A taut, tightly compressed story of endurance and revelation. When American Philip, eleven, regains consciousness on a raft after his ship is torpedoed (World War II), his only companion is an aged Negro deck hand. ""He was ugly. His nose was flat and his face was broad; his head was a mass of wiry gray hair."" Timothy's heavy West Indian accent, laced with ""young bahss,"" is alien and Phillip understands his mother's saying that blacks are ""different""--smelly, superstitious, coarse-mannered. Then Phillip becomes blind and Timothy, who's been tolerating the snotty kid, is in for more affronts. Eventually they reach a tropical island (""Boddam, young bahss"") and Timothy begins Crusoe housekeeping with Phillip as truculent roommate and reluctant helper. As Phillip loses his timidity and starts to explore, he realizes how much Timothy has adapted and arranged things to benefit him--vine ropes for guides, a constant fire for signalling, rigging for fresh water. Almost imperceptibly, he adjusts his stereotype of a black man to the reality of Timothy until the memory of that ugly face is gone, until with no longer grating ingenuousness he asks, ""Timothy, are you still black?"" (Better still, Timothy roars with laughter.) And then they face a storm and Timothy, in shielding Phillip, dies. That the boy survives is a measure of Timothy's tremendous foresight and Phillip's admirable reserves. At once barbed and tender, tense and fragile--as Timothy would say, ""outrageous good.