Cornelius is coming to visit in the story, "Balloons for Uncle Con. " His brother's wife has always been attracted to and repelled by the visiting drug user and trafficker, but any sexual tension between them is defused by a quickly developing crisis. "Atlas" dramatizes the chasm between young college boys' precious intellectualizing and the very basic, human experience of the office scapegoat, an older fellow with whom the undergraduates work part-time at a San Francisco newspaper in the 1960s. A man recounts the experience of a summer which brought home the unsettling truth that a stranger named Buddha Bowman had proved to be a greater, more compassionate role model and father figure than the boy's own dad in the story "Scissors. " The lives of an unhappy teen-aged youth, an overweight younger boy and a bored grandfather intersect one day in the story "Three," inspired by, but not at all resembling, Henry Van Dyke's "other wise man" tale. "The Last Fire" deals with a retired fireman, a former relief pitcher nicknamed The Douser, and his teacher wife, who handle a terrible crisis quite differently, the former deciding that he does the "dousing. " The collection, as a whole, is a journey of discoveries recognizable, it is dearly hoped, to the reader if not always to the principal characters.