The Vibe Tonight by Kim Magowan
We’re thrilled to kick off CRAFT’s 2020 all-flash November with Kim Magowan’s fast-paced breathless paragraph, “The Vibe Tonight.” Comprised of only three sentences, the piece opens with the narrator and her husband, Carl, hosting dinner for their recently single friend, Louisa. The narrator soon notices a strange uneasiness filling the room, but can’t quite explain what, if anything, has changed the dynamic. Magowan says in her author’s note: “The breathless sentence is propulsive: there’s an urgency about it, a tidal effect, an accumulation of data the narrator doesn’t yet have time to process.” In “The Vibe Tonight,” the narrator’s desire to comprehend what is unfolding around her not only propels the narrative, it also amplifies the arc’s tension by juxtaposing her stream of consciousness full force against the active scene. This frenetic back and forth coupled with a strong, resonant voice results in a piece (again echoing Magowan’s author’s note) that is both “emotional and unruly.” We hope you enjoy reading “The Vibe Tonight,” and hope you’ll return again next week as we continue our flash celebration. —CRAFT
Louisa and I are drinking wine while my husband Carl, who is the cook (I used to think I could cook but that’s before I met Carl, who is a much better cook, picky about his food and opinionated about how it’s seasoned, and furthermore harsh, though he’d describe himself as honest; so after a couple of times of getting my feelings hurt I just gave up), has his back to us, because he’s sautéing three different kinds of mushrooms, and the kids are downstairs watching Frozen 2, and I’m trying to figure out why the vibe is so weird, attributing it to the fact that ever since Louisa and her husband Matthew split up there’s been something lopsided and awkward about the three of us together, which is partly because Louisa says such cruel and TMI and frankly false things about Matthew, like telling us that she’s pretty sure Matthew is addicted to cocaine, when we know Matthew well, (if he were addicted to coke that’s something we would know), and it’s gotten to the point that Carl, who has always gotten along with Louisa, will say things like, “Louisa is fucking crazy,” and I’ll say, “She’s hurting, she’s not herself.” Anyway, the vibe tonight is weird but that’s what I attribute it to, even though so far Louisa has said nothing outrageous or false or in fact anything at all about Matthew, but I think Carl is steeling himself in advance, and that’s why he says to her a little sharply, though he’s obviously trying to be light, “So you’re really not going to support me for Sports Editor?” (that’s how we know Louisa, Louisa and Carl work at The Mercury News together; when Louisa first started there ten years ago, Carl said to me, “Hey, there’s a new journalist who’s really cool, I know you would like her, we should have her and her husband over”), and Louisa says, “Actually, I think it’s time we had a female Sports Editor,” and Carl still has his back to us and he’s getting pretty aggressive with the mushrooms, and he says, “You don’t even like Amy Sutherland,” and Louisa says, “I don’t need to be friends with my boss,” and Carl turns off the flame and throws down the spatula and says, “I don’t know why you’re being such a bitch” and stomps away and I’m like, what the hell is going on here? I say to Louisa, “Why are you being so rude to Carl?” and Louisa grips her wine glass like she’s going to snap the stem and says, “I am so sick of men bullying me,” and I say, “What are you talking about? You’re our best friend,” and she shakes her head in disbelief, and I say, “I know splitting up with Matthew has been really hard, but I don’t know why you have to take it out on Carl. We love you,” and she looks at me like her eyes are lasers, like she hates me and she wants to zap me into a pile of carbonized dust, and she says, “Grace, the things I could tell you about your husband…” and I wait, not saying anything, and Louisa just stares at me, and in the background some Frozen 2 ballad about being brave and staying true to yourself swells, filling every corner of our house with sound.
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 Atticus Review, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, 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.