Kim Magowan ~ Daisy Chain

Gently, Dr. Sukimoto sug­gests it is time for Sharon to get her affairs in order. Dr. Sukimoto is her favorite oncol­o­gist. The flaps of hair on either side of his face remind her of the soft ears of a bea­gle. When he says these words, Sharon, whose dis­ser­ta­tion chair a dozen years ago com­plained she had an undis­ci­plined mind, has an errant thought. She imag­ines not a will, but a daisy chain of names. Bob, Hollis, Pete, Teddy: the men with whom she had affairs when she was with George.

Bob, the first, she met at a sym­po­sium. She still occa­sion­al­ly sees Bob, most recent­ly at The Society for Early American Historians con­fer­ence in Houston. Last September, before her diag­no­sis. She couldn’t tell if it were the pas­sage of time or the evap­o­ra­tion of lust that made her notice, then, that Bob had no jawline—his chin pud­dled into his neck.

All Sharon can pic­ture of Hollis is his black-and-white cat, splotched like a Jersey cow, and the finicky way he chopped mint for moji­tos.

Pete still makes her cringe: he is the one she hopes George will nev­er find out about. Even after she is dead, she imag­ines her ghost would tug ephemer­al ghost-hair in mor­ti­fi­ca­tion, were George ever to learn that she had slept with his col­lege room­mate.

Teddy is no secret. Teddy final­ly blew up her mar­riage, due to Sharon’s besot­ted­ness, and her weari­ness by then with sub­terfuge. Secrets make you sick: per­haps her tumor ger­mi­nat­ed in those pre­cur­sor tri­al affairs.

Now, Teddy wants noth­ing to do with her. He bat­ted away her Facebook friend request. Pete sends Christmas cards. Bob bought her an Old Fashioned at that con­fer­ence.

Only George has stayed close: loy­al George, defend­ing Sharon even at her most egre­gious. In their tail-end days, she heard him on the phone, snap­ping at his moth­er: “That’s not fair. Sharon has always been hon­est.” That made Sharon, aware of how false an assess­ment this was, tip­toe out the house.

George used to call Sharon the oppo­site of a hypochon­dri­ac, refus­ing to go to doc­tors, and look how cir­cum­stances have proven him right. “It’s time to get your affairs in order” means, more than any­thing else, let­ting George know. Finally giv­ing him the sil­ver pock­et watch that has sat in her night­stand draw­er for the past five years. Sharon had bought it for George’s thir­ty-fifth birth­day, but when October rolled around, he was mov­ing out, and it seemed too extrav­a­gant a present for a soon-to-be ex-hus­band. It is past time to tell him her news, so when Sharon gets home, she calls George and invites him over for a drink.

***

When George arrives at her place the next day, he has his two-and-a-half year old son in tow: lit­tle George, called Geo. Sharon thinks the nick­name ridicu­lous. It makes the kid sound like a char­ac­ter in The Matrix.

Sorry,” George says. “Patty had a thing.”

Sharon watch­es the boy drip pop­si­cle onto the kitchen floor she once shared with George, then looks out the bay win­dow. A scrim of fog muf­fles Twin Peaks in shred­ded tis­sue. It occurs to her that this is her last cold, damp sum­mer in San Francisco. Sharon is sure Patty sent Geo along with his father as a way of affix­ing onto George a “mine” label. George start­ed dat­ing Patty weeks after their divorce was final­ized; by then Sharon had already split with Teddy. How wispy most rela­tion­ships are: they burn away like fog.

George lifts Geo onto one of the suede bar stools that, sev­en years ago, he picked out. Geo spins, kick­ing the cab­i­nets of Sharon’s kitchen island to launch him­self into rota­tion. The cab­i­nets are paint­ed white. But who cares? Minding scuff­marks involves invest­ment in the future.

Careful,” George says to Geo. He begins explain­ing why Patty sad­dled him with child­care, but Sharon rais­es a hand.

Wait,” she says, and George, who has known her since they were twen­ty and knows bet­ter than any­one in the world the tone of voice Sharon uses to deliv­er bad news, com­plies. Superimposed on George’s forty-year-old face, Sharon sees the man she mar­ried fif­teen years ago, stand­ing at the end of a thread­bare aisle. He had looked, like now, anx­ious; most like­ly she did too. Then they each took a deep breath and exhaled. This align­ment of their nerves, fifty feet apart, made Sharon smile and pro­ceed.

~

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teach­es in the English Department at Mills College. Her fic­tion is pub­lished or forth­com­ing in Arroyo Literary Review, Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Breakwater Review, Broad!, Cleaver, Corium Magazine, Crack the Spine, des­cant, The East Bay Review, Fiction Southeast, 580 Split, The Gettysburg Review, Gravel, Hobart, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, Jellyfish Review, JMWW, Literary Orphans, Moon City Review, New South, New World Writing, Oakland Review, Parcel, River City, Sixfold, SNReview, Squalorly, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Word Riot. Her nov­el The Light Source is forth­com­ing from 7.13 Books.