not there anymore. She was dead. He had made the mistake of reaching out for her the third time he had seen the coordinates of her presence, but all he had touched was air. He had fallen to his knees in the upstairs hall, thinking absurdly that this giving and taking away must have been what made men believe in angels once. The gust of a sob had racked him. Its force had thrown him forward onto his hands, and he remained like that, breathless, a mongrel brought to heel. . . . For the first and only time in his life, he had wished to die.
In No Visible Means of Support, Dabney Stuart's stories turn within themselves like trapeze artists passing each other in midair. Stuart works without a net, using anagrams, iconographic details, and dreams to imply connections and resolutions, only to shift focus and veer off into new configurations. This collection is complex yet direct, funny yet profound, emotional yet clever. Despite all their narrative sophistication, these stories always concern themselves with basic human predicaments: the sorrow of loss, the mysteries of creation, the persistence and resilience of the spirit.
The first two stories evoke mystery, resembling spy and detective fiction. In "Loose Ends," the focus figure is a middle-aged courier whose simple curiosity gets the better of him, and turns his life upside down. "One Good Turn" depicts an old man whose past almost overwhelms him. "The Egg Lady" presents a successful writer who gets a sort of comeuppance in a small town when he underestimates those around him. All of the stories are concerned with fate and destiny; each indirectly comments upon the others.
While each story connects on different levels with the others, none of them presents an easy way out of the difficulties that compose these fictional worlds. A storytelling master, Dabney Stuart threads the implicit sources of help for his characters into their intriguing, earthbound lives.