A young man of 16, believing in the lyrical extravagance of youth that ""the planets wheeled for me alone, the sun and moon rose and set for me alone. . . and the dawn leaped up like a clean rainbow fish out of the great clear lake of my expectation,"" sets off ""bright and ready"" to discover the world. . . and finds himself lost and lousy two days later, in a boxcar with an old bum who tells him a fantastic story with certain parallels to his own. The man claims to be an Arab and his story is set in the Sahara desert, where he once sought the center of the universe through which, he was convinced, all the worlds and the heavens and everything must shine--just as the picture of ""some goats walking upside down in the sky"" once passed, pinhole-camera-like, through a hole in his tent. His story tells of a king's fatal adventure with the three trumpets of wisdom; of a riddle unraveling and of a desert trip with dying companions--where a disembodied voice, a giant hand, and a silver thread direct the teller's fate; of a one-eyed bandit who robs young couples of their youth; and of his own terrified conviction at one point that he himself is the center of the universe. Kennedy is such a spellbinding storyteller that you become engrossed in each new strand of the tale, forgetting the others until they all snap together. Then he steps back with a teasing exchange about the truth of the story and, in an offhand farewell, wraps it together with the 16-year-old listener's own odyssey. A high ride into the fabulous, with some silver-thread connections for those who need them.