In a backwoods community, Jody Toliver sits down to breakfast with his mother as they commiserate over the death of Grandpa Titus Tolliver. They're interrupted when Grandpa comes down from where he's been laying up stairs. Grandpa has quite an appetite but Jody and his mother try to explain that he's dead. He too stubborn to accept the fact that he's dead and refuses to be put six feet under. Ma goes to get Doc Snodgrass to settle the matter once and for all.
Grandpa is resting out on the porch (and attracting flies) when Doc Snodgrass shows up and wants to know why Grandpa isn't dead. Grandpa figures Snodgrass was drunk and messed up the autopsy. When Snodgrass tries to find a heartbeat, there's nothing, but Grandpa figures the stethoscope is broken. Grandpa doesn't have any breath on a mirror but doesn't accept either that or Snodgrass' death certificate, and Snodgrass runs away.
Grandpa Tolliver continues to rot and goes upstairs for a little snooze. Later the local preacher shows up and initially mistakes Grandpa's sleeping for a corpse. He's startled when Grandpa wakes up and offers him a seat. The preacher tries to convince Grandpa that all of his burdens can be laid down to rest when he goes to heaven, but Grandpa isn't convinced. Grandpa demands that he's not unreasonable and if someone can prove he's dead, he'll accept it. The preacher gives it up and warns that Grandpa might end up in Hell if he doesn't give up the ghost, so to speak.
Jody goes to visit the local hoodoo woman who originally tries to scare him but gives it up and recommends that he shouldn't get old. She recognizes Jody as Titus' grandpa and remembers him as being stubborn. She comes up with a packet and gives it to Jody.
Jody comes back and his ma tells him that Grandpa's getting stiffer and the local undertaker is ready to declare the house a health hazard. Ma checks out the packet but there's nothing in it but black pepper. Jody follows the hoodoo woman's instructions and puts the black pepper on Grandpa's black napkin. A now thoroughly rotting Grandpa comes down to supper and needs Jody's help to dish up his food. He admits that he's stubborn but doesn't want to make trouble for the family, and if he had some proof he'd be the first one to go lie down forever.
Jody points out Grandpa has something on his chin and due to the black pepper sneezes into the black napkin. Grandpa looks at the contents of the napkin, then goes upstairs to lie down once and for all. Later Ma comes down and they consider the evidence that finally convinced Grandpa: his own nose, which came off when he sneezed.