Hezekiah Potts leaves work early one day to go to a ball game and Janie reassures him that she can close the store by herself this once. Besides slow business, the day is otherwise ordinary – that is, until just before Janie decides to close up at six o'clock. At five thirty, a tall handsome man comes into the store and asks to buy a pack of cigarettes. The man and Janie playfully flirt for a few minutes until the man asks Janie to play a game of checkers. After the game, Janie and the man continue to flirt and decide to play another game of checkers. Janie playfully responds, "It's all right tuh come teach me, but don't come tuh cheat me."
The unnamed man – soon revealed to be Tea Cake – enters Janie's life when she is caught off-guard and engaged in her day-to-day life. It is Tea Cake's acceptance of Janie's true self that marks him as different than Logan and Jody. Tea Cake's invitation to Janie to play checkers in particular shows how he treats Janie as an equal. That said, checkers speaks not only to the playful aspect of Janie and Tea Cake's dynamic, but also to its role as a game – a realm in which there are rules that can not only be taught, but bent in order to cheat. This doubly playful and dangerous dynamic defines Janie's eventual relationship with Tea Cake.
After asking the man how he plans to get home, Janie realizes that she doesn't know his name. The man responds that his name is Vergible Woods, but that everyone calls him Tea Cake for short, which Janie attributes to his "sweetness." They continue flirting as customers arrive back from the game, and continue until everyone else has returned home for the night.
Janie and Tea Cake's conversation unfolds organically and playfully, indicating a shift in the way that Janie's attraction works: namely, she is intrigued by Tea Cake's "sweetness" and his ability to treat her as an equal player in conversation, not as someone with "horizon."
Tea Cake says goodnight to Janie and she finds herself thinking about her safety on her walk home – particularly, the question of whether or not Tea Cake is a strange man. However, Janie's intuition immediately shuts down her paranoia: she realizes that she feels as though she has known Tea Cake all her life, and feels especially moved by the ease with which they were able to converse with one another. After arriving home, Janie watches the rising moonlight "quenching the thirst of the day."
Janie's initial feelings of nervousness about Tea Cake are eventually validated by his often overly-playful behavior, even if well-intentioned. Nevertheless, Janie is overwhelmed by how comfortable she feels talking to Tea Cake, as with him she can express herself. Talking to Tea Cake quenches Janie's thirst for a voice and a sense of individuality the way the moon quenches the thirst of the day.