Simpson, Helen

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony
  • Date of entry: Sep-25-2017
  • Last revised: Sep-25-2017


The exhausted narrator has just undergone 3 vessel coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery. While grateful for surviving his "cabbage" operation, he is acutely aware how different he seems from his previous self. He gets a roommate sent from The Scrubs, a prison facility located next to the hospital, who has been jailed for grievous bodily harm with a sentence of 8 years. Now the prisoner is pretending to have a heart attack, hoping doctors will keep him for a few days for tests.

The two men exchange information and banter. The convict wants details about what it feels like to have a heart attack. The narrator wants to know what it's like to be in prison (The answer is "Boring."). They pass time imagining they are vacationing on a Mediterranean beach. The criminal has a knack for making his roomie laugh - a welcome, but painful sensation after open-heart surgery.


This brief story about hospital roommates is unexpectedly kindhearted (given that one guy is a deceitful convict). The two men have almost nothing in common except their confinement. Yet a bond is forged. They share a similar chief complaint, but the prisoner's chest pain is feigned while the narrator's is genuine and severe. Plenty of little lessons on convalescence, privacy (or lack of), camaraderie, and basic human warmth are revealed in the setting of a small hospital room.

Primary Source

Cockfosters (pp16-20)


Alfred A. Knopf

Place Published

New York



Page Count