Jephraim Tallow went naked to his mirror and viewed his strange body – stranger now for the absence of a navel. The blood had gone and so had his navel. Tallow deliberated upon this discovery and then, frowning, returned to bed.

A number of hours later, Tallow awoke, put his hand into his mouth and found no blood, slid his large hand down his scrawny length and found no navel. He sighed and arose, donned his sackcloth clothes, opened the door of the hovel and looked out into the dark day full of mist. The mist was coming off the river, close by.

This is the story of Jephraim Tallow’s obsession with a mysterious golden barge, which he follows down-river, in the belief that, should he be able to board it, the answers to the mystery of his existence will be made clear.