Kim Magowan

You have a recurring dream where you are wandering in a city, naked, and encounter a wheeled rack of hand-painted denim shorts. The only ones big enough to fit over your hips are hideous. A wolf is painted on the crotch, with a red, lolling tongue. Nonetheless you wear them. Only then, you see that they are signed by the artist, and the artist is Noah Kaplan, your novelist ex-boyfriend.

Your friend Judith, who is a therapist and always records her dreams, thinks this nightmare is hilarious.

“He was a bad painter, but he thought he could paint,” you explain to her. 

What you would do for a bit of Noah’s confidence, his belief that being good at one art form would automatically transfer to another! You have trouble believing you are good at even the one thing. 

In job interviews, men constantly overestimate their skills, and women underestimate them, Judith tells you. A “confidence man” is a scammer.

In your naked dream, you are sometimes accompanied by Judith, but she has her pick of the hand-painted denim shorts, because she is tiny.

Judith specializes in children and adolescents, and in her office, there’s a standing sandbox with little plastic figurines. For role-playing, she explains. You plunge the plastic man headfirst in the sand. “Ostrich,” you tell Judith, who laughs and says, “Usually, he’s the dad.” But before she turns off the lights so you two can get your drink, she turns him upright, and rakes the sand smooth with her fingers.

Over margaritas you two discuss what makes a perfect wife. You offer your older sister Melanie. Judith requires evidence of her perfection, so you tell her that every night, Melanie texts her mother-in-law “Good night Mom!” and sends her a blue heart emoji.

“Well, that’s beyond me,” Judith says. There’s a crystal of salt at the corner of her mouth. 

But afterwards, every night, before you turn off the light and tumble into dreams, you text Judith a moon emoji, and she sends one back to you. It makes you laugh, that little boomerang.

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the English Department of Mills College at Northeastern University. She is the author of the short story collection Don’t Take This the Wrong Way, co-authored with Michelle Ross, forthcoming from EastOver Press; the short story collection How Far I’ve Come (2022), published by Gold Wake Press; the novel The Light Source (2019), published by 7.13 Books; and the short story collection Undoing (2018), which won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her fiction has been published in Colorado Review, 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. Follow her on Twitter at @kimmagowan.

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