Excerpt from Click
Annette was sharing, in her sing-song voice, saying that the man was there, always there, saying that the drug wasn't working, could they please up her dosage?
"But Annette, you know you aren't taking any medication right now. Your body couldn't tolerate it."
"Yes, yes, you're right. You always are. What about the man? Why won't he go away?"
"Because you're nuts," the blonde woman barked, and Ronnie wondered if she should say something, tell them that she saw things all the time. Yes, perhaps she should come clean, but Boyd was whispering, whispering sweet nothings, and the bird was smack, smacking against the window, trying to get in. She stood up, went to the water cooler. Don't think this doctor can't see right through you. Don't even think it, Ronnie. Boyd had his arm around her shoulders. She took her water back to her seat, smelled the ancient must of the cushions when she sat down. She sipped four little sips, tapped her foot twenty-two times. Someone else was speaking now, but she couldn't hear a thing, couldn't see a thing but the twins' watery faces, never quite coming into focus, their grubby hands reaching for her. We don't want to sit in the stroller, Mommy. We want to walk with you. We want you to unbuckle us. We want you to say whatever you want because you're a good mommy. You buy us cereal and popsicles and instant oatmeal, all our favorites. Sometimes you take us to McDonald's. She felt the tears coming, she felt herself coming undone, and she said, "Sometimes I miss my boys so much I can't stand it, their hands and cheeks, their little feet always dirty."
"I'm sorry, Ronnie, but Maureen was talking. But we'll come back to you."
She was embarrassed, wanted to curl up in a ball, wanted to walk out and count her steps all the way to the lake. She flushed red, could feel the heat creeping up her face. Maureen was talk-talking, something about her last boyfriend, some bullshit that obviously didn't matter to anyone there. Blah, blah, and then she was flying, all of a sudden, she was flying out over the water, claws extended. Could she catch a fish? Do crows catch fish? No, crows fly down the rows in Nebraska while the lazy afternoon sun wears itself out, and she and Tina paint their toenails blood red, the red of the car and Mary Anne's hair and the blood, the blood everywhere. There is blood running down her face, blood in her eyes and mouth, and Boyd screams for a minute, then stops.
"Now, Ronnie, what were you saying about your boys?"
She jumped in her seat. "Oh." She swallowed, twice. "That I miss them. I was saying that I miss them. That is what you do here, share your thoughts? Well, my thoughts are of my boys."
"And how do these thoughts make you feel?"
Everyone in the circle was watching her now, on the spot, in the spotlight. Never let the stage lights distract you from your performance. They will be very bright, and hot. "I just feel sadness. It's real, like pain, like a fever."
"You mean like a backache, like a headache" the blonde woman asked, and Ronnie wanted to let the bird in so it could fly in her face, peck out her beady blonde eyes.
"It means she feels it keenly, that it almost has a life of its own. Do you find this sadness manageable, Ronnie? Is it something you can bear?
"Yes, I'm fine. I'm doing okay." Because I have Boyd and a bird to guide me, to set me straight. Boyd was squeezing her hand, and she glanced at her watch. There were only two minutes left and Dr. Davis was thanking her for sharing, thanking them all for listening, and giving them some stupid assignment for next week, something about observing your feelings and writing about them. Well that should be no problem, Dr. Davis, no problem at all. I can write anything I want, I can do anything I want. She got up to leave, and Dr. Davis touched her arm, asked her again if she was okay, and she said "yes" again, annoyed, eager to get going. "I'll see you next week," she said, and left.
Out on the street, she walks quickly, the bird high above her and cawing. She moves through a scrim, through concrete, outrunning herself, counting twos all the way to the lake. She leans out over the water, wanting to jump in, wanting to slide under the surface, feel her long hair floating around her, like a mermaid, like a beauty queen, like Esther Williams with her elegant poses, leg splits in the water. Swim to the surface, and sling your wet hair back, perfectly sleek to the skull. Mommy, please the pool, the pool, and she's standing in the backyard with the garden hose, the boys already sitting, squirming, and squealing while the cold water crawls up their bodies. She feels a strain, a tension gathering in the base of her neck because last night she had the dream about them drowning in this very pool, and she wants to shut off the water, wants to gather them to her and smother them with perfect intentions, little coffins of woe, little bundles of black spreading through her mind, their watery faces, out of focus, out of focus. She leans out and spits into the lake just like she always spits into the washing machine, something her grandmother did because it makes the clothes cleaner. Add the bluing, then spit, add the bleach, chug a lug, chug a lug, and careful not to splash. Her cell phone rang, but she ignored it. She sat down on a bench and waited, what for, she didn't know, but Boyd had moved away. She could see him, far down the shoreline, moving quickly away from her, and maybe I'll be alone forever, maybe Boyd will stay away, leave me on my own, and the thought of it took her breath, but just for a moment because it's not true, there's always George, that was probably him on the phone. He's got an office downtown. He's successful, he knows what's what, and he can't really see me. As long as I keep him in my mouth, as long as I stroke him, mount him, and move up and down like in the double swing at Alesia's house, a perfect spring day, the sun so bright, moving back and forth, back and forth, because that's how a man likes it, the woman on top, and even after the breastfeeding I'm still perky, still sexy. Feel me up. I can wear a garter and four-inch heels, a skirt up to there. I've still got it, and she burned hot. Ronnie, never let anyone touch your private parts, but from the time she was eight years old, from the time she got the period talk, the briefest of sex talks, from the time she had the faintest glimmer, she'd wanted to do it, wanted someone to touch her, to feel more of a spark than she felt when her retarded cousin Marie felt her up when she was six, more of a spark than her first kiss, on the playground, seven years old, Bobby Spencer whose lips were so soft, so very soft. She sat while the sun lingered in the sky. She sat until a man came and sat down beside her, Little Miss Muffet. Along came a spider. The man was dirty and smelled of old cheese, and she got up immediately and walked back toward home.
She moved through the evening, chatted aimlessly with Ricki, who was on a diet, who wanted to lose ten pounds. "If I keep going in this direction, I'll be really fat by the time I'm thirty." But she had never looked better, her cheeks almost rosy. The extra pounds suited her, though she'd never believe it. Ronnie wouldn't mind gaining a little weight, but she'd always been thin, never had a problem with weight, always long and lean, legs to die for. You girls have the loveliest legs. Of course, she walked everywhere she went, on the streets as often as possible, by the lake, here and there. She stood listening to Ricki fret, and then a light rain began to hit the window. A spring storm.
"I think I'll skip supper, curl up with cocoa and a book. Do we have marshmallows?" She'd started rummaging around.
"Yes, in the cupboard beside the fridge."
She grabbed them, put milk on to boil, crunched on Goldfish crackers while she waited.
"Are you and George doing anything this weekend?"
"Yes." Boyd came walking through the door. Where had he been, what did he do when he was out in the world? Boyd, what do you do on your business trips? Can I go with you sometime? I could really use a break from the twins, I could really use a change of scenery. That's the hardest thing about the burbs, the sameness everywhere. Please, Boyd, take me with you when you go.
"Well? Are you going to tell me what you guys are doing? Or are you just going to stand there? What were you just thinking? Your face brightened, and then… What were you thinking?"
"Nothing. Just something about the past, about Boyd. Do you remember how his hair curled at the nape? It's still the same."
"What do you mean, it's still the same?"
"I mean, when I imagine him, it's still the same. He'll never get old. He'll always be young in our minds, always that strapping young man." She thought about crying, she thought about telling Ricki everything. She could trust her, she wouldn't tell Mother. But maybe I can't really trust her. Maybe things are as different now as they feel like they are. Different.
"Yes, Bug, we'll all remember him that way." Ricki looked like she might hug her, but she knew better, knew Ronnie would crack and cry.
writes poetry and prose. Her essay "Flame" (Southeast Review
), was a notable essay in the 2013 Best American Essays. She was a Bread Loaf Fiction Scholar (2009), and has recently published work in Southeast Review, Pank, Grist, Plume, The Cortland Review, Sliver of Stone, Mayday Magazine, The Georgia Review, Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, Atticus Review, The Nervous Breakdown
and The Rumpus
. New essays are forthcoming in Brain, Child
, and Seneca Review
. A series of love poems was published recently in the Romanian Anthology, The Mood At Noon
. Her chapbook of poems, The Terrible Baby
(2006), is available from Dancing Girl Press
. Her first book of poems, I Will Not Give Over
, was published in 2013 (Aldrich Press
thanks the author and New Rivers Press
for their kind permission to excerpt this novel. Click
(©2014, Rebecca Cook) can be purchased through New Rivers Press
or through Amazon.
Her prose piece What It Does
(external link) was published in Gone Lawn 14.