Kim Magowan

I used to have terrible nightmares about a giant named Jodi who had green skin and a blond bowl cut. Once, when I was four and we were living in Houston, I heard a noise, woke up, opened the curtain, and saw him. Jodi was sitting in a red convertible that he was much too big for, so he looked ridiculous. The headlights of the convertible were on. He smiled at me in an evil “I’m going to get you” way. I screamed, and when my father came running in, I told him what I’d seen, and he said “Hush, it’s only a nightmare.” But if it was a nightmare, did I dream myself drawing back the eyelet curtain?

A kid in my pre-school, also named Jodi, used to threaten to beat me up. I don’t remember what she looked like, but I wonder: did the real Jodi have a blond bowl haircut? My mother tried to toughen me up and persuade me that people don’t always say things they mean, by telling me, “If you don’t clean up your room, I’m going to beat you into a bloody pulp.” Her brother was visiting, and Jimmy was shocked. I don’t remember this actually happening, but Uncle Jimmy still tells stories about it. He always concludes the story by saying, “Whoa!”


My friend the technical writer was having a dream that was just starting to get creepy, and then the dream disappeared, and was replaced by a screen that typed out, “This dream is about to turn into a nightmare. Do you want to continue?” There was a Yes box and a No box. Mark clicked the No box, and woke up. I envied him for having a subconscious that was so well regulated.

Several years after he had that dream, Mark’s wife found out he was having an affair when his lover Susan left a yellow velvet scrunchy on Alexandra’s keyboard. In other words, his lover wanted Alexandra to know about her. Mark nevertheless married Susan. Choosing a woman that would make that scrunchy choice seems like clicking a “No” box, a brutally efficient exit from his marriage.


After a family trip to Mexico where my father tried hang-gliding, I had a vivid dream that he died in a hang-gliding accident, and the way we found out about it was on the news: “Peter Magowan died in a hang-gliding accident.” I woke up crying, convinced it was real. This was long before my father was someone who would be on the news.

The day my father died, the mayor of San Francisco had City Hall lit up orange that night in tribute (the same orange against a black sky theme they’d done when the Giants won the World Series). My stepmother had called at 1:00 PM that day to tell me “Peter died” (that is exactly how she put it). Two minutes later I saw the announcement on Twitter’s breaking news. I have to wonder in what order she made her calls.

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. She is the author of 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 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. www.kimmagowan.com