The Outsider – by Marjorie Kanter

by Patty Ryan posted on 3 December 2013

The Outsider
by Marjorie Kanter

the baby was born in spain.

it was
in the early 21st

the spanish nurse
who delivered the baby
being the first to observe its little body
announced to the mother (in english)
that the baby was the bearer of
twenty fingers.

the american mother
all alone at this frightening moment
in this foreign land
burst into uncontrollable tears.

the doctor who
was still present
asked the nurse
(in spanish),
what’s the matter
with this woman.

the nurse
said to the doctor
(in spanish),
i don’t know.
i just told her
she has a perfect
and beautiful baby.
you know,
veinte deditos
y todo.

the doctor said,
just another hysterical woman.
sedate that woman.
and don’t let her near
the baby,
we can’t have
this hysteria here.

the mother
seeing the needle approaching her,
screamed louder,
but could do nothing
to stop the shot.

before she conked out
she could still be heard gritando,
let me see my baby.

the spanish husband
and saw his
in the nursery.

he asked (the nurses),
why isn’t the baby with its mother

they looked at the chart and said,
was hysterical
for no reason at all
so we had to knock her out,
sedate her.
she’ll calm down
she sees you.

after sometime
(the mother finally woke up)
and found her husband there
sitting by her side
and she said,
our baby has too many fingers.

the father said,
i saw our darling and he is perfect.
all the right appendages.
veinte bellos deditos.

the mother said,
the nurse said, he has twenty fingers.

the father said,
claro, naturally, como díos manda.

the baby was brought in
and the mother quickly and carefully
examined her child.

she counted five tiny fingers
on each tiny hand
five teeny toes
on each little foot.

she was relieved, but left in a state of confusion.

and it was too much and she was too tired and
too happy all at the same time to try to sort it out.


“The Outsider” came about in a different fashion than most of my work. I usually start with a real event or a thought, something that has happened (the narrative pieces) or with a phrase that just pops into my mind (the non-narrative pieces).

This is how “The Outsider” came about. It started with a little essence piece that I shared with bilingual members of a writer’s group I was participating in some five or ten years ago.


On my feet
I have fingers.

I was surprised when no one understood my intent. Perhaps frustrated or just plain motivated to communicate the meaning of that little piece, I went home and wrote “The Outsider”. “The Outsider” comes out of a lot of feelings I had at the time related to medical mess ups and treatment, but has no content basis in reality. The story is pure fantasy.

Marjorie Kanter, Madrid, November 18, 2009

Originally published (with slight modifications) in “Courting the Bull”, Edited by Sarah E. Rogers, Innoword Media. Available in Courting the Bull and in offprint paper published format by La Espiral Escrita.

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