The Apologetics of Bust It Like A Mule

Me n the kids at the Whitefish, MT train station, 'Stumptown' in Bust It Like a Mule

Me n the kids at the Whitefish, MT train station, 'Stumptown' in Bust It Like a Mule

Bust Like it A Mule, as I always say, was written as a form of therapy from my first 3 (unpublished, duh) novels.

Since it came out, I’ve had people love it, not love it, pore over it, view it askance, read it in one sitting, not be able to finish it, laugh out loud, wtf it, ‘get’ it, not ‘get’ it, and mainly, wonder if I can actually write (I assure you, I think I can).

In the past, I have been tempted, and attempted, to offer apologetics on it, scholarize it, literaturize it.

At times, dear reader, I must admit, wracked with manic self doubt, I have asked my wife and creative partner Jenny Anne if I should do a ‘punctuated version’ wherein I would put actual punctuation and stuff. Each time, my lovely, supporting, strong creative partner wife looks me in the eyes and shouts


This is because she was with me during the wild ride of writing the thing, and remembers my dead set joyful conviction in the story dictating the feverish, raging torrent of words – ie, the heart before the head. (Sidenote – if you must have a partner, you must have a partner who believes in the you you think you are more than you do).

Some people, including literary agents, have told me they think the story is good, but didn’t fully buy into my lack of commas and punctuation, and the rough storyteller grammar, and therefore, didn’t ‘get it’. One lady actually told me after a public reading (with a bit of a sniff) that there were ‘too many bygods in it for me’ (there are 239 in fact, ma’am, which is, I feel, 2 less than there should be).

But for all my hand wringing and self doubt, the fact of the matter is that Bust It was always meant to be punk rock. It was always meant to punch you in the face, tackle you in the square, shout that God is alive, man is alive, that fire burns and love feels like a good stiff drink, that blood tastes like iron and that beauty is an unbearable twinge, that the earth is a brutal beautiful gift that was meant to be enjoyed blatantly and irreverently for the short time we are here(If you think I’m being blasphemous, I’m actually just paraphrasing Ecclesiastes). It was always a cosmic tale about man lost, man found, man man man woman woman woman, mankind humanity goddamnit goddamn. And if this makes you feel uncomfortable, take heart, because it does me too at times.

But the fact of the matter is that no matter how I try to legitimize my illegitimate baby, Bust It Like A Mule stands on its own two goddamn legs. Frankly, the book doesn’t care if you (or even I, its creator!) like it or not – it just is. In other words, Bust it like a mule aint askin – its tellin.

And its protagonist, Cotton Kingfisher, born of my own mind, romantic impressions of my grandpa, and an unknown cosmic prescience, stands over me, I laying on the ground rubbing my  broken jaw from his uppercut jump bust, wagging his finger at me growling -

“Kid what in the hell’re you thinkin? Ya goddamn know it aint about bein good or not good you idjit its just about being bygod isn’t that the whole point of the goddamn book? Aint that what you wrote me for? Aint it about our Good Big Daddy Old Man Old Sun lovin us no matter what and makin us peace on the earth? Well aint it? And you think you can just go and forget it? Well I got words for you mister - nuts to you!”

And in these moments when Cotton preaches at me, I know in my guts that he’s right.

In this weird sermon cycle of my own imagination, I realize the whole point of art, and creating: the creator(here me), made in God’s image(He first being a creator Himself), does what they do, creates regardless of what others will think (well, maybe considering what a few people think – I do want my wife to think I am amazing, and my children to gaze at me adoringly). But the creator creates out of joy, not out of the expectation of consumption. They create because they cannot not. Then, the creator, to ‘close the loop’ as my wife puts it, releases their creation to the birds - you hold it with an open hand, you give it away. Sometimes when you give it away, people think it’s an unmarketable mess of an unpunctuated manuscript, or that it has too many bygods. Sometimes, people don't 'get' it like you got it.

But sometimes, people tell you they read it in one afternoon in a rocking chair on the porch in the sun, laughing out loud while their wife asked them what they were laughing about. Sometimes, people write songs about your book that gives it life you never meant, and makes you tear up. Sometimes, your children ask you if you’re going to see Cotton Kingfisher in Glacier Park this time, because he is just that real. Sometimes, people tell you that they read it in bed next to their partner, keeping them awake by tugging on them and reading them lines aloud. Sometimes, someone comes to you after a reading with tears in their eyes, telling you it inexplicably reminded them of their son who is no longer on the earth.

And man, isn’t this what its really all about? Isn't it??

Anyhow, Cotton says it is. And he won’t let me forget it. He won’t let you either, if you let him.

Come hear a live reading of Bust It Like A Mule with original music from the book at the downtown Spokane library tonight, Friday, April 6th, at 6.30.

Me n Cotton will be waiting for you to tell you the good word.