A Day's Wait (Hemingway)

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A Day's Wait
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A young boy, misunderstanding his fever temperature, believed he was going to die, causing him to anxiously wait for death all day until his father clarified the misunderstanding.

A young boy of nine years old was feeling unwell one morning, shivering and looking pale. His father, concerned for his health, insisted that he go back to bed. The boy reluctantly agreed, but when his father checked on him later, he found him dressed and sitting by the fire.

The Father — narrator; caring and concerned; tries to comfort and reassure his sick son.
The Boy (Schatz) — nine-year-old boy; sick with fever; anxious, scared, and holding onto himself tightly.

The father could tell that the boy had a fever and called a doctor. The doctor diagnosed the boy with influenza and prescribed three different medications to help with the fever, a purgative, and an acid condition. He assured the father that there was no danger as long as the fever did not go above 104 degrees. The father then took care of the boy, giving him the medications and trying to read to him, but the boy seemed detached and unable to focus.

The boy asked his father when he thought he would die, which shocked the father.

About what time do you think I'm going to die?

The boy explained that he had heard the doctor say his temperature was 102 degrees, and he believed that people could not survive with a fever that high. The father reassured the boy that he was not going to die, explaining that the thermometer they were using measured in a different scale than the one the boy was familiar with. He compared it to the difference between miles and kilometers.

You poor Schatz, poor old Schatz. It's like miles and kilometers.

The boy's anxiety slowly eased, and the next day he was much more relaxed, although still emotional and prone to tears.