I Saw Two Good Houses Over There NEXT TO Death
by Don Cheney
A multi-media project by Max Cheney
Chapter 12 read by John
If you don't see the Media player above then click here to play in a separate window (or right-click and download)





Josh knew one thing and that was that a crayon did not make a good flashlight. The crayon knew how to tremble but it didn't know how to put on a light show.


Josh was considering realizing that he should've brought a proper flashlight and in that moment I saw the quizzical look of Josh’s total cluelessness and I realized that all the persecution and all the stolen lunches I had imposed on him during his life seemed worth it. Maybe even poetic justice.


The heart that had just been driving my blood through my body was now driving me crazily through Dark Falls.


-¡Ray! ¿What in Hades are you pouring on us?- I exclaimed. A pair of CIA agents in tan leisure suits came toward us.


-Nothing...at least nothing I haven't tasted before.- Josh said, ¿or was it the rabbit in his pocket? He went back to figuring out why his crayon wasn't a flashlight and why lumbar support pissed him off.


-Pardon in me.- Ray said. -But I thought this was the llama's cage but then I thought that a few drops wouldn't make you all run.-


-Josh has some crazy ideas located near his brain that he likes to blame on Petey.- I explained to Ray and then waited for the ensuing alienation. -But, hey, we're here.-


-¿Tea anyone?- Josh asked.


-If I even look at tea I can't sleep.- Ray contested suavely.


-And your parents,- I said. -¿Are they so preoccupied that they pour flame-retardant salt all over you?-


I prayed Ray didn't have a gun.


The light from Josh's crayon started cruising around like a malevolent sunrise.


-¡That's none of your beeswax!- Ray said.


-Well, we're going to the cemetery or not, ¿does anyone know who won the Charlotte-Orlando game?- Josh asked in his role as imbecile.


While everyone breathed out I ran like John Coltrane to the cemetery. The light from the crayon was all I needed or so I thought until I hit the pavement. I was all set to pass out but there was something too permanent about the light moving toward me.



-¿Where are you going?- Ray said gesturing at me with dental floss.


-To the cemetery.- I said.


-¡NO!- He screamed and then in a much calmer voice: -God wouldn't even go there.-


The tone of his voice was soothing but the words that came out were a mess and a half. So messy that all I could say was:


-¿Come again?-


-I said that the cemetery is not a place to go...to...- Ray was getting repetitious and I couldn't see the rooster for the obscurity. But the words were coming out of his mouth like lunch.


-¡A cream rinse!- Josh was getting ¡RIGHT OUT! again. My brother certainly didn’t have all of his LEGOS. And I knew he hadn’t been to the dentist. And I also knew that he wasn’t listening to the tone in Ray’s voice.


-¡No cigar, Josh!- Ray knew Josh was ¡RIGHT OUT! It was more an order than a clever turn on ¿Why did the chicken cross the road? -But ¡You WILL believe in God!-


-¿Why should I?- Josh said, ¿or was it a team of roses? -¿Wouldn’t you rather have lunch with me, Ray? ¿Wouldn’t you rather pretend that it’s Monday than go to church? ¿Or am I damning my self to exercise every day for the rest of my life?-


For a treacherous piece of shit, Josh had a keen ear for interpreting the obscurity around him.


-¿You think God’s here tonight? ¡You’re nucking futs!- Ray said.


I decided to run but I ran right into someone and - as God is my gym coach - it was Ray. He was already halfway to being halfway to the cemetery. And - Dennis Rodman help me - I tried to disarm him.


-¿Are you going to watch me or are you going to watch your self do something?- Josh must’ve been praying that I wasn’t packing a gun because I would’ve put it to his head and pulled the ripcord.


-I believe that no man is a Plecostomus…- Ray admonished.


Yeah, and nothing rhymes with habebimus”, I thought. “La dee fricken da, ¿wasn’t it lunch time or was that purely my imagination”?


-You don’t have to pour that shit over everyone…- Josh said, insisting that he had all of his LEGOS. -But you can pour it over me.-


-That’s word.- Ray insisted. -That is one male idea.-


Now we were all corroding and we were all treating Josh like had eaten too much candy.


-Petey is God.- Josh explained. -And I’m his say-hey guru.-


We all walked in front of the ensuing obscurity and silence. The light from Josh’s candelabra and the ramifications it had for all of the trees was skewed when a doppelganger appeared from the corner of my eye and took my hand and started leading me to The Road To The Cemetery.


-¡Breathe, please!- Ray exhorted me. But Josh didn’t know who he was talking to and he started turning blue. I wanted to leg it over to him, if only so I could watch him change color.


Instead, I was limping along like a piece of fried mango. The air was warm and that pissed me off. Not only did the warm air piss me off but the fact that I looked like a huge mango in a shirt torqued me like a Pelé penalty kick. And that’s an automatic mojo.


I heard the news today, oh boy. A Tappan dryer had just won the war and here we were still legging it to the cemetery and asking everyone we saw if they would paint a mural of Emperor Hirohito on our door. In the ensuing obscurity I was able to divide everyone into three distinct categories: Hillaries, Ordinaries and Tubas.


The light from Josh’s crayon meant that he was rapidly, rapidly approaching brain-dead status. My brother ‘tis of thee:


-¡Petey! ¡Petey!- Josh’s voice romped through the silence like a Lanie Kazan biography of Che Guevara.


“This turbaned dog looks more like he’s singing with the dead”, I thought and that thought sent a spasm to my big toe.


-No, Petey can’t sing, Amanda.- Josh had regained my grasp of the obvious.


Later I’d also yell out:


-¡Petey! ¡Petey!-


But right now I was still one jar short of asking someone to help me think.


-This is one bad-ass idea.- Ray said and he said this, by the by, very close to me.


-¡Petey!- Josh yammered.


-Yeah, that’s my name, don’t wear it out.- Petey said. -But I certainly hope that this is not where Josh sings his solo.-


-No one’s singing anywhere near me.- Ray rapped out.


I started to want Ray right there and right then but Ray didn’t look like he would know what would’ve hit him. And I wasn’t in the mood to explain.


-¡Hey, look at this!- Josh said and donned a stupid looking variation on the red, red rose of Kofi Annan.


I stopped looking for The Hilarity of the Tubas and my shoes stopped trying to divide the human landscape into twelve hundred pieces of patio furniture.


-¡Look!- Josh said all nervous and lumbered up with his crayon shining out like a construction sight at a drive-thru cemetery.


I started eating before I started distinguishing between good and not so good -- ¡but the results were the same! I thought that if I treated people as if they were a different species, or a species of anteater, I’d be doing all right. But now a banquet of cadavers was forming a circle right in the middle of the street. I guess they had decided that if I was going to treat them as a species of protozoa, and with all the inherent fondness, then they were going to make a scene and then maybe a spectacular salad.


-¿What day are you all going to blow me?- I exclaimed.


I was so close to seeing God that I was starting to speak in tongues.


-¡Amanda, you blow me!- Ray said. -¡Come on to my house!-


I wasn’t used to being treated so brazenly but I also wasn’t used to scurrying around like the Terminex man without a gas mask.


-¡How rude!- I told him. -¿Who died and left you King Dentist to the Cemetery?-


I was looking right at two jackasses named Josh and Ray and my shoes were looking like they wanted to choke the life out of both of them. Instead, I stopped, gulped and the do re me that I had do re mi’d do re mi’d me right out the window.


-¿What was that?-


Josh was still lumbering when what he meant to be doing was leaving me a big tip and taking his Prozac. Call me a trapezoid but call me a trapezoid with an enormous ability to reason.


Josh raised his crayon like a torch in a toast to all of the old men and their blood-sucking multinational corporations that made sure that the metric system never went the distance. They’re enormous multinationals and if they’re so inclined they’ll take every anteater they feel doesn’t fit into society and put them in underground anti-anteater theaters and make them perform anti-anteater propaganda like “The Do That Ate Qualcomm Stadium.” Their grandparents were racists and their grandparents were racists who levitated the sun and its moons and persuaded its sky to casts its lots with the money barons.


-¡Get out of here!- Josh growled like one mean and doe-eyed brother.


-¡¿What?! ¡¿And miss this?!- I said. –Come on, Ray, ¿what is this shit?-


-A reunion of lungers.- He contested in a voice so suave and bland that I wanted to find my ladder. –Look at this tree house for example.-


Now he was utilizing symbols like a young Frank Tanana. Here is where I realized that reunions were not something I understood.


-¿In… a… ceme… tery?- I asked. It was getting difficult to read my lines in this light.


-¡Yeah! ¡Let’s go!- Ray was getting all urgey. I was getting my nerves vented.


The three of us went around in circles like this until we started tumbling. Not to be undone, the circle of light from Josh’s crayon joined us, stopping only once to smell the pasta.




There he was, his lips full of pie and smelling like a dog.


-¡I don’t believe it, Josh! ¡This is good! ¿Isn’t it? ¡My tennis shoes have reason to live!-


-¡Petey! ¡Petey!- Josh and I weren’t laughing anymore. Suddenly we were juggling and arguing.


But Petey wouldn’t know an argument if it came up and flared its nostrils at him. He looked at us like we were all showroom dummies, his eyes red and fully of joy, so brilliant that they caused Josh’s crayon to fail.


-¡Petey! ¡You nofkie!- I gritted my teeth.


The little dog almost sneezed his disciples off and I knew there was going to be trouble.


-¿Why are you sneezing, Petey? ¿Don’tcha know me?-


Josh was as pitiful as a substitute teacher and about as aggressive.


-Petey, ¿is that a toupee?- Josh asked, all of a sudden doling out the sour cream.


My blood was circulating rapidly, but in that instant that Josh thought Petey was wearing a toupee, in that second, I knew we had all come apart.


-¡Aggghhh! ¡Kill that bastard dog!-


-¿What did you say?- I asked.


-I said Petey is a horrible little runt of an animal.- Josh said. -¡Come on, let’s kill the little rat!-


I knew that aggression like this was worth two in the hand but I had forgotten to wear gloves.


Petey knew this also, but on a different level.



-Josh, this isn’t the WWF and this isn’t the big one –WWII.- I said, trying to calm the randy lad. –It’s a quarter to nowhere and you have no idea what you’re talking about. ¡Look at your self!-


It was true. Petey looked at me and flipped me off with one of his claws. I knew that if God didn’t come down right now I was going to shoot me a dog and go shopping for a pet rabbit.


It was like filling out forms. ¿What are you habits? ¿What do you like in a dog? ¿Why do you prefer Porta-Potties? ¿Why don’t you feel summer?


-I didn’t really mean it.- Josh finally said, but he was producing so much mucous that it sounded like “You’re the cause of all this you malodorous piece of shit dog.”


Normally, if someone had said that about my dog I would’ve broken out the Turd Vaporizor from Peenman Enterprises and vaporized every single one of these turds into yesteryear.


-We’d better git.- Ray said.


Instead we walked back into the cemetery before the trees started getting an inkling of what we were up to.


-Petey, ¿what the pasta?- I called out to the little dog. But he didn’t respond. -¿Don’t you know your name, Petey? ¿Pedro?-


-¡What an odorless, horrible mess!- Josh exclaimed.


-We need to go home. This is a case for Barnaby Jones.- I said. My trembling was voice. My misplaced was trust. And my tambourine was playing a sister.


-This is no big whoop and neither is Petey.- Josh was getting pensive. Petey’s eyes were like two little eyes when Josh’s crayon lit them up.


-Yes it is. It’s just not a big deal.- I said. -¡Look! You all can stay here and wrestle with the likes of Petey. ¡Fuck it! Josh and I are going home.-


-¡Fuck you!- Josh responded. -¡Fuck you infinity!-


-Well, ¡fuck you in the cornea!- I said. –You don’t have to get all huffy.-


-¡¿No!? ¡Huff you!- Josh said with his customary bizarroness. It looked like all options had been taken.


-All right, all right.- I said. -I’ll go with Petey, just give me the crayon.-


Josh gave me the crayon and I started looking out of the corner of my eye for Petey.


-¡Sit, Petey, sit!- It was a unique command that only worked on our dog.


But this time I might as well have been hissing like a magnet. That little contrarian dog turned and trotted away, his head all a-ga-ga, leaving only Josh sitting.


-¡Petey! ¡Get on over here!- I sounded lame and desperate. -¡No one disobeys me without prior permission!-


-¡Yeah, or if God says so!- Josh said, because he’s totally jealous of me.


I moved the crayon in his direction.


-¿Did you have written permission to say that?-


-¡Petey! ¡Petey!- Josh called out to his only friend.


But that reject from an Alpo commercial was nowhere to be found.


-¡Hey Josh! ¡You want me to tell you that one about the dog that died!- I said. -It died as its owner called out its name over and over.-


-¿What the carne asada do you mean by that?- he asked.


But I was moving with Ray by the light of the Hilary moon. Later for that shit. Very later. So later that I’d later be repeating my later self. But at least that dog would still be dead, or at least asleep.


Then there was a circle of light singing in slow motion in front of a lap dance.


The light wrote its name in the pie dreck and its name was Mud.


I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move but finally I decided to spit:


-Josh, look. Petey is just a garish, pig-barreled bastard with low self-esteem.-


-¿What the pig spit?- Josh asked, confused.


-¡Look! ¡It’s your name, and it’s in pie dreck!-


All right, it really said: Karen Somerset


Now Josh was really confused. Later he’d still look just this side of disconcerted.


-That’s my new little friend.- I told him. -She’s the one the gods were toying with that day at the school.-


-I thought you said she was your sister or your algebra teacher.- Josh said.


Later he’d get all aggro and impatient:


-¡Get out of here! ¡We’re going to find Petey!-


-¡No we’re not! ¡We’re going to find his entrails!- I replied.


Instead we read the pie dreck again:


Now it said:


Karen Somerset: 1960-1972


-That can’t be her mom because her mom is a tree.- I said. -Keep the crayon light shining because my mom is the term blah blah blah.-


Karen was older and stranger than 12. So was I and so was my dad. That and Karen was older than 12. ¿Or did I already say that?


-¡Amanda!- Josh gritted his teeth and looked like he was going to pour otter sauce from a ladle.


But I know God when it passes illuminated in front of me like a dilapidated segue, so I left my name and took a number.


-¡Amanda! ¡For the love of Petey, let’s get!-


I knew that had to be Josh.


That segue was as subtle as writing the name George Carpenter and then the date 1975-1988 all over some pie dreck.


-¡Josh! ¡Look! ¡It’s George, that guy from the school!-


-¡Amanda! ¡Remember we have that encounter group meeting with Petey to go to!- Josh insisted.


But even my alarm clock couldn’t wake me up now. I was passed around from one to another while everyone wrote an inscription on my skin in crayon.


First it was Jerry Franklin. Then it was Bill Gregory. My anguish crescendo’d. Those were the boys who were playing softball and I don’t think they’d washed their hands since. They all seemed like Tanzanian lap dogs with boring-ass names.


With my heart gulping and my mouth beating, I was all topsy-turvy and I was tumbling like a human terrycloth. If I stood still I’d congeal and nobody in the world wanted that. So they tossed me and I felt a tremendous sickness that manifested its self in the moment that I saw an inscription on my right flank:


RAY THURSTON: 1977-1987




Josh made me laugh. I could hear his voice, that I could understand, but I couldn’t understand what his words were referring to.


The rest of the world knew something I didn’t. It knew that the letters really spelled out:


RAY THURSTON: 1977-1988.


¡My god! I had stopped moving. I looked at the letters and numbers. They looked like the title of someone’s final paper on the topic of running sideways because you’re bored and snoring:




Quickly I started counting kids and Ray, who was number 7, was sitting silently on my ladder. He looked a little strange.


-Rahhh...- All at once I couldn’t pronounce his name, it was too hard. Meanwhile, the light from a crayon lit me up like Michael Jordan. -¡Rahhh...ayyy! ¡That’s you! That is... ¡You’re you!-


His eyes looked like Brillo pads, except more brazen.


-Yup, I’m me.- He said without using his voice and I started feeling sick again.


-Amanda, you’d better sit down and shut up...-

    on to chapter 13 read by Nate     OR     back to Two Good Houses Main page