The allegory is heavy although Kirkpatrick's hold on the peculiar encapsulated word of men at sea -- essentially aimless and capriciously grouped -- keeps a steady course. The ship is the Ekonk, an undistinguished merchant vessel carrying such contemporary essentials as toilet paper, munitions and beer to an African port in a war zone; as observer is the Kid from Arkansas. He learns about the infinity of blue and possibly his own capabilities atop the mast; but in a brawl ashore he kills a man: ""he had (that) all in him too. And he loved it."" The crew -- supporting a perennially drunken captain are diverting originals -- from the mate tattooed from neck to tail to the cook who serves canape sandwiches and flowered radishes to the hairy apes. And there are surreal scenes of humanity's random carnage -- army flesh from an exploded airplane sorted and packed by skin color; frogmen changing guard from underwater vigils; or a dead shipmate swirling away erect after a burial at sea. Kirkpatrick is overly hortatory at times but the point he's making is that a worm-ridden mankind can turn to gold in the sun and much of the exemplification is inventive.