A young woman is dead. A man with diminished capacity is accused. His friends, also wounded, try to help him. In the process, they teach Jon Mote a thing or two he desperately needs to learn.
Jon no longer hears voices, but he's not convinced a silent universe is much better than a haunted one. He's returned his sister Judy to her group home and taken a staff job there that puts him in the company of six folks who, a bit rebelliously, he calls Specials.
Jon thinks his job is to teach these people basic life skills like telling time, making change, and riding the bus. The world says they are to be pitied, perhaps even eliminated. At best taken care of. But he finds that Judy, Ralph, Bonita, Jimmy, Billy the Skywatcher, and J.P. possess something that he and the world badly need.
The accused, J.P., is a gentle man who can't tell time or temperature, but wants you to be happy. Is he also a killer? The bureaucracy judges him so and sends him to an institution for the criminally insane. His friends know that if they do not get him back he will wither and die.
Meanwhile, Jon has his own problems. He finds himself threatened not so much by disintegration as by normality--the meaningless of the mundane. Alive but trivial.
While searching for something to fill the emptiness and for a way to rescue his client and friend, Jon unexpectedly reconnects with his estranged wife, Zillah, and he has an unsettling encounter with an unusual nun who presents him a way of seeing the world that puzzles and intrigues him.