What follows is an excerpt from Click,
       a novel by Rebecca Cook and published
       by New Rivers Press. It may be purchased here.

    Ronnie shut her eyes, wishing she hadn’t said a thing. Boyd breathed into her ear and the bird was squawking into Ricki’s face. “It’s not such a big deal. I wish I hadn’t told you.” She took the last bite of her Danish, bite number sixteen. I wish I hadn’t said anything. I wish I could cut this morning into twenty-four perfectly matched pieces, twelve pairs of Ricki-Mother pieces, an eye here, a babbling mouth there, four elbows, twenty toes.

Mother reached over and put a hand on her arm, held it there. “I’m glad you told us. You know you can tell us anything. Anything at all. You never should feel that you can’t talk to us. We’re your family.”

She put her hand over Mother’s, so cool to the touch. All through her life there was one thing she could count on, the soft, cool touch of her mother’s hands, perfectly manicured, perfectly smooth. How did she keep her hands so smooth? She felt the tears welling up, bit down hard on her jaws, remembered how Mother had changed the sheets after Boyd died, the sheets full of his smell, full of his skin cells and hairs, the last tangible essence of him, and Mother had sent someone over to strip the bed, to carry away his memory. She thought of that, of how she’d never forgive her for that. But just now, she felt safe, secure, she felt four years old, and Mother was tucking her into bed, her palm cool on her forehead. Mother was reading Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? in her gentle voice, the voice she used for little girls, and then she kissed first one cheek, then the other, then a kiss in the middle of her forehead. Yes, she’d always been able to count on her mother. “You will get married. In the church. You will get married. You’ll see. It will all work out. You’ll have your baby and the life you’ve always wanted.” Yes, she’d always been able to count on her mother.

Now she lifts her hand, waves it in the air; the bird is coming straight for her. Her tears are welling up, Ricki is saying she’s sorry, that she should go out, it’s about time, that she shouldn’t make fun of his mustache, and Ronnie can feel the bird digging and digging into her chest while she taps her toes onto the floor, twenty times, rapid succession. She rubs her chest with her left hand, squeezes back the tears, says, “It’s okay. Okay.” I’m okay, the whole world is whirling, but my feet are planted in one spot. The world only spins if you close your eyes. Hang on, hang on to the middle.

She stood up, got more tea, sloshed in the cream, startling white against all her black, against the bird’s wings circling. “He’s coming at seven to pick me up.” Because he knows the way here, because I’ve already fucked him, I’ve had him inside me, in my mouth, and he’s working himself all the way in, biting at the edges of my heart, and Boyd’s been watching everything. “By the way. Dr. Davis thinks I’m ready to start group therapy.”

Ricki asked if that was a good thing, Mother asked if that was a good thing, and Ronnie told them that, yes, it was a very good thing. “It means I keep getting better.”

 She bit down hard on her jaws again, the bird flying and squawking around the room, feathers dropping here and there, one landing on Mother’s head, a black feather for that perfect, blonde head. She and Ricki had inherited their father’s hair and coloring, but their Mother’s build, her long, long legs. Long legs, snobbish nose, and a girl full of birds, full of black feathers and lies, lies thick around her ears, and Boyd was sitting at the table now, a cup of tea in his hand, and it was eight years ago, at the table in her mother’s house, and she and Boyd had just finished telling Mother she was pregnant, pregnant, four months along, and Mother was asking them why they’d waited so long to tell her, and Mother was telling them that, of course, they’d be getting married, in the church, and then everything would be okay, everything would be perfect, and Boyd grinned at Ronnie because the conversation was rattling along just as Ronnie had predicted, and they just rode out the wave, allowed themselves to be carried along, and a month later, they were married in a full-scale wedding that Mother had somehow gotten together, somehow made happen. Oh the things that money could buy.

Ronnie sighed once, then twice, then picked up her tea and sat back down at the table. “I think I’ll have another,” and she ate a second Danish and drank two more cups of tea and then it was eleven-thirty, time for her pedicure, time to prepare herself for her lover.


It was exactly six-fifty-nine when the bell rang, and Ricki buzzed George in. Ronnie was still getting dressed, a skirt or a dress? Boyd helped her on with her stockings, the sexy kind, thigh-high, solid black. She could hear Ricki and George talking to each other, very glad she wasn’t there for the awkwardness of that conversation, very glad she’d told Ricki that she hadn’t told George anything about her former life, that she’d been so careful. She knew Ricki wouldn’t say anything to give her away. She’d understood.

She slipped into a simple black dress with an empire waist, decided on flats, Mary Janes, black patent leather, just like she’d worn when she was a little girl, twirling around in her Sunday school dress, a perfect girl’s dress, flowing pink and green. Now she puts perfume on her wrists, her neck, a perfume called “Pussy.” It smells like candy, like cake. She bought it last week, somewhere on Belmont.

She looks at herself in the mirror, her hair recently cut and spiky. She smiles at herself, and at Boyd who is standing behind her, his hands on her shoulders, just like that last evening. “We look gorgeous,” she’d said then. Now she slips on a little black sweater with pearls along the sleeves and walks out to meet George.


All evening she’s quiet because the bird is on her shoulder and Boyd keeps whispering into her ear. All evening she tries to shake them, to blot them out, but they hang onto her, they’ll never let her go. Just as she’s finishing dessert, she feels a sharp cramp.


He looks up from his plate.

“I have to make an early evening of it, just dinner tonight.”

“Fine with me. I’m just happy you let me pick you up, and to meet your sister and mom.”

Boyd hissed Ronnie, he is such a sap. She said, “Well, I’d like to stay out later, but I’m not feeling well. In fact, I need to go to the restroom for a minute.” Okay, Ronnie, drop another hint. Maybe he’ll get it this time. She stood up, and George stood up, something he always did, such a gentleman. All her life, surrounded by gentlemen. “I’ll just be a minute.”

“I’ll settle up.”

They took a cab to her place, wandered slowly up the stairs. She asked him if he’d like to come in for a drink, and he kissed her on the landing. She felt another cramp then, deeper this time. Boyd was cupping her butt in his hands. “Actually, I have cramps, but I’d love for you to come in, just to talk.” The bird, who had been outside, flew in and perched on George’s shoulder. Ronnie swatted it away, pretending to dust off his jacket.

“I’d love to come in and just talk.”

Ricki was in the living room, home for a quiet Saturday night, something she seldom did. “Hey, guys. How was dinner?” Ronnie, she doesn’t know you’ve already fucked him. She thinks you’re a good girl.

George said that dinner was great and sat down on the sofa. Ronnie went into the kitchen to mix drinks, three shaken martinis, four olives a piece. Ricki was asking George where they’d gone, what they ate. Boyd handed her the heavy, silver shaker. The bird was perched on a stove eye, beside the yellow kettle, black yellow, yellow black. Bees. We are both allergic to honey. She shook the shaker eight times and poured out the drinks, put in the olives. “Ricki, come get your drink.”

Ricki came into the kitchen, whispered, “He looks SO much better” into her ear.

“Yes, I know.”

They talked for hours. She showed him the photo albums from years ago, the yearbooks. When she had first come home from the hospital, Ricki had put away the albums of her and Boyd and the kids, knowing she couldn’t see them, couldn’t bear the weight of them in her hands. George listened to stories of her and Ricki as little girls. At ten o’clock Ricki excused herself. They kept on talking. He told her about the time he broke his arm, and she told him about the bruises from her toe shoes, the cracking and bleeding. “When I was twelve, I was sure I wanted to be a dancer. But it hurt too much. I don’t have the feet for it. And all that pink.”

“You don’t like pink?”

“I like it okay. Then, by the time I was a teenager, after I’d quit ballet, I lost my ability to dance, to be sure of myself. Now I almost never dance, unless it’s ballroom, unless there’s a structure to it.” Don’t say another word, Ronnie. She looked at him, his face guileless, innocent. He was telling her everything, sitting beside her, nothing to hide. She knew everything about him. The bird, who had been silently perched on the back of a wingchair, suddenly cawed and fretted, its glassy eye fixed on her, more than human, and she was dressed in solid black standing in the church beside the twins’ white coffins, running her hands along the sleek tops, her babies trapped inside like Plath’s bees, a buzzing in her ears, behind the veil, because in this dream she was there, for everything. She was there when they pulled the pieces of them from the back seat, she was there for Boyd’s last gasp because he didn’t die instantly, none of them did. They all cried out for her, why Mommy, why? Why Ronnie? Why did you look away? George touched her face, “Where are you? Where have you gone?” and she heard his voice from so far away, the wind across the tombstones, the wind kicking up the dust from the new graves. “Oh,” she said. “I’m sorry. My mind wandered away.” She smiled at him, touched his middle. She’d never been there, to their graves. Not even once because if they were really there, underneath, then she’d never breathe again, dirt in her mouth, roots wound round her hair, her nails growing long, then longer, curling and looping into something more than grotesque.

“You talk so little. Tell me something else. Tell me another story.” George looked like a man falling for her, a man in love, in love with her, in love with the liar.

She moved closer to him, into the crook of his arm. He was just the right height, not too short, not too tall. “I like your arms,” she said. “I like your arms, how blond the hairs are.”

“And I like your nose. It’s, oh, I don’t know the word. It starts with an A.”


“Yes, aquiline. I love your aquiline nose,” and he kissed the tip of it. “I can’t believe I’ve only known you a month.”

“Over a month. A little over. When I was seven, I stole seventy dollars from my grandfather’s wallet. I don’t even know why I did it. And I never got caught because I never spent the money. I kept it in a little cigar box, forgot all about it. I finally spent it on a purse, when I was sixteen. I told my mother my boyfriend bought it for me. There, that’s just about as close as I’ve ever come to lying.”


The bird was on the coffee table, quiet as a stone. “Really. I’m really just not very interesting. Nothing much has happened to me.”

He squeezed her to him, a little too tight. “I guess I talk enough for both of us. I feel like I’ve told you everything.”

“Me, too.” They sat silently and she felt the blood trickle out of her. Time to change her tampon, time to give George a blowjob, in the living room, so quiet, Boyd holding back her long hair, because it is long, isn’t it? Isn’t it the longest, long hair? Isn’t she just twenty-two years old? Isn’t she stooped over in the large living room of the new house, Boyd in her mouth, the twins asleep in their bassinettes, the tick-tocking from the grandfather clock her Great Aunt Margaret had given them as a wedding present? Boyd is moaning, little manly moans, the only sounds he’ll allow himself, and Felix is gurgling while Frank is quieter than quiet. After Boyd comes in her mouth, after she swallows, after she stands up and stretches out her back, she checks on Frank, to see if he’s still breathing, a curl of hair on his forehead. She touches his chubby cheek, so sweet, the sweetest thing she’s ever known, her finger on his cheek and George is breathing into her ear now, “You are so good,” and Boyd is laughing in the corner, He doesn’t know the half of it, Ronnie, he doesn’t know a thing about you. Why don’t you tell him about butt-fucking on the beach, slathered up with baby oil, your ass so tight I thought I’d come forever. Tell him about the time I had my fingers in you, on the plane, all the way inside you and you put your hand over your mouth, the two of us in First Class under a beige comforter, on the way to Hawaii.

She stood up quickly. “I have to lie down now, I have to go to sleep,” and George kissed her good-bye, kissed her, and looked at her with that tilt of his head, slightly to the right. The flecks of gold in his eyes sparkled and she thought that maybe she could love him, love the blond hairs on his arms, the shallow scoop of his navel, the scattering of hairs across his chest that she wound round her fingers, blond and grey. Lying against him in the hotel, his voice lulling her to sleep. Maybe she could love him and the world would really end with the twins screaming across the years, with Boyd’s hand pressed against her knee. Stop, Ronnie, stop! She lay a long time, staring at the ceiling, her middle cramping, drifting off to the sound of Boyd’s voice, “After the Lovin’.” So I sing you to sleep, after the loving, and my hands are cupped around the bird. Its heart is beating fast, so fast, a steady rhythm thumping her straight into the morning.

Sunday morning she didn’t take four Xanax, didn’t sleep until three. She got up at seven, fully rested. Ricki was sleeping in. She made coffee and drank three cups. She dressed and called a cab. It was a long drive there, almost fifty minutes, and when she got there, she asked the cabbie to wait.

She liked how pretty it was, the carefully arranged plots, the manicured grasses, potted flowers here and there. The wind blew her long hair around and around, against her face, in the back of her Uncle Joe’s El Camino on the way to the barn. But that can’t be right, that was twenty years ago, and today was overcast, her hair just long enough to spike. She had it cut last week. She was wearing jeans and a black tee-shirt. She looked perfectly ordinary, a perfectly ordinary widow come to visit the graves of her twins, her husband, who wasn’t really dead, who was just beside her, whispering into her left ear, and it didn’t matter, anyway, because she was a bird, she was spreading her wings, flying above the stones, something her mother picked out, a lamb, a snowy lamb for her boys, worms crawling into their eyes, dirt filling their mouths. Now she rescues them from the satin, Felix under her left arm, Frank under her right, both of them hollering their heads off. They want to ride the pony, but she doesn’t have any quarters. They want snow cones, but they aren’t at the park. They’re going to the supermarket because they’re out of strained peas, out of Dutch Delight. She dumps them into the buggy and then they’re happy, loud and joyous because here comes the Captain Crunch, here come the Froot Loops. Everyone in the store stops to look at them, how beautiful and large they are, so very loud, their squeals echoing off the walls, their fists full of cereal, great gobs of yellow and blue, orange and pink, their mouths splashed with sugar and slobber and see how neatly they fit into their boxes, how their hands fold delicately across their chests. They’re wearing three-piece suits, little vests and cutaways, striped cravats. It’s only been three years, but she can still tell them apart. Felix is just a little bit longer, I swear he is, Mother. I know they’re identical but I’ve taken a tape measure…

She kneels on their graves, the stone between them. Someone has left a pot of daisies. She holds her hands flat to the grass so she can feel their hearts beating, feel their breath moving in and out. She lays her ear to the ground, listening. Frank was beginning to be afraid of the dark, beginning to develop the same fear she’d had, so long ago. Even now she keeps a night light burning. See how sweet they are, Ricki? They both weighed eight pounds. Were there ever bigger twins in the history of the world? And they are hung! That’s what Boyd says. They are HUNG, just like the old man, and on Sunday mornings we make pancakes and sausage links. We sit around the kitchen table and there’s syrup everywhere and Felix puts too much food in his mouth, eats too fast, ready to go back and play, but Frank eats slowly, carefully. He’s learned to cut his own pancake and he’s only three. He’s very advanced, but of course Felix is the one you notice.

She’s sobbing now, and Boyd is stroking her hair. You don’t have to stay here, Ronnie. This isn’t real. None of this really happened. It’s all a dream, a bad dream you had, like the time you dreamed the twins drowned in the kiddie pool, remember that? You woke up screaming. It took me an hour to calm you down. See, this is just like that. The boys are just asleep.

She lay flat on her face, listening. The bird perched in the tree above her, just like on that last evening, caw, cawing in the darkness. Boyd lay beside her. See, Ronnie, it’s twenty years later, and the boys are both in graduate school. You’re a PhD now, a professor of literature, tenured and everything. But you do have issues. When we die, you can’t quite keep it together, but that’s okay because your mother gets the best doctors, the best that money can buy, and we’re never dead for long. See, that’s the beauty of it. You figured out that we were never really dead, and now all you have to do is get back in the cab and go home. Just think what that driver must be thinking over there, you down here on the ground like a crazy woman. Why don’t you get up now, before he comes over here, before someone sees you? Remember what the restraints felt like, remember the ceramics class and the overripe fruit. Remember med checks and the swish of the door opening in the night. You don’t want to go back there. You don’t want them to tie you down. Just get up and go home and cut a pattern in your thighs, map out your progress with a glistening new blade. That’s the kind of bite you need, a sharp slice with an incisor, deep and vertical. And when you’re ready, you know what comes next, you know how to get here, how to move across all this space between us. It’s only been three years and the sooner the better, I say.

    She stood up, smoothed down her wings, dug around in her purse for a tissue, wiped her eyes, blew her nose. Boyd put a careful arm around her shoulders and led her to the cab. All the way home she counted the dots on the ceiling, tiny blue dots in no particular pattern. The driver, if he’d noticed anything odd, said nothing, which was as it should be."

Rebecca Cook writes fiction and poetry and essays and little pieces of things that are sometimes too tiny to see. These she stuffs into a cedar casket her granny gave her. Also in the box is an old baby shoe soft leather, a buckeye, and a card of unused bobby pins. She blogs at godlikepoet.com.

Images by Elfie Hintington courtesy of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Copyright © 2016, Otis Nebula Press. All rights reserved.