Standing on the deck of the ship Francesco Cheech Caruso, nine-teen years old of Caltigirone, Sicily solemnly watches as his younger sister Lena, husband and Greco his beloved horse, tied to the back of the wagon disappear in the morning mist as the ship slowly steams away from the only life he has ever known.
A tiny middle-aged married woman who seeing his sorry befriends him by inviting young Cheech to have dinner with her, her husband and children that evening. Kindly declining the generous offer he graciuosly accepts one for the next night telling Lena that he needs tonight to be alone. Understanding the young man, she promises to come looking for him if he does not present himself at the given time, to which he gives his word in appreciation of her kindness.
Being awaken from a deep sleep on a pile of crates a well dressed, groomed man introduce himself and offers him what he calls immigration and legal services which Cheech resists to the point that the man becomes belligerent. In his first act of violence since leaving Sicily he grabs the man by a fist full of hair and sends him on his way, telling him not to return.
The next night he finds himself in the company of Rosina, her family and a large group of fellow Italians. In gratitude for her kindness he sings for the group while her husband supports him with an accordion. As the evening comes to a close Cheech returns to his sleeping area to find that his only possessions, a suit case with his personal items has been stolen. A man who witnessed the theft gives him a description of the men who stole his case.
In his efforts to retrieve his belonging he starts looking for the thieves and finds them in the first class area but decides not to act at this time. Lying on some canvas at the back of the ship he meets the first person that is not Sicilian or Italian. He is an Irishman who is serving as a cook in the ships kitchen for two cross ocean voyages so he can earn a free third trip to Ellis Island and the new world.
The young Irishman, Darren McKeaver and Cheech become friends instantly and rather than throw all the kitchen's unused food over the fan tail of the ship he offers to gather and save much of it each night for Cheech to give to his fellow Italians. Rosina and her husband will distribute untouched and unspoiled food. Being told by the Irishman that he can be dismissed for this, it is kept a secret throughout the journey.
Over the next three weeks Cheech will learn much about Ireland and grow to love and enjoy the Irish people throughout the rest of his life at America. Cheech will tell him of Sicily and the two young men will exchange stories of their families and share their memories. Cheech will never see this young man again after the ship docks at America but will remember his always.
Alerting Rosina and others of the incidence with Mr. Bosco, who claims to have all the answers to a certain entrance to America and because of his take-charge attitude he becomes the unofficial spokesman for these unknowing and for the most part simple people. This causes resentment between Cheech and Mr. Bosco because of the lost revenue Bosco will suffer on this trip.
This is what the middle aged man; Mr. Orlando Bosco does for a living. He travels back and forth between Italy and America taking advantage of unknowing passengers. He travels with a crew of two whose part it is to be the enforcers when necessary as often is the case. Certainly in the case of Cheech.
Knowing the threat Mr. Bosco represents to him, Cheech quietly goes about evening the playing field. In the pitch dark of the moonless sea Cheech hides in the dark and waits for one of Mr. Bosco's enforcers to return to his sleeping quarters knocking him unconscious and throwing him over the side of the ship never to be found.
Cheech tells McKeaver of the scruples of Mr. Bosco and enlist his help in seeing that Bosco doesn't steal from any more passengers on this vessel. An elaborate scheme will be set in place to divert Bosco's attention so Cheech can rummage through his cabin. What Cheech discovers will change the life of the young Irishman forever. But nothing is removed from the cabin, as not to alert Bosco that anyone knows what he is up to. That is until the very last night of the vessels journey as it prepares to enter the waterway to Ellis Island.
In the lute from Bosco's cabin the young Irishman will acquire a new identity and he, Cheech and Rosina will share the monies confiscated by Cheech in that last night journey. The Irishman, a new identity will leave the ship at Ellis a new man and will disappear into the fabric of America. He will have avoided two unnecessary ocean trips, possibly more.
Cheech will see Rosina and her family for the last time as they are processed through Ellis Island. The first of many notables and celebrities, Cheech will meet in his new land, he will meet in a chance meeting as he is being processed. A short rather pudgy man of Italian decent will steer him to a different line than he is standing in and making a change on the label that has been pinned to his lapel. This man, his name Congressman Fiorello La Guardia will play an important part sixteen years later in the life of this young Sicilian.
Finally on American soil he will kiss a black painted lamppost as a gesture of his gratitude for a safe journey and his new land. Then he will look sadly over his should to the direction of his abandoned home land Sicily for the last time, turn to the massive buildings of Manhattan and smile in amazement. Having left Sicily a deserter, he will try, he must, make a life at his new country that will be free of Sicilian experiences with the Mafia and the sea journey he has just completed.
This well intentioned effort will last approximately three weeks, the same time as the sea journey, until he is arrested for the first time in his new world. Unaccustomed to being sub servant to anyone, his pride dictates to him that nothing changes in life, it stays the same, thing just happen to you.