In Granada, a boy in a dress begs in the white alleys of the old town. A vulnerable runaway, he turns to an American painter who is living in the city for protection, Madeleine James. The boy also meets Madeleine's new friend, poet Cy Jacobs. Although the two adults mean to help the boy, they unwittingly expose him to more peril. Soon, all the characters in the story have been scraped on the touchstone of hard realities and made to show their mettle, be it base or gold. This novel, at times somber and at times flaring with intensity, calls up indelibly the difficulties of making a good life—or a good death—in a world in which we are all, in one way or another, going.