“Be Good”

Verb, imperative form. First known usage: said to him in the foyer, his hair still wet from the shower, his suitcase in hand, on his way to some business trip; the kids upstairs, gobbling Apple Jacks. Accompanied by her quick kiss on the lips to seal it: “I’ll miss you. Be good.”

1. Do not, on this particular trip, fuck some woman with auburn hair, one who will proceed, for several months afterward, to “Like” every comment you post on Facebook; to “Follow” your tweets; in short, to “Like” and “Share” and “Follow” you like some pliant dog (not our dog, though. God bless snobby, misanthropic Cheeto).

2. More generally: do not fuck anyone at all! Of any body type, age, profession, or fluency in social media. Look at your hands: insert them in pockets.

3. But if you are, indeed, foolish enough to let those hands wander: do not leave traces.

4. For example, do not be so stupid as to leave condom packets in the suitcase you neglect to unpack, so your wife finds them when she (lovingly, thoughtfully) sifts for dirty laundry, pungent socks.

5. Of course, avoid less material forms of evidence. Do not by any means accept the Friendship offer extended by the woman you slept with in Chicago. You have accepted too many offerings from her already! Do not put your wife in the position of wondering who the fuck this person is, splattering herself all over your Wall with her afore-mentioned “Likes.” Do not induce your wife (compulsively, reluctantly) to look this woman up.

6. Because to degrade your wife in such fashion involves (insult to injury) deflecting her rage onto some stranger (Brittany, Celia, Dee) instead of where it properly belongs, onto you. This may be convenient for you, but it is unfair both to herself and to her gender.

7. Indeed, following the slick scent of those “Likes” and “Shares,” your wife recalls that misogynistic joke her first boyfriend Charlie (a jerk, if extremely hot) liked to tell: “Why do women have legs? So they don’t leave a trail on the ground like a snail.” Your wife remembers cringing when this dude uttered said “joke” twenty years ago. Not to her—she was simply sitting there—but to his friend Ray, to whom Charlie had just passed a red, loaded bong. An hour before your wife had let Charlie finger her; he had not, an hour prior, been so disparaging about pussies.

8. She remembers thinking, I really should dump this asshole. This memory feels unnaturally vivid, because currently she is contemplating the same thought about you.

9. Which is just to say: remember your vows. Not merely the obvious one, already implied here, but the one you wrote yourself: “I promise to split the difference on the thermostat.” Seven years ago, that vow made friends and family in the room guffaw. It made your bride, whom you liked to freeze to death, to the point that she had to wear socks to bed, laugh. Recalling it now, however, makes her cry.

10. So, remember your vows. Because before you leave her for a week on your trip, before you wander, but, she hopes, not wander, know when your wife says, “Be good,” here is what she really means: be good to me.

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About Kim Magowan

Kim Magowan has fiction published or forthcoming in Arroyo Literary Review, Atticus Review, Bird's Thumb, Breakwater Review, Broad!, Cleaver, Corium Magazine, Crack the Spine, descant, Fiction Southeast, 580 Split, The Gettysburg Review, Gravel, Hobart,, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, Jellyfish Review, JMWW, Literary Orphans, Moon City Review, Oakland Review , Parcel, River City, Sixfold, SNReview, Squalorly, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Word Riot. She is currently working on a novel and a short story collection.