cover image Greetings from Below: Stories

Greetings from Below: Stories

David Philip Mullins, Sarabande (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-1-932511-88-8

Mullins's rawly confessional debut, set mostly in Las Vegas and San Francisco, follows the plight of self-described coward Nick, from his early sexual awakening and betrayal of a friend in "Arboretum," through the witnessing of his wife's adulterous encounter, in "First Sight." The death of Nick's father permeates the stories, rendering the boy at age 14 acutely sensitive and eager to be loved, even if it's by the gruff, one-legged bully Travis Kilburg or, later, in "Longing to Love You," by Annie, a San Francisco waitress he doesn't love but marries, anyway, because she gets pregnant. Meanwhile, after the death of his father, Nick's mother slips into a morass of addictions that force a grown Nick to return home in "Glitter Gulch"; he ends up stealing her casino winnings and spending them on a stripper. Nick is plagued with moral-ethical shortcomings, and though it's hard to believe him when he tells his mother, "I'm trying to save your life," his fallibility grates because it feels real, and by the last story, the reader is left with an uncomfortable feeling of collusion. (Jan.)