- "I guess in the end, you're as good a person as you think you are..."
— Chester Williams
In the Houma swamp, hippie dealer Chester Williams finds one of the Swamp Thing's wind-loosened tubers (without yet knowing its origin) and takes it home to analyze and identify as a possible psychoactive drug. After dividing it in thirds, examining it under a microscope and consulting field guides, he receives a visit from his friend Dave, whose wife Sandy is dying of cancer. In tears, he asks Chester whether he has anything that can ease her pain in her final days. Chester, however, is going clean at the moment and is all out of drugs, but out of concern he gives Dave a third of the tuber for free, given that its structure is similar to datura root and therefore it may be a psychedelic.
Moments after Dave has left, Chester receives an unwanted visit from Milo Flynn, a nasty acquaintance who just wants to get high. Refusing to believe that Chester's out of product, he spots the tuber and demands a piece. With great reluctance, Chester finally offers it to him for fifteen dollars, but Milo simply takes it and leaves, claiming he'll pay later.
Dave offers Sandy the piece of tuber, and much like Abby, she experiences everything around her as connected, and made of dazzling light. In ecstasy, Sandy has her husband take her into the backyard, where they make love in the rain. Dave even gets a slight contact high from her kisses. Eventually, Sandy passes away, happy and without pain.
Milo has a rather different trip. He experiences himself as Alec Holland on fire and screams in agony; when bounced from the bar and into a puddle, he sees his reflection as a swamp creature and passers-by as various monsters the Swamp Thing has encountered. As he becomes convinced that this is how the world really is, he remembers with belated remorse his past misdeeds. Finally, in sheer panic, he runs blindly into traffic and is struck dead.
Later that evening, Dave drops by to thank Chester for making Sandy's last moments so wonderful, and tells him he's a good person. Then Milo's friend from the bar comes by to castigate him for "as good as kill[ing] him." (He's apparently unaware of Milo's ultimate fate.)
This contrasting feedback prompts Chester to wonder whether the tuber is a "cosmic litmus test" that tells people whether they're good or bad. After tossing out Milo's friend for asking if he has any more, Chester mulls over what he feels are his own moral strengths and weaknesses. He comes close to eating the remaining piece, but decides not to take the risk.
- Beneath the Mask: Chester speculates that ingesting the tuber shows you your true moral character.
- Book-Ends: The statement "It's just a question of faith."
- Sandy's good trip is a general Call-Back to Abby's in Rite of Spring.
- The Call Backs within Milo's bad trip are more specific, referencing the Swamp Thing's origin story (Volume 1 Issue 1 and elsewhere), the Patchwork Man (Vol. 1 #3), the Conclave robots (Vol 1. # 6), General Sunderland (Vol. 2 #6-21), the Rosewood "Mother" vampire, the Monkey King, a werewolf (Vol. 1 #4), the Un-Man Cranius (Vol. 1 #10), an alien (Vol. 1 #9), and finally (not to mention appropriately), as the driver who accidentally kills Milo, Arcane.
- Dark World: Milo, his perception distorted by the Swamp Thing's more disturbing memories, experiences the world as nightmarish:
- A Day in the Limelight: This issue, an interlude at roughly the halfway point in the "American Gothic" arc, focuses on the new character Chester Williams.
- Drugs Are Good / Drugs Are Bad: The issue is a rare example of a story which plays both tropes straight and with equal weight given to the good and bad trips. Compare Watchmen, which portrays a gang member's bad trip on KT-28s as well as the young Ozymandias's good trip on a massive hashish dose. Contrast The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century, in which the sole drug scene, Mina Murray's tadukic acid trip, results in psychosis, and the portrayal of, respectively, LSD and psilocybin mushrooms as uniformly enlightening in V for Vendetta and Promethea.
- Fantastic Drug: The Swamp Thing's tubers, which structurally resemble datura root.note
- Heroic Self-Deprecation: Chester feels he tries to be a good person, in that he's kind, non-violent, and respectful of the environment. However, he isn't entirely sure he's good, because he still eats meat and he said things to his girlfriend, as they broke up, that he now regrets. So he doesn't trust his character enough to take a chance on the tuber himself.
- Milo makes sexist comments about Chester's ex, doesn't watch where he's sitting and knocks stuff over, and tricks Chester into giving him the tuber section without paying. Some of his past actions, as he recalls them, put him into outright villain territory: selling heroin cut with rat poison and pushing a woman down the stairs, causing her to miscarry.
- Milo's friend rudely berates Chester for something that wasn't really his fault (as Milo all but grabbed the tuber piece from him), pockets his yin-yang paperweight, and has the nerve to ask Chester for some of the drug himself.
- Karmic Death: Milo brings about his own demise by (for all intents and purposes) stealing a drug, then having such a horrible trip that he heedlessly runs right in a car's path.
- New-Age Retro Hippie: Chester, though too young to have been part of the original hippie subculture, dresses and talks the part, in addition to preferring sixties music and being a psychoactive drug enthusiast and dealer. Nevertheless, in this and all subsequent appearances he's a well-rounded, sympathetic character, not a "point and laugh" Theme Park Version of a hippie.
- Out of Focus: Neither the Swamp Thing nor Abby appear in this issue to a significant degree (Abby not at all, Swamp Thing only in the first four panels, walking through the swamp as the tuber falls off him).
- Refuge in Audacity: Milo's friend, after lambasting Chester for messing up Milo's head with the "stuff," suddenly grins enthusiastically and asks whether he has any more.
- Writing Around Trademarks: Chester sings a number of classic sixties songs on the way home from the swamp. More accurately, he only sings the occasional line from each one, and hums or uses filler words for the rest ("And something something—la la la... / Strawberry fields forever." You'd think a hippie would know the entire chorus of that). Presumably this was so DC could avoid having to request permission from the copyright holders.