It is seventeen-year-old Ellis's first night at home after graduating from prep school. By chance he bumps into Jackie Cattle, whom he remembers from grade school. Jackie is a couple of years older than Ellis, a drifter, disreputable, yet with an odd charm and a disarming wit. For the next twenty-four hours, Ellis enters an extraordinary world on the fringe of society that he never knew existed. Jackie introduces him to life at the Land-of-Smiles, a dilapidated motel where nightly a strange collection of local characters gather to drink and talk. Two attractive sisters, Ursa and Leona, the elder studying to be a lawyer, live there. Leona loves and takes care of a baby whose mother stops in only once in a while. Then the baby disappears, and Ellis is thrust into a wild, sometimes almost violent search for the child.
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