Fiction from Kim Magowan

Photo: Chuttersnap

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense (So They Say)

The wife has a husband who cannot trust her. “This is why I cannot trust you,” he says, shaking his head dolefully.

He has just overheard her telling her sister that he did not get the promotion at work. But her sister asked! The wife wants to tell him, to defend herself. Her sister asked, because the wife had told her sister, last week, proudly, that her husband was sure to get a promotion at work. The sister had been with her when the wife bought a bottle of expensive Armagnac, to celebrate. The wife had hidden this bottle in her closet behind her shoes, planning to produce it, with a flourish, when her husband got the promotion. He had not cautioned her that the promotion was in any way in doubt.

“What happened?” the wife said to him, when he came upstairs, put his arms around her, leaned his forehead onto her shoulder, and said, “I didn’t get the promotion.”

What happened was this: someone had complained about him. HR wouldn’t tell him who, he said, simply there had been a complaint. “But,” her husband said, his mouth in that familiar, grim line in which he appears to have eaten his own lips, “of course I know that it’s Ophelia. It’s not the first time.”

But it was the first time the wife had heard about any complaints. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” she asked.

“Because,” the husband said, looking at her, and this time his anger seemed purely directed at her, rather than Ophelia, “I can’t trust you. You tell your sister everything.”

Then the next day, after he overhears her on the phone tell her sister No, he did not after all get the promotion, “See?” Vindicated, again, in his distrust of all women: “See? I can’t trust you.”

That night he sleeps on the couch. The wife sleeps alone in their bed, staring at the ceiling, ruminating upon all the reasons Ophelia might complain about her husband, and upon her own personal reasons for hating Ophelia (which have nothing to do with Ophelia’s terrible name); reflecting on the great irony of being married to a man who claims that she is the one who cannot be trusted.

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing (2018) won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her novel The Light Source (2019) was published by 7.13 Books. Her fiction has been published in Booth, Craft Literary, The Gettysburg Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel.

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