In this "slice of life story," what appears to be a normal incident of a child's falling ill becomes, instead, a monumental moment in the psyche of the boy Schatz because of a misconception.
Initially, the father/narrator is alarmed when his son comes into the parents' bedroom in order to shut their windows, the draft of which he must have felt. Telling his son to return to bed because he looks ill, the father calls the doctor. His first concern is how ill the boy is because he asks the doctor what his son's temperature is. When the physician replies, "One hundred and two," the father knows that this is not an alarming temperature and with medication and bedrest, the boy will recuperate.
Therefore, the father's main concern is that his son rest and take his medicine in order to get well. When he sees that all the boy's physical needs are met, he relaxes some. Unfortunately, in their dialogue--
"Why don't you try to go to sleep? I'll wake you up for the medicine,"
"I'd rather stay awake.....You don't have to stay in here with me, Papa, if it bothers you."
"it doesn't bother me."
"No, I mean you don't have to sty if it's going to bother you"--
there is tremendous misunderstanding. For, Schatz believes he is dying, while the father merely thinks that with a fever, his son is "perhaps a little lightheaded." Sadly, then, the father leaves and hunts for a time, allowing the boy to rest. However, poor Schatz, who believes his temperature is in Celsius and he is going to die, grapples with his personal existential crisis that, even when it is resolved, leaves him "very slack" and shattered because he "cried very easily at little things that were of no importance."
In the beginning of the story "A Day's Wait" by Ernest Hemingway, the father, who is also the narrator, is primarily concerned with his son's health. Schatz has become ill with the flu. The doctor comes and tells his father that if Schatz's fever remains under one hundred and four degrees, and if he is able to avoid contracting pneumonia, this light case of influenza will not develop into a serious medical concern.
"He seemed to know all about influenza and said there was nothing to worry about if thefever did not go above one hundred and four degrees. This was a light
epidemic of flu and there was no danger if you avoided pneumonia"
Once the doctor leaves, the father is certain to take note of his son's temperature and the exact times that he needs to give Schatz certain medicines.
"Back in the room I wrote the boy's temperature down and made a note of the time to give the various capsules."