After three years in the Navy, Bus Riley (Michael Parks) returns to his hometown, moves back in with his mother and sisters, and begins trying to make a life for himself. He suffers a series of personal and career disappointments. Riley is a highly skilled mechanic, but resists suggestions that he work for the local garage and attend college at night, as he aspires to a career he considers more respectable and prestigious.
Riley discovers that an older male friend who has promised him a mortician's job wants a live-in sexual relationship as part of the bargain; disillusioned, Riley rejects the offer. He takes a job as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, but ends up fending off advances from lonely housewives. To compound his unhappiness, Riley learns that his beautiful but shallow girlfriend Laurel (Ann-Margret) has married a wealthy older man in his absence. Bored with her society life, Laurel lures Riley into having an affair with her against his better judgment.
Judy (Janet Margolin), a family friend, loses her mother and her home in a fire, leading to a romance with Riley that gives him hope for the future. He takes the garage job. After his sisters and mother learn of his affair with Laurel and confront him, Riley realizes he does not love the selfish and manipulative Laurel and breaks up with her for good, regaining the self-confidence to be proud of his work at the garage.
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William S. Gilmore, Harvey Hart, Terence Nelson, Luanna S. Poole