Doc Hata is in the hospital, having suffered from smoke inhalation. Old acquaintances from the hospital come by to visit, including Renny Banerjee, the hospital purchasing manager who used to source supplies from Doc Hata’s store. Though he comes from an East Indian background, Doc Hata thinks of Renny as very American because of his barrel-chested appearance, joking demeanor, and forthrightness.
Doc Hata tells Renny that the damage to his house is minor and that Liv Crawford, who had pulled him out of the house, already has a team working to restore everything. Renny used to date Liv, and the two men joke about her ambition and forceful personality. Doc Hata enjoys talking with Renny, and though his laughter is mixed with coughing fits, he reflects that circumstances needn’t be ideal for him to feel good.
Renny asks Doc Hata about a woman he used to date, Mary Burns. Renny jokes about how he used to see the couple “cooing and nuzzling” in public. Doc Hata informs Renny that Mary died last year from liver cancer.
After Renny leaves, Doc Hata explains how he didn’t go to see Mary when she was in the hospital since he felt worried that he might upset her. He recalls how they first met when she approached him while he was working in his garden. At the time, Mary’s approach surprised him since the local standards of decorum involved keeping an appropriate social and physical distance.
He and Mary introduced themselves. Doc Hata explained that he was not a doctor despite the honorific that locals had bestowed on him, but Mary insisted that he nonetheless had “the movements and gestures” of a doctor. Later in their conversation, Mary touched Doc Hata’s arm, which surprised him. He invited her in for a tour of his garden and clipped a bouquet of lavender for her to take home. Upon leaving, she told him to invite her for a drink sometime.
Doc Hata reflects that he met Mary just when he was thinking he should seek out a mother figure for Sunny. He had inquired about suitable women back in Japan but had not had any success. Soon after their initial meeting, he and Mary began a relationship.