Claypot Dreamstance has a beef with the universe. Once a well-liked artist with a charmed existence, Claypot's life cracks wide open when his young daughter dies in a drowning accident. Crippled by depression and grief, reckless, belligerent, and anti-social, he splits with his wife and spends his days executing chalk trompe l'oeil drawings on the sidewalks of his native Portland, Oregon, reaching for some meaning and beauty from out of the earth. He shuns his former associates and moves into a tent in Forest Park. He mooches cigarettes and art supplies from hapless admirers of his exquisitely made pictures, and nothing assuages his anger at the universe for taking his daughter away from him. He spirals into a fantasy land of false hope in which he believes he can pull his daughter back from death through one of his life-like trompe l'oeils. Claypot lives on the verge of madness, savagely rebuking anyone who even suggests his quest may be futile. Then one couple takes up the challenge of showing Claypot the beauty still in the world. Will Claypot listen, or will he stubbornly deploy his considerable gifts in a self-destructive orchestration of his own oblivion?