Three decades ago, the young Socrates had, in a burst of drunken rage, murdered a man and a woman with his huge rock-breaking hands. Twenty-seven years of hard time in an Indiana prison followed. Now Socrates lives in a cramped two-room apartment in an abandoned building in Watts, scavenging bottles and delivering groceries for a supermarket. In each of the linked stories that comprise this richly brooding work, Socrates, like his namesake, explores philosophical questions of morality in a world beset with crime, poverty, and racism. He is an unforgettable presence and his perceptions cast a glow of somber lyricism upon an often harsh world.