Francis Phelan is a bum who is fifty-eight years old in 1936, when the novel is set. He is married to Annie, who still lives in Albany, but he has not been home for twenty-two years, ever since he dropped his infant son Gerald, and Gerald died. He has been taking care of Helen Archer, another alcoholic, and they lived together for nine months, but they do not have any ties but sentiment in the present time.
Rudy is a companion of Francis’. They are not very close friends, but Francis draws Rudy into a day’s work at the cemetery and finds that Rudy knows the etiquette of being a bum, so they belong to the brotherhood of desolation.
Helen is Francis’ sometime-girlfriend. They have a past together, and they shared a very nice apartment for a time, but Francis’ drinking caused them...
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