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At a hotel filled with New York advertising men, a young woman in room 507 has to wait over two hours to get a phone call through. (This is the 1940s.) While she waits, she reads a magazine article called "Sex is Fun–or Hell," and takes care of some trivial matters (like painting her nails).
When the phone finally rings, she waits to finish painting her nails before picking it up: "She looked as if her phone had been ringing continually since she reached puberty" (1.2).
Finally, the operator puts her through to her mother, whom she had been trying to reach. We find out that the girl's name is Muriel, and that her mother is of the over-protective, domineering type.
The conversation reveals that Muriel has just arrived in Florida for a vacation with her husband Seymour. It becomes clear that Seymour is not well, mentally, and that Muriel's mother disapproves of him.
She asks if Seymour tried any of that funny business with the trees while he drove; Muriel assures her that he drove just fine, and asks if Daddy fixed the car.
Laughing, Muriel reveals that Seymour has a nickname for her: "Miss Spiritual Tramp of 1948."
Muriel asks if she left a book of German poetry behind, given to her by Seymour. She explains that Seymour called this particular writer "the only great poet of our century" and told her she should learn German to read him (1.42).
Muriel's mother goes back to actively disapproving of Seymour. She says that Muriel's father talked to Dr. Sivetski (probably a psychiatrist) about all the strange things Seymour has done lately (like that business with the trees, that business with the window, the horrible things he said to Muriel's grandmother about dying, etc.).
And Dr. Sivetski thinks that Seymour was released too soon from the Army hospital (where we gather he was being treated for mental problems). They all fear he may lose control of himself completely.
Muriel responds cavalierly. There is a therapist at the hotel, she says. She can't remember his name or anything, but he's "supposed to be very good" (1.56). She's clearly not as worried about Seymour as is her mother, and she starts complaining about the terrible sunburn she's gotten.
Her mother brings the conversation back to the therapist at the hotel. Muriel gabs about his wife, whom she saw last night wearing an unflattering dress. She (the therapist's wife) kept asking if Seymour was related to Suzanne Glass.
The small talk continues. The two women discuss fashion and the hotel in which Muriel and Seymour are staying.
Muriel's mother keeps asking her if she's all right, if she wants to come home, if she feels unsafe, and if she wants to stay alone for a while instead of with Seymour. Muriel insists that she's fine. Her mother laments that Muriel waited for Seymour all through the war so faithfully.
Muriel tries to end the conversation; Seymour might come in from the beach any minute, she says. Her mother worries that he's out there on the beach unsupervised, and she hopes that he will behave himself.
Muriel says he's fine; he won't even take his bathrobe off – because he doesn't want people to see his tattoo, his says. Muriel then admits that he has no tattoo.
After promising to call if anything goes wrong, Muriel finally gets off the phone.