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On a summer afternoon in suburban Connecticut, adman Ned Merrill inexplicably finds himself 8 miles from home, dressed only in swimming trunks. Partly to demonstrate his athletic vigor despite the advent of middle age, partly on an impulse, Ned decides to swim across the county, from pool to pool, until he gets home. In his odyssey from one neighbor's pool to another, he gradually confronts the sorry facts of his present existence. At Betty and Howard Graham's pool, he admits to Betty that he once loved her, but her reaction seems muted and unmoved. Mrs. Hammar bears him such a bitter grudge that she will not even allow him to cross her property. At another pool he meets Julie Hooper, a former babysitter who concedes that she had a crush on him several years before. Their encounter is ended by Ned's amorous overtures and by his insistence that she return to his home to babysit. Everywhere Ned goes, he is met by hostility and is taunted about his failures--his marriage, his unloving daughters, his inability to face reality, his recent financial troubles. As painful and puzzling as these ordeals are to Ned, it is his reunion with a former mistress, Shirley Abbott, that cuts most deeply: she claims, in a final outburst, that she never loved him. Finally, shivering in the rain and shaken by the succession of ego-shattering attacks, Ned arrives home. For the first time he seems able to face the reality of what his life has become, symbolized by the rundown house in which he used to live.