I Saw Two Good Houses Over There NEXT TO Death
by Don Cheney
A multi-media project by Max Cheney
Chapter 10 read by Jennie
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The Black kids knew that I was as white as a Parisian descending an escalator nude with some Brie and a beret. I had that kind of air about me - fishy and humid.


Josh was leering like a gladiator in a dog collar and I could see that he was trying to count to ten without success. And I was too busy worrying that Ray would start talking again or start imitating Vinnie Barbarino or a jar of tartar sauce just to impress the other kids. But ¡NOoooo! He just stood there looking like a ladle.


The kids started circling us again. They obviously wouldn't know a segue if it ran up to them, threw them in a van and sped off.


I was breathing hard after that sentence.

“¡Abracadabra! ¡Give me AIR!” I was praying to Pegasus and then a tree came up and kissed me.


-¡Hello kids!- The tree said, slobbering. -¿What’s going on?-


The voice sounded human but humans don't dress like cattle. And this tree was dressed like a cow.


Everyone turned and looked and it was old man Dawes, who had been hiding behind the tree passing out espresso. He turned around and ran so fast that the wind he created made the sun set prematurely.


-¿What the hell was that?- I asked no one.


For a while all any of us could do was count our fingers and compare that number to the number of kids who wanted to kill Josh and me.



-Let's go paint the school.- George Carpenter said, juggling whether to hold or to bite the baseball. -And paint it green.-


-Good idea.- Mr. Dawes said.


He had run back to us so quickly that he hardly looked like a man. He looked more like a skunk playing a cello. He looked like his head had been held under water by a plate-juggling Great Dane.


The kids knew they had to break the circle. You could see their little minds trying to count to 2 or 3. I would've laughed but I don't exist.


-¿Is it baseball or softball where you use a bat?- Grumpy Mr. Dawes asked George.


-George can't hear.- A boy replied. -He can't hear like a bat can't hear. It just bounces off.-


Everyone knew he was right. George was mean and stupid but he could hit a ball further than any other kid. He also was good with a broom.


Mr. Dawes started moving his head with his hand because he wasn't feeling anything. Later he'd get me alone and ask me to do my Mira Sorvino impersonation.


-¡Josh! ¡Amanda!- He said. -You don't understand how useless you are here. Your lives are nothing.-


-Thanks, Dracula.- I responded. I was very confused. In a few minutes someone was going to have to resuscitate me and then they'd have to take the world, turn it back on its axis and burp it.


There was a time when I could only imagine boys as men without the details. Ray and Josh were far from normal. ¿Did they only exist as boys in my imagination?


And if old man Dawes didn't appear out of thin air then ¿what had become of my ability to prestidigitate?


-¿What lesbian moved into the new house?- Old man Dawes asked passing his hand through the time-space continuum.


-¿Lesbian?- We all said and we all jumped. That little runt Petey was starting to look at Mr. Dawes with his lower jaw dropping like someone had just landed a right chop to his chops.


Mr. Dawes' hiss was exaggerated and his mucous was disgusting.


-¡Tell that dog to sit down! ¡That dog is always watching me!- We knew he was talking ‘bout love. -


Petey responded by laying into his arm with an awesome fury.


-¡Hey I worked for eight years for Queer Nation!- Petey told Dawes and then tried to rip his head off.


Old man Dawes was really irked by this so he gathered all the kids and said:


-Look, I can't care about every person in the world.- Later, we'd see his Volvo still parked on the street. -And that's precisely why I'm going home with all of you.- He said to us. -And I'm going to see if I can learn to be as tolerant as all of your parents must be. ¡Viva la diversidada!-


He sure knew how to bullshit, cockfight and party.


-That's one sympathetic type of guy.- Ray said.


-Yeah.- I said, but I didn't believe Ray’s kimono sentimentality theory. I wanted to ask old man Dawes how many boys he had brought in out of the rain and ¿was he going to return to his former, circular self after lunch?


But Nooo. All the kids wanted to do was go over and paint the school the same color as the street. They wanted to chisel commentaries into the walls and they wanted to talk in three languages. By the time they could do any of these I'd be in Fiji with my nose turned toward the moon.



I began to see how pulling out a tire iron would be a little ridiculous. What I wanted was to bust some kids over the head and those kids were not named me and, for once, they were not named that idiot Josh. I guess what this meant was that my sugar was low and my imagination was high.


Sugar rocks my rosy reds.


What that meant, I think, is that sugar doesn't gripe and sugar doesn't make escalators and, yes, sugar doesn't come up from behind and taunt you.


The school patio was vacant. I was suspicious because usually there were other kids there and usually they were lighting their various pets or houses on fire and then going to eat lunch by the light of the highway. The patio was a great place if you like totally plain pieces of shit made of Velcro and metal. Near to this patio the school was clumped and tobogganed. At the other extreme of the campus was a baseball camp. God always put out any fires at the tennis courts because, well, God is a cow.


Josh loved Petey but he also loved to whine and to watch UniRoyal tires corrode. That and to imitate Jerry Falwell yelling and singing and squinting. I knew I was in the middle of something special with Ray. Josh thought Ray was an otter.


When I say "otter" I can hear you turn your collective heads and cough but I mean OTTER like the kind that are totally content in their small nervousnesses. I'm not one of the main jugglers in this world. I know the hole my peg is slotted for, more or less. but I can camp outdoors and I can be totally free. But that poor sod Jerry Franklin thinks that if he puts on cologne and Levi jeans and legs it out into the world he'll be accepted like Pepé le Pew walking onto an ocean liner.


The nudge here was that the air was up there and the sky was all bright and small. Like juggling two enchiladas. Like an otter with an extra gonad or two or eight or ten. But I digress. I only wanted to talk about the time I met Patti LaBelle. And how she had told me that her dog was a seeing-eye dog and that she corresponded with Batman.


I was digressing like a conifer when a new group of kids appeared. They looked sympathetic enough but they also looked like that girl they called Karen Somerset: quiet and conservative with a mean streak that ran down her bones like a bat out of Nuevo Torino.


It was ten to one that the sun would rise and it was ten to one that I'd greet it by urinating in front of the metal shop while laughing in Josh's general direction. I had balls all right, the balls to see my self through anything. At least anything self-evident.


It was at that moment that my equipment began its third-stage re-entry from the sun to the sundry. And then I heard my self sounding a bit silly. Proof came in the form of Jerry Franklin, the organizadoria. He plopped his Silly Putty on the plate and everything started moving like a Porsche Carrera.


-We have to stop now.- He said looking at the small sky. -I can't see my face in front of my face. I'm so dense that I can't see that time is to all of us as lunch is to Josh.-


I looked to reload. There were penises at 11 and 12. I felt warm in every way.


But, poor me, I was sore and I was warm and no one was noticing.


Everyone was angry on the inside and beginning to corrode on the outside. I didn't believe that if I ran faster I'd think faster. I believed that if I ran faster I'd go insane.


Karen pushed her hand into mine but I was corroding also. My head was aching and I looked like I was one in a series of seven sugary girls. Later I'd decide that I was one in a series of eleven instant coffee makers.


-You're more like a prison guard, Amanda.- Jerry said. -We all walk like we're chained together.-


-¿¡Oh yeah?!- I told him. -¿¡How 'bout I kill you?!-


I didn't hear one smart-ass reply. They all just shook their heads, looked at me and said:


-Yes, Amanda. Anything you say. We live to learn from you.-


But you can't learn when all you can do is turn your head and repeat after me...

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