(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Snooks, Rannie Mae Toomer’s infant son, is dying of double pneumonia and whooping cough. Rannie has no one else in the world, is unmarried, and lives in an unheated, drafty shack somewhere in the South.

Sarah, a neighbor who is expert in country medicine and home remedies, suggests that one of these remedies might help Snooks, but Rannie will have none of it. She has supreme confidence in white medicine and wants a white doctor for her son. She is also certain that the white mail carrier whom she has begged to call for the doctor will send him as soon as possible. Despite the drenching rain and bone-chilling winds that enter the shack, Rannie is sure that the doctor will soon arrive and give Snooks an injection that will make him well again.

Rannie recalls two past meetings with the mail carrier. Once, she had inquired whether the advertising circulars she received meant that someone would come later to deliver the things she needed: sweaters, shoes, rubbing alcohol, a heater for the house, a fur bonnet for Snooks. When he explained to her the meaning of the word “sale,” which was always written on the circulars in red capital letters, Rannie was amazed, for she could never afford to buy any of the items advertised. Her conclusion was that this was simply the way things were; no one could do anything about it.

She met the mail carrier again on the morning Snooks was so ill. She had waited in the winter rain, had no umbrella,...

(The entire section is 550 words.)