People Like That Are the Only People Here Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“People Like That Are the Only People Here” is told in the third person through the perspective of a mother who discovers that her baby has cancer. The principal characters and the doctors are not named. The mother is a writer who must use her utmost intellectual and emotional resources to get through her baby’s radical nephrectomy in a pediatric oncology unit at a children’s hospital.

With little warning other than the baby’s appearing to be slightly ill, the mother discovers a blood clot in her baby’s diaper. She phones a nearby pediatric clinic and is urged to bring the child in right away. After a quick examination, the baby is whisked away to the radiology unit. The surgeon soon appears to announce that the baby has a cancerous tumor, requiring a radical nephrectomy and possibly chemotherapy.

The husband’s response, although alarmed, is practical. The first thing that he tells his wife is to take notes, and then he begins to worry about money. He soon attempts to devise a step-by-step plan for them to get through the ordeal. The husband is not cold; he simply talks and acts in a way that might be expected of a man.

The mother, however, is not one to take such a practical, mechanical approach. Her next impulse is to turn to God, in whom she does not firmly believe. Her god ends up looking a lot like the manager of Marshall Field’s, and as such, she initially attempts to bargain with him. The manager of Marshall Field’s (now God) offers the mother only the reassurances she might easily glean from fiction-writing techniques: One cannot know the narrative...

(The entire section is 657 words.)