An assistant at an urban veterinary clinic, Jeffrey Rawlings has decided to take a break from graduate studies and instead pulls nightshift at an animal hospital while studying the modern philosophers—"from Kierkegaard to Marx"—to no avail: wounded animals hound his existence. Jeffrey’s hypochondriac mother may be dying of ovarian cancer, his money-hungry sister needs bucks for her 40-year-old husband’s braces, and a heroin-hooked runaway is set on his seduction. Meanwhile, the neighborhood transvestite swears he is Billie Holiday raised from the dead. But the worst comes when his perpetually indiscrete Uncle Raymond winds up getting shot. Soon enough, Jeffrey learns, it’s not just the animals that need a cure.