backhand stories the creative writing blog

Nancy was telling Tom about her friends who recently adopted a baby from a Russian orphanage.

“The poor thing,” Nancy said over her dinner plate, “she’s been so neglected. If you play peek-a-boo with her she cries because she thinks you’ve gone away. Can you imagine? Those people put that baby in a crib and let her stare at the ceiling for 6 months. But Ginny and Brad are determined to help her developmentally. Obviously, she’s got some problems.”

Tom slowly chewed his salad. “How can you tell?” he said with a mouthful.

“How can I tell they are determined? Because they told me. You should see them. They are so in love with that child!”

“No. I mean, how can you tell she has problems? She’s Russian, right?”

“Yes she’s Russian. And it’s pretty obvious she has problems. Even the doctors said.”

Tom shook his head and wiped his mouth. “Nancy, I don’t know if you’ve ever met a Russian before, but they’re all developmentally disabled. They are easily the most remote, underhanded, inhospitable people I’ve ever been around. I hate to generalize about an entire ethnicity, but the kid’s probably just a typical Russian, that’s all.”

Nancy stared at him. Her fork was frozen in mid-air, halfway between her plate and her mouth. Finally, she said: “You hate to generalize.”

Tom kept eating and nodded. “Yep. Hate it.”

“You’re a sonofabitch,” she said.

“What? Why?”

“You can’t even be happy for them. It’s too much to ask, isn’t it? You’re too selfish and mean spirited.”

“Look, Nancy, I know what this is about . . .”

“No you don’t! You hate Russians – shut up! You hate children!”

“I don’t hate them. I just don’t want them.”

“Christ! I’m done with this relationship,” Nancy said, pushing away from the table.

“Good! Then I can stop hearing your pathetic stories about Brad and Ginny and their retarded daughter!”

She stormed out of the room, crying. Tom heard the bedroom door slam, and he leaned back in his chair.

The racket started again. This was how it went every time. Nancy was throwing stuff around the room and shrieking. He heard the lamp shatter against the wall.

Tom turned in his seat and yelled at the door:

“It’s not just Russians, Nancy! I also hate the Irish! You hear me? The fucking Irish, too!”