Lou Grant of the Mary Tyler Moore Show meets street punks.
The book is divided into five sections.
Part One: Lou Grant
During the last days of the second millennium on the outskirts of the American Empire, a fat man is resting in a lawn chair, having a stroke. Thinking that he is near death, he escapes into a life long fantasy of being a member of a television situation comedy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Our fat man becomes Lou Grant. But the Lou Grant of our story is not like the Lou Grant of the television program. Our Lou Grant is troubled. He is having recurrent dreams about having a stroke and believes that everything about him is a dream, that he is the God of the world in which he lives. And there is another dream. He dreams that he is living this life vicariously through a drunken degenerate name Harry O'Toole and through Harry O'Toole he is introduced to the criminal underworld in Minneapolis. At the center of this underworld is the mythic mysterious character of Michael, a romantic psychotic who to the fat man's horror is attracted to Mary Richards.
Part Two: Harry O'Toole
Harry lives in and out of an alcoholic haze. Wanting to rise in the world he cannot find an avenue of ascent except his association with Michael, his long time friend. Harry falls in love with the image of Mary Richards as portrayed in a series of television mini-documentaries. Harry stalks Mary Richards through the streets of the city that are slowly transformed from Minneapolis to Toronto. As he pursues Mary Richards he finds himself involved in a scheme by Michael to have Harry mistakeningly murdered by Michael's enemies. Failing to have Harry murdered in his place, Michael uses Mary Richards as bait to lure his enemies into a trap.
Part Three: Michael
This is a journey through the events already described in the last section but through the eyes of Michael. The world is cold and calculating in Michael's world. Michael operates his business ruthlessly, uses his friends for his own purposes and functions on the edge of violence. Michael leads us through his plan to flush out his enemies as he seduces Mary Richards and then sets her up as bait. On the evening when his would be assassins arrive at Mary's apartment, Michael waits outside ready to spring his trap. Will he be on time to save Mary? Does it matter?
Part Four: The Evidence
Through police reports, television interviews, psychiatric reports we are led through the events leading up the events that exploded in violence in Mary Richard's apartment.
Part Five: Epilogue
Lou Grant arrives in Mary's apartment. Mary Richards has been rushed to the hospital. The police have arrived at the crime scene and begun their gruesome work. Lou Grant and Ted Baxter discuss what happened. And why.
I am a corpse. I am having a stroke in a lounge chair on the outskirts of the American Empire on the ledge of a small blue planet in the suburbs of the Milky Way during the last days of the second Millennium. I can hear children in the next block on their bellies crawling through the bushes. There is a cat above me, walking along the telephone wire like a trapeze artist. He tip-toes across with such delicate bravado. I wish I had a camera. A lawnmower two houses down is blasting out music, a Bob Dylan song I've never heard before but there is no mistaking the great bards vocal tones. Ants are crawling up the beams of sunlight marching in goose steps like little Nazis toward the sun. Sweat is rolling off my forehead and into my eyes like tears retreating.
In this moment I can smell the lawn bleeding. I shouldn't have bothered to mow the lawn. Perhaps that brought on my stroke. But the grass was so long you could have parted it down the middle like hair and slicked it back like a mortician might the recently deceased. I hope they don't manicure my face before they place me on public display. I was never a handsome and was proud of it. I don't want to be painted up to look like one of Picasso's blue women.
My fingers tingle. The muscles on my arms and legs are flaccid. I have a craving for bacon, scrambled eggs and sausage, and gravy on toast. How I love American cuisine. My cholesterol was too high. For years I have been trying to control it and now in my last moments I would like a good breakfast. The machinery of my existence is breaking down. My bowels are relaxing. A pool is spreading out from my crotch. There is no feeling in my legs. The muscles on my arms are twitching. The throat has dried up. My tongue races around in my mouth like some creature caught in the jaws of a trap. I am having a stroke. I can feel my arteries expanding like inner tubes ready to burst. My veins turning brittle are popping like lights on a Christmas tree. Is this a test of my personal civil defense system? It is the panic of stillness. My Absolute Moment is coming to fruition. I'm not ready. This is not a good time. I still have payments to make on the house. I was losing weight. I stopped drinking. Not all at once, I grant you that. And I was trying not to think about sex every five minutes. My voting habits were becoming more conservative. I voted for Mayor Anderson and his recent crusade against pornography. I supported the movement to have cats put on leashes and bicycle helmets made mandatory equipment for cyclists. And women's rights to choose. And I can't seem to stop talking.