This is an emergency lesson plan I leave for unexpected or unplanned absences from my 7th-9th grade language arts classes. It is completed independently by students in one class period and involves no extra preparation or instructions for a substitute. Just photocopy and pass out.
Students read the wonderful story "The Last Leaf" by O. Henry (it is a public domain text) and complete a thorough set of questions about the story after they read. Answers are provided in case you want to check the work when you return.
NOTE: As a good followup, there is a nice video version of the story from the mid-1980s, starring the late Art Carney, available in three short segments on "YouTube".