After twenty years of broken bottles and empty hallways, Mort Gleason witnesses his nephew Moo being beaten while in a drunken stupor. The short contact with family brings Mort back to what are left of his senses and he returns to the last home he remembers in Chicago.
His sister Eileen lives in their family home now with her sixteen year old son, Abe. Her older son Moo, the now missing nephew, helped spark Mort's return to his family. Three, four, five weeks pass as Mort waits outside his home and makes a tenuous re-entry into family life.
Abe dreams of a sailboat and distant horizons. He saves money and sees an advertisement for the Kathy II. He and his friend calculate a way to buy the vessel from two unscrupulous rogues who make ends meet wholesaling liquor and operating a sometime boatyard.
Eileen, however, is unaware that her youngest son is planning his escape. Comfortable enough with Mort's presence to allow her a night away from home, Eileen's departure allows Abe to seize the opportunity that his mother's absence provides. He purchases a beaten-up wooden sailboat that he scheduled to be delivered to their house while Mort is in charge.