in Austin, Texas, which has recently begun to show porno films, he recounts, in an engrossing and revealing monologue, the events of his present lifehis numbing, sometimes disquieting duties as concessionaire and general factotum in the cinema; his involvement with a local religious cult; and the still lingering doubts about his manhood which have remained with him ever since, eight years earlier, he had found himself thrust, almost accidentally, into the role of a hero.
The second act, subtitled Terminal, takes place four years later, when Stephen returns to his former home in New Mexico to attend his mother's funeral. There he encounters people from his past: his former sweetheart, Angel, once a waitress in the diner where the events of the first play took place; his avaricious, brutal stepfather, Ray, who tries to browbeat him into signing over half of his late mother's property; and a former high school classmate, Dickie, now the night manager of the local bus terminal, who still carries around a newspaper account of Stephen's bravery and secretly wants to challenge him. In the ensuing confrontations, each of these characters reveals more about himself, or herself, than each might have wished, but each in his own way also comes to terms with what he or she has become in the years since the fateful night of terror when the legend of Stephen "Red" Ryder first came into being.