EXPOSITION. Information concerning how Schatz is not feeling well, leading to a doctor being called to diagnose that he has influenza.
RISING ACTION. The rising action comes as Schatz's illness wears on, and the boy's actions and responses are seen as unusual.
CLIMAX. The climax comes when Schatz asks his father when he will die, and the father reveals that Schatz has misunderstood the two types of thermometer readings.
FALLING ACTION. After learning that he will not die, Schatz slowly relaxes and seems better the next day.
DENOUEMENT. This can best be summed up in the final paragraph, when the narrator tells us that Schatz cries "very easily at little things that were of no importance."
Hemingway's "slice of life" short story "A Day's Wait" impresses upon readers the significance of the old adage, "What a difference a day makes."
The father, who narrates, describes how Schatz, his son, comes into the parents' bedroom to shut the windows because he must have felt a draft.
I saw he looked ill. He was shivering, his face was white, and he walked slowly as though it ached to move.
The narrator asks the boy what is wrong; his son replies that he has a headache. Then, the father orders his son to go to bed, saying he will see him after he is dressed. However, the boy is already dressed when the father comes downstairs. He tells his son to go back to bed and calls the doctor. After the doctor checks the temperature of Schatz, the father asks what it is; the doctor responds, "One hundred and two."
- The rising action [inciting incident]
Schatz overhears the doctor saying that his temperature is one hundred and two. After the two men go downstairs, the doctor gives the father some medicine for the influenza, informing the father that there is nothing to worry about as long as the boy's temperature does not go above one hundred and four degrees. But, when the father returns, he finds his son's
... face was very white and there were dark areas under his eyes. He lay still in the bed and seemed very detached from what was going on.
- The rising action [Complication]
The father administers to his son the medicine from the doctor. Sitting at the foot of the boy's bed, the father reads as he waits for the time to administer another dosage. However, as he waits, the father notices that Schatz has not gone to sleep; instead, he is "looking very strangely" at the end of the bed. When the father asks him why he does not sleep, Schatz replies, "I'd rather stay awake." After some time, Schatz tells his father he does not have to stay if "it bothers" him. The father replies that he is not bothered. Thinking that the boy is a little lightheaded, he goes out for a while after giving Schatz his medicine again.
When he returns, the father is told that his son has refused to allow any one to come into his room, saying, "You musn't get what I have."
After entering the boy's room, the father finds his boy's face blanched, but the tops of his cheeks are red; so, he takes the boy's temperature. It is one hundred and two and four tenths, but the father says it is "Something like a hundred." Schatz tells his father that it was one hundred and two. "Who said so?" asks the father, and his boy replies, "The doctor."
- The climax
The father informs his son that his temperature is nothing to worry about, but Schatz oddly replies, "I don't worry...but I can't keep from thinking." Then, the father notices that his son is "holding tight onto himself about something." When the father administers more medicine, Schatz asks if it will really help him. "Of course it will," replies the father; then, he begins to read again to the boy.
"About what time do you think I am going to die?" he asked.
"About how long will it be before I die?"
"You aren't going to die. What's the matter with you?"
"Oh, yes I am. I heard him say one hundred and two."
The father assures his son that no one dies with a temperature of one hundred and two. But Schatz tells him that when he was in school in France, the boys told him that a person cannot live with a temperature of forty-four degrees, and his temperature is much higher than this.
- Reversal [final part of the climax]
It is then that the father realizes why Schatz has acted so strangely: He has misunderstood the differences between Centigrade degrees and Fahrenheit degrees. The father explains this difference to his son.
- Falling action
Now the father realizes that poor Schatz has been waiting to die all day; furthermore, he has left the boy alone in his anxiety. As the father makes efforts to console him, Schatz slowly relaxes and gives up his courageous determination to meet death.
Schatz suffers a backlash from his tight control over himself the previous day, and he becomes somewhat detached from reality: "...he cried very easily at little things that were of no importance."