Kim Magowan ~ The Windiest Neighborhood in San Francisco

The day after my hus­band moves out, I tell my daugh­ters, busy doing home­work, I plan to go for a long walk. Instead, I take a short walk, to the beer and sausage place in the Mission. I order my favorite dou­ble IPA and read a chap­ter of a nov­el. But it’s extreme­ly windy: the rick­ety wood­en struc­ture, built to accom­mo­date out­door din­ing dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, sways and rat­tles; the Christmas lights strung on the makeshift ceil­ing to give it a fes­tive air chat­ter like teeth. I wor­ry that the roof will col­lapse on top of me, and though it seems too flim­sy to do seri­ous harm, I reluc­tant­ly begin walk­ing home.

On the way back, though, I make an impul­sive detour. I decide to vis­it the beau­ti­ful Victorian farm­house on the cor­ner of Mirabel Street that, eigh­teen years ago, when I was divorc­ing my first hus­band and had not yet met my cur­rent, just depart­ed hus­band, I tried to buy. My real estate agent attempt­ed to talk me out of it. It would go for way over ask­ing price, she warned me, and besides, it was a mon­ey pit. It need­ed a new foun­da­tion, a new roof, at least a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand in long-delayed main­te­nance. Still, I per­sist­ed. My bid (just above ask­ing) was the low­est of eleven bids. “A learn­ing expe­ri­ence,” Joan, my real estate agent, called it.

I stand for a while admir­ing the Victorian farm­house. It’s more beau­ti­ful than ever. When I tried to buy it, it was extreme­ly dilap­i­dat­ed; it looked like a haunt­ed house. Now, it’s fresh­ly paint­ed white. Whoever lives there, unlike me, clear­ly can afford it.

I look at the frothy lace cur­tains in the liv­ing room win­dows. I remem­ber how my hus­band, who just left me, and I once walked here, because I want­ed to show Ethan my lost house, and he said, “Sure, it’s beau­ti­ful. But the house you bought instead, our house, is much more prac­ti­cal.” That moment, I felt like some­one who made smart choices.

But it’s too windy to stand there any longer, so I walk home, which means, from that loca­tion, walk­ing up a rocky, exposed hill. A pinecone flies at me as if some­one has tak­en aim; the ele­ments seem to pos­sess mali­cious intent.

I walk more quick­ly. My neigh­bor­hood is noto­ri­ous for being the windi­est in San Francisco, and June is the windi­est month of the year. I remem­ber that when I first bought my house and moved in, alone, the wind blew so fierce­ly that I was afraid my new house would blow down. In the mid­dle of the night, I called the hus­band I was then divorc­ing, and told him that I felt like one of the three lit­tle pigs in a house made of straw. He assured me that I was safe, not one of the pigs. “It will be okay,” he said.

Shortly after that night, I met the man who has just left me. As I walk the last steps home, I think that my prac­ti­cal house is, after all, made of straw.

I insert the key in our sticky lock, which my hus­band, before he left, kept promis­ing and then for­get­ting to oil. My old­er daugh­ter opens it. “Mother!” Louisa says. It’s a new affec­ta­tion, to call me “Mother,” instead of “Mom.” “Your hair is all twirled! You look like a soft ice cream cone!” I wor­ry that this girl will grow up to be, like me, an imprac­ti­cal, artis­tic sort.

It’s very windy out,” I explain to Louisa, whom I’ve been con­cerned about, how she will cope now that her father has moved out.

She smiles and says, “Oh Mom–I love the wind!”


Kim Magowan is the author of the short sto­ry col­lec­tion How Far I’ve Come, forth­com­ing in 2022 from 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