Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 546
In the middle of the night, Hazel awakes to her cell phone ringing. She recognizes the ring as Augustus’s, and her first thought is that his mother is calling to say he has died. Fear makes it almost impossible for Hazel to move, but eventually she answers.
Hazel is filled with relief when she hears Augustus’s voice. He explains that he is at the gas station, and that he did something wrong with his G-tube and cannot figure out how to fix it. Hazel says she will call an ambulance, but he begs her to come and help him instead. He does not want to go to the hospital, nor does he want to admit to his parents that he sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night. He begins to cry, and he sounds so pathetic that Hazel is scared. She promises to come right away.
Hazel does not bother to change out of her pajamas. She just puts on a pair of sneakers and leaves a note behind for her parents in case they wake up while she is gone. The short drive to the gas station feels longer because she is so worried. She drives extra fast, half-hoping that she will get pulled over. If a police officer asks why she was speeding, she will have no choice but to go against Augustus’s wishes and tell someone that he is in trouble.
When Hazel arrives at the gas station, she finds Augustus in his car. He is covered in vomit, and he is pressing his hands to the part of his stomach where his G-tube sticks out. She tries to help him, but the hole is clearly infected, and Hazel knows that he needs a doctor. While she hesitates, trying to decide what to do, he throws up on himself again. He is so weak that he cannot even turn his head.
Augustus explains that he wanted to buy a new pack of cigarettes because his old pack got lost or thrown away. People promised to get him a new one but never did. “I wanted…to do it myself,” he said. “Do one little thing myself.”
Hazel knows that he has to go to the hospital. She apologizes quietly and then dials 9-1-1. While they wait for the ambulance, she says she loves him. He melts down and bangs on his steering wheel, shouting that he feels horrible and disgusting and wants to die.
While watching Augustus melt down, Hazel reflects that when people talk about cancer patients, they always talk about strength and perseverance. Real people, she has learned, die much more humbly than that. Right now, Augustus is just “a pitiful boy who desperately [wants] not to be pitiful.”
Hazel tells Augustus that she is sorry he does not get to be a hero, but that he will be okay anyway. She orders him never to do anything like this again, to rely on others for help instead of doing things for himself. He seems to agree, and then he asks her to read to him. She recites “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams, the only poem that comes to mind. When it ends, she keeps going, making the poem about him.