The title is significant as the "day's wait" is one Schatz spends alone in agony, believing that he will die. When his father notices that his son appears ill, he feels his forehead and realizes that the boy has a fever. So, he calls the doctor who comes to the house, as they used to do. Naturally, the doctor takes his temperature and tells the father that it is 102. Outside the boy's bedroom, the doctor adds that there is nothing to worry about unless it climbs over 104, and he gives the father some medication for his son for influenza. Shortly, the father returns to Schatz's bedroom; the boy's face is very white and he has dark circles under his eyes. The father narrates,
He lay still in the bed and seemed very detached from what was going on...
But he believes that Schatz is not feeling well and his unusual behavior and look are due to the flu. Schatz tells his father that he does not have to stay with him "if it's going to bother you," and still the father attributes this strange reaction to the boy's illness and the medicine he has just administered to him. So, he leaves the son's room, hoping that the boy will sleep. While the father is gone, "...the boy had refused to let others into the room," telling them they must not catch his illness. Then, when the father returns, Schatz is blanched and staring at the foot of the bed. After the father takes his temperature, Schatz asks what it is. His father tells him that it is nothing to worry about.
"I don't worry...but I can't keep from thinking."
"Don't think....Just take it easy."
Nevertheless, the father sees that his boy is "holding tight onto himself about something." As the father tries to read to his son, the boy asks,
"About what time do you think I am going to die?"
"People don't die with a fever of one hundred and two. That's a silly way to talk."
It is only then that Schatz reveals his belief that because he is in school in France, his temperature has been expressed in Celsius, rather than in Fahrenheit. There the boys have told him that "you can't live with forty-four degrees."
He had been waiting to die all day, ever since nine o'clock in the morning.
This is a wait that the sick boy should not have had to endure. Dismayed that his son has been so deceived and unnecessarily traumatized, the father tries to comfort him. However, the long day's wait has taken a toll upon Schatz, who is very "slack" the next day, and he "crie[s] very easily at little things that [are] of no importance," having let go of his stoic determination the day before.