weird words with Nicholas Cook

Nicholas Cook lives in Dallas, TX. His fiction has appeared in Lost BalloonJellyfish ReviewUnbroken JournalBath Flash Fiction Award, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for Best Small Fictions 2018. Find him at

Our fiction editor, Cathy Ulrich, asked Nicholas a few questions about his story, “Minor Scenes With Dad”, published by Pidgeonholes on July 16, 2018.

ULRICH: This story is part of a series featuring these characters. When you return to Grief and Sorrow stories, does it feel like coming home? On a related note, what made you choose this characters to return to in your stories?

COOK: This story was written during an online workshop where Grief and Sorrow would not stop appearing, even when I desperately wanted to write something else. Isn’t there that saying that doing something over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of crazy? That’s what returning to these characters feels like. I find it very easy to write about them, yet, I still don’t know their ultimate trajectory, or why I’m writing about them. I tend to write a lot of serial stories now (there’s a whole other set about ghosts). I blame the golden age of TV and binging and that dopamine hit of watching eight episodes back to back of Better Call Saul. Or maybe I want to write a novel and this is how I go about it.

ULRICH: There are so many lovely little details here — the father doesn’t just go to a bar, he goes to a cowboy-themed bar; the laundromat feels like a bathroom after a shower. Do you have these details in mind going in or do they show up in edits?

COOK: They mostly show up fully formed, but I think it has a lot to do with the way I observe the world. To me, a laundromat feels exactly like a humid bathroom. I often point out strange details to my friends about wherever we are and they tend to think I’m a little crazy.

ULRICH: Your language is always so musical. The opening sentence just sings. Do you have a background in music?

COOK: Thank you for saying that. I played French horn in middle school for one semester and I pretended to blow into it, so no. I wish I still remembered how to read music, although I don’t know what I’d do with that skill. As for that first sentence, I try to make every sentence resonate. My favorite part about reading is not what is going on in the story but the sound of individual sentences. Sometimes I re-read the same sentence four to five times then think about it for a while.

ULRICH: Do you think boys named Grief and Sorrow could ever be happy?

COOK: Sorrow’s real name is Hyacinth, after the flower. I believe he can be happy when he goes by that name, but his brother and father refuse to call him that (to them he is Sorrow). I’d like to write a story where he’s happy but I’m not sure he ever gets there. I know what happens to Grief and it is not good.

ULRICH: Each section ends with a moment of Sorrow contemplating some version of nothingness. Was that intentional?

COOK: I didn’t even notice that! My mind tends to make and follow patterns I’m mostly unaware of. What a sad thing to contemplate.

ULRICH: Are there more stories in the series to come? Do you think you’ll collect them? (Asking for a friend.)

COOK: I’ve written many stories about these boys, a few of which are published. I’d like to collect them into a flash novella, but I haven’t figured out Hyacinth’s trajectory yet. I also tend to fall out of love with anything I write after a short amount of time, so while I’ve written about these boys a lot, I’ve also moved onto another set of linked stories about ghosts, and just started another one about a boy named Elvis.


You can read Nicholas’ story, “Minor Scenes With Dad”, here.


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