Gabby Maple is a young girl who wants to see the world, but necessity compels her to work as a waitress in the middle of the Arizona desert. Out of the desert comes Alan Squier, a disillusioned sophisticate on his way to the Petrified Forest, which to him symbolizes self-destruction, the only answer he can find to living in a pointless world. He pauses at the restaurant to sympathize with Gabby's dreams, then decides to help her realize them by leaving her his life insurance. When the restaurant empties, gangsters, looking for a hideout, enter and take possession. Alan amuses himself by philosophizing with the criminals, who in the end oblige the suicidal Alan by shooting him. The desperadoes make their escape as Gabby contemplates the death of Alan and the fact that she'll have to bury him, where he wanted to die, in the Petrified Forest.
One of the author's greatest successes.