Sunday, October 29, 2006

"White Mule, Spotted Pig" -- Joe R. Lansdale

Bloodlines: a Horse Racing Anthology is edited by Jason Starr and Maggie Estep. Joe Lansdale doesn't know from horse racing, so naturally he wrote about a mule race.

The story (a novella, actually) opens with the death of Frank's father, who leaves behind a broken-down house and a mule that Frank decides to ride in a big local mule race. Unfortunately for Frank (and the mule), a lightning storm puts an end to that plan. Frank then decides to rent a mule from Old Man Torrence, but that plan ends in disaster as well. So Frank's only remaining option is to catch the legendary and elusive white mule that supposedly lives in the wilderness with a spotted pig, train it (the mule, not the pig), and win the race that way.

I'll leave it to you to find out how things turn out, but I will say that the story is coarse, vulgar, and hilarious, typical Lansdale fare except that it turns out a lot better than many of Joe's stories have been known to do. It's actually sweet and hopeful. That fact alone might turn off some of Lansdale's fans, but that would be a shame. They'd miss out on great exchanges like this one:

"You goat-fucking bastard child, get me out of here."

Leroy's body sagged a little. "I knew that was gonna get around good. Ain't nobody keeps a secret. There was only that one time, too, and them hunters had to come up on me."

Check it out.

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