A Days Wait

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"A Day's Wait" (1936) is a brief story by Ernest Hemingway that conveys the seemingly tragic outcome of miscommunication between a boy and his father.

Schatz is a nine-year-old boy who becomes sick one winter night. After a doctor is called, it is determined that Schatz has contracted the flu and has a high fever. It is considered only a mild case, and the doctor leaves medicine for the boy, who overhears the physician tell the father that the boy's temperature is 102 degrees. It is this information that causes the perceived conflict and misunderstanding between the boy and his father.

Schatz is put to bed, and his father maintains a steady watch over him, reading from a book about pirates. But Schatz seems unusually detached and when his father suggests he got some sleep, the boy refuses. The father reads to himself for a while, but the boy remains awake and—strangely it seems to the father—suggests that the father leave "if it bothers you." The father tries to reassure the boy, but he again tells the father to go "if it bothers you."

Thinking that the boy is simply a bit light-headed, the father leaves the room and takes the family dog for a walk along the frozen creek. The dog flushes a covey of quail, and the father kills several before triumphantly returning from the hunt to find Schatz still white-faced at the foot of the bed. After the father takes Schatz's temperature, the boy demands to know what it was. "Something like a hundred," the father responds, although it is actually still above 102. The father gives Schatz his medicine and a glass of water, but the boy still seems unusually concerned. Once again he reads to his son about pirates, but he sees that Schatz is not paying attention, so he stops. The boy suddenly asks, "About what time do you think I'm going to die?"

The stunned father is taken aback, but Schatz asks him again when he will die. The father tells him all will be okay, and calls it silly talk. But then Schatz explains: "At...
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