Brenda Madigan avoided the sight of her body these days. She had arthritis; her fingers, once long, slender and tapered, olive skinned, were now twisted and sallow, covered with knobs. They curved under like claws, but lacked the strength that word implies. Her feet were swollen and so were her hip joints: when she levered herself onto her feet from a chair she could hear the thigh bones grinding woodenly against each other. Walking, her buttocks protruded unnaturally and her knees swivelled awkwardly in to meet each other. The illness had sapped her confidence too. She avoided strangers and asked no-one to the house.
Lou's older sister, Brenda, is in the arthritic ward with little hope of recovery. As Brenda will need long-term care, Lou plans to start looking for nursing homes, unwilling to have the divisive Brenda in the same household as Lou's husband and children.
After speaking with a nurse, Lou learns that Brenda is terminally ill, and decides to spend more time with her at the hospital. She begins to annoy the nurses but persists until Brenda finally falls into a coma and dies.