This short story begins on a Friday afternoon when an unnamed woman prepares flowers for her husband's grave. The following day is the seventeenth anniversary of her husband's death, and she has been dutifully tending to his grave all that time.
That evening, she prepares a bath for herself. She always takes a bath before going somewhere important. The narrator describes the woman's slow, pained movements as she prepares a meal and gets the bath ready. This draws the reader's attention to the woman's advanced age and failing health. For her, taking a bath is not without its difficulties. Before she gets in the tub, she mentally prepares herself for the difficulty she expects to have to get in and out. She positions a chair near the tub to help her with this.
In the tub, the woman thoroughly washes herself and enjoys the water's warmth. She even dozes off for a little bit. All this time, she dreads the process of getting out and delays as much as possible. Struggling through the pain and difficulty of the movements, the woman eventually attempts to pull herself out of the tub. At one point in the process, she calls out for help but realizes that nobody can hear her. With great effort, she is able to get out and tells herself that she will no longer take baths due to the difficulty involved.
That night, she lays in bed thinking that it would be better to die than live in such a lonely and feeble state. She thinks about her niece who sometimes comes to look in on her and how their relationship has become strained. She eventually falls asleep thinking of her husband. During the night, the weather begins to warm and the frost melts.
The next day, she takes the bus to the cemetery. She cleans her husband's grave and places the flowers there like always. She thinks to herself that the weather is more pleasant on this day than it usually is when she goes to the cemetery. With a feeling of satisfaction, she looks over the grave and remarks to herself that it is in better condition than many others. She then goes to the graves of her parents stays there for a while.
Eventually, she convinces herself that it is time to take the bus home. The chaos of the road and the city stands in stark contrast to the peacefulness of the cemetery, and she thinks about how her own end must be coming soon.