The narrator contemplates the most recent of his elder brother’s “buggy ideas”: building a boat—a rather large boat, in a field far from any water. Although he is skeptical, as are his and his brother’s wives, he does what he always has done for his sibling. He helps and humors him, though he also wonders how his simple-minded brother has managed to learn so much about boat building. Devoting more and more time to helping his brother, the narrator guiltily neglects both his own farm and his pregnant wife. She, however, manages to sow enough seed to ensure their survival during the coming year if it rains sufficiently. After the boat is completed, the brother takes up residence on board, much to his wife’s disgust and the narrator and his wife’s amusement. Then rain begins to fall. Initially the rain gives the young couple a reason to stay indoors together, but as it floods their fields and ruins their crops, the narrator’s wife wonders despairingly whether they should have wasted their time building a boat themselves. When the downpour turns into deluge, the narrator goes to his brother to seek temporary refuge for himself, his wife, and his unborn child, but he is silently rebuffed. Fighting the rising waters, he reaches the relative safety of a nearby hill, from which he sees the boat sailing into the distance and his own house nearly covered.
As the story ends, the narrator—after a futile attempt to save his wife—is back on the hill again. He calculates that he may have a day left if the rain continues. Unable to see his brother’s boat, he wonders how his brother knew the rain was coming. He concludes that “it’s not hard to see who’s crazy here I can’t see my house no more just left my wife inside where I found her I couldn’t hardly stand to look at her the way she was.”