Section 1 Summary
The story’s main character, an unnamed, thrice-divorced elderly man, learns that he has to have an operation to insert yet another stent into one of his arteries. He has had so many surgeries that he has begun to think of himself as “a storehouse for man-made contraptions designed to fend off collapse.”
The night before the operation, he lies in his bed thinking about his previous operations and the different women who had been there with him when he awakened. He is particularly focusing on the memory of a private nurse named Maureen Mrazek, who helped him recover from quintuple bypass surgery.
That had been sixteen years ago. He had participated in an affair with Maureen that infuriated his third wife. He had recently tried to contact Maureen, hoping that she could once again be his private nurse after this operation, but was unable to find her.
Then the man begins thinking about an earlier hernia surgery he had at age nine. He remembers how he tried to hide the swelling in his groin for months, hoping it would just go away, until he finally had to reveal it to his parents.
In his hospital room, there had been another boy in the other bed who had had stomach surgery. In the middle of the night before his hernia surgery, he sees nurses and doctors attending to the boy. The next day, when he is awakened for his operation, he sees that he boy is gone and believes that he died in the night.
The next day this man undergoes the surgery to insert the stent. While under sedation, he has a heart attack and dies on the table.
A number of mourners are present at his funeral. These mourners include the former private nurse Maureen, his two sons, daughter, brother, sister-in-law, some residents from the retirement village in which he lived, several colleagues from the advertising firm for which he worked prior to his retirement, and Phoebe, one of his three ex-wives.
The sons are...
(The entire section is 528 words.)