The Booked. Anthology Review 10: “The Mulligan” by Joshua Alan Doetsch

Marked as one of the favorite stories of this collection by many of the readers and collaborators, I was incredibly excited to finally get to this story. I still had yet to read anything by Mister Doetsch, yet I’d met the quiet mystery man in person while in Boston this winter. I figured, based solely on the title, that I was in for some whacked out acid tripping dream about golf; Tiger Woods has three heads and melts into a puddle of sunflowers or some nonsense, before saving the world, and riding off into the sunset on a mechanized koala bear, a large-breasted President of the United States in his arms. You know, an upbeat romp fueled by whatever intentions and a need for Doetsch to amuse himself.

Instead, what we get is a contemporary fairytale for adults, something on par with The Brothers Grimm. Besides having the fantastic setting and elements of otherworldly time and science, there’s a Chorus-Verse-Chorus style to the storytelling. It’s quaint like a children’s song and not nearly as obnoxious as some of Palahniuk’s lesser novels. “The Mulligan” tells the story of mother and son, living together, surviving in a modern world populated by us and ladies in lakes, and angry, vengeful trees. It communicates a sense of the ever-evolving nature of story-telling, and with a tongue deftly planted in its cheek, shows you its handful of cards and lifts your wallet at the same time.

It’s hard to tell, exactly what is real in the world of “The Mulligan.” The unreliable narrator may or may not go to school. There may or may not be a girl there that becomes his boss, making all of his otherworldly decisions for him. His mother, while teaching him to rage against the machine, definitely takes great measures of pleasure, playing the role of both parents, doing her job the best she can, or maybe not. What is for sure, Doetsch made me look at my hand, looking for that girl’s fingers not entwined with mine. I miss having a boss. She was great at what she did, how she made me feel. I felt whole and I’d give anything to have that back.

Damn you, Mister Doetsch. Damn you.

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