A compound of peculiar elements--and a dreary, dreary story. Eleven-year-old Ellis hasn't talked since seeing his father killed by lightning when he was three. On the outs with his stepfather, who thinks Ellis is ""dumb,"" he takes up with elderly, asocial neighbor Mr. Wheatfield, who once kept racing pigeons--to which Ellis has taken a fancy. Through the chicanery of some Wheatfield acquaintances, he buys a pigeon who isn't a racer; but Ellis loves the pigeon, Partleigh, nonetheless. At the same time, we're hearing Ellis's stepfather's suspicions that Mr. Wheatfield may be ""a devious. A child molestator"" (he isn't)--and learning the true worst about Cuban Rosalia, Mr. Wheatfield's housekeeper-of-sorts, who's into prostitution to get the better things in life for her 13-year-old brother Jaime. (Mr. Wheatfield solemnly explains Rosalia's offense and motivation to Ellis; and the local policeman, who's had to do some unsavory things himself, subsequently announces his intention to marry her.) Jaime, generally unstrung runs off and takes Partleigh for company; he's found--with temporary amnesia; Partleigh returns--via the pair who first foisted him on Ellis; and when Ellis sees Partleigh, he speaks. For kids, a case of the drabs.