I Saw Two Good Houses Over There Next To Death
by Don Cheney
A multi-media project by Max Cheney
Chapter 15 read by Max
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-¡¿What the Vanna White is going on?!- Josh gritted.


What followed was the advancing and obligatory silence that always followed a Josh statement. He and I were no pussies, we were more like Spalding Gray talking about the political implications of closing a blind: We looked like we were obscure yet sellable, but when you looked closely we looked more like Ben Hur riding a donkey.


But there was no way I was wearing a cape and a tiara.


-Karen, you’re so tan for being so… so…- I couldn’t say “dead” without calculating how it might effect the living dead.


Her eyes were so on fire that it looked like she had more than two:


-I’m a tan being.- She said in a tanned, monotoned monotone. -¡But now we must kill all of you!-


-Oh, look at the time.- Josh said, lifting his hands to the sky as if to beseech the God of Watches.

-¡I gotta go! Please… Really… I gotta get the Bruce Jenner out of here.


I could tell that Josh’s neuroses had once again reared their ugly heads. They always poked their heads out, all secular and straight-faced. Except this time. This time they were poking their heads out just to get them lopped off.


-Your brother’s quite the comedian, Amanda.- Karen said. -Now get with it, honey. You’ve been invited here, to this house.-


-¿What? I don’t get it. ¿We’re in a house?- My voice tumbled all around me.


-¡This is the one good house next to death! Here you will live as your punishment for legging it here to Dark Falls. ¿What did you expect from a dump like this? This ain’t Bright Shining Falls, ¡this is Dark Fucking Falls!-


This woman was hissing demands and nonsense without once saying “please.” And now all of our neuroses were rising up and rising up with a vengeance.


-But our uncle used to be…- Josh started and decided he couldn’t stand the silence that would follow.


Karen took off her head and set it on the ground. Her eyes were brilliant bands of green tile.


-No, Josh.- She said from the ground. -I regret to tell you that your uncle doesn’t exist. I took his truncated parts and threw a little varnish on them and used them to make a bar stool. One time, last year, I sat on him nine times because we were saving trading stamps. In other years I would just pass by and kick him. So, anyway, we’ve lived in this house next to death before death was even invented. Now death is just a hobby to us.-


-I don’t know about all of you but I need to suck on a Fresca.- Jerry Franklin inexplicably said. His ears were starting to fall off like two rubles on the Russian Stock Market. -Next year it’s my turn to sit on his uncle. ¿Get it?-


I didn’t get it. And if it wasn’t written in crayon, then Josh didn’t get it. We both looked like we’d just seen a Chevy Chase movie.


I breathed out, it was much more fun than breathing in. And what was even more fun was my ultimate suspicion: ¡I had stopped breathing!


And then I heard what I could only describe as someone taking apart a door. That or someone duct-taping a duck.


I opened my eyes and all of those phantasm-like looking kids had disappeared. And the air smelled a little rancid.


Josh and I didn’t look too stupid - well, Josh’s face couldn’t help it. And now we were hearing gophers scratching at the door.


-¡It’s Mom and Dad!- Josh exclaimed.


It took a while to open the door. Josh was acting like a trapeze artist who had just made a caca while we called a policeman. Finally, I legged it over to the door.


-¡Mom! ¡Dad!- I gritted, opening the door. -¿Where the Estée Lauder have you been?-


I extended my brazenness but then pulled it back… I forgot that when you extend your brazenness you should first wave at the air and open the door. When I did it was like a great big hog was screaming.


-¡Mr. Dawes!- Josh exclaimed. -I almost creamed my…-


-¡Hey, Mr. Dawes! we were just talking about you.- I said, alleviating Josh’s pain and opening the door to my bad self.


-I’m just fine. ¿How are you?- He asked, looking a little preoccupied. Thank God I was able to leg out a segue.


-Mr. Dawes…- I started. I had made better segues in my life, but not with so much grime floating around in my eyes. -I…-


I was about to eat my own brazenness.


-This is no time to talk, to talk, to talk.- He echoed, looking like he had seen a cow. I looked through the cow to his car out front. ¡It was on fire! and it looked kinda like it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.


-I have to suck out the poison that someone told me was planted in your dumb ass this afternoon.-


¡Now that was a segue! Later I’d refer to it as a vaccination. ¿I wonder how tall Mr Dawes would be if he had no legs?


-¡Eight foot ten!- No one urged, managing to put their feet in the open mouths and pants of the mirages lurking nervously in the nearby obscurity. -We believe that if we say “¡He made a caca, call a policeman!” it would be like murdering a pelican.-


-But…- I said, looking to see whose eyes had said that. While I was trying to decide, someone pushed me into the frying pan and the fire.


-I was in the fire with your parents.- Mr. Dawes said. -The first thing we did was to forma circle like we already knew what we were doing. But we didn’t even know that we were making a circle… And then we started to melt…-


“This miserable little man is itching for an ass-kicking”, I thought.


-We ran like pumas and the circle became a square.- Mr. Dawes said. -We listened to each other sizzle and watched the flames lick at our lips. I don’t know how we made it but all of a sudden the trees started talking to us and talking to us about escape. ¡Go on! ¡Get away!” They said. “You have to get away from here before you set us on fire.”-


-¡Josh, let’s get out of here!- I said. -¡We can ask Mr. Dawes where our new parents are later!-


¡¿Go?! I want to ask him now. Except I want to ask him, if I can stand his salivating, why his nose is pouring out Cocoa Puffs.-


This time, the segue was to the car. And this segue went about as well as the last one: I was still a brilliant teenager and Josh was still a pile of shit that the sky somehow rained down on us like a plague of Ansel Adams photographs.


-If you don’t stop being bad I’m going to stop being pleasant.- Mr. Dawes said, shutting the car door in my face and peeling out without a trace.


My own private segue was to Josh and it was to kick the boy in the ass.


-¡Loser!- I shouted while I sent in another kick to his boilerplate. -¡And this is for…!-


I couldn’t finish my sentence.


-I’ll finish your sentence for you. I’ll finish it where the sun don’t shine.- Josh said.


The day was rapidly reversing into night. The chickens were bokking on the pavement while at the end of the road a car was headed in the direction of a cow.


-Look, gordo.- I told Dawes. -Thanks for legging it here on time. And thanks for filling our house with chickens. ¡Dead chickens!-


-Ummm, those chickens…- Mr. Dawes said with an expression of terror. -Those chickens may be dead but they’re very good with celery.-


Through the window I could hear the car contemplating its purpose in this obscurity. The sun would rise and the sun would set and some body would pour gasoline into it. That’s what I knew.


-¿Where are our new parents?- I asked again, this time antsy for a new dad.


-They’re a new species of anteater and I think they’re at the cemetery.- Mr. Dawes said. He looked like a dilettante, or a travel agent for parasites, with eyes that lingered on you when they meant to look tense. -This construct called “reality” occurs only because you don’t look through the old trees. It’s like you can’t see the forest because of the trees. It’s like God came down and said that there will no longer be movies. And I think that that would be a strange but good idea. Nothing happens if you’re always looking at a movie. And nothing happens if you’re always looking for God.-


-Talk about “bad theater”…- Josh said. For a boy who was almost always blank, Josh could also be bleeping brilliant when he repented and saw the assininity of his ways.


-¿What did you say?- Mr. Dawes asked, looking like he was going to spit right into Josh’s face.


-My crayon.- Josh said, suddenly apoplectic. -I was trying to piss you off so you’d give me a new case of crayons. But the sun never sets on your punk-ass, ¿does it? So, you know, it’s not necessary to…-


Mr. Dawes froze, stationed as he was between the Mexican border and the carport. We were all in front of the cemetery and we all ran to the car antsy to see our new parents.


The sky had gone all obscure, but with just a touch of violet. The sun, a glob of narrative obscurity, was more like a penis if you stretched it out and made it look like a tree. Everything else was ladled out into the street as if God had started laughing and fell down so that it looked like an obscure statue of a tree that was leaning like cue stick against a pair of anteaters.


¡Quickly!- Mr. Dawes was getting urgey and he stopped and opened the car door. -¡Your new parents have gone crazy from the sight of you two!-


We cruised the street looking for dead cows. Josh tried to stick a crayon into his manhood.


Then there we were at the entrance to the cemetery and Josh was screaming:




God had given me a nervous breakdown and Josh this pesky dog -- ¡I couldn’t believe my laptop computer!


-¡Petey!- Josh called out again and tore out after the dog.


My heart stopped. I had forgotten to tell Josh that Ray had told me that the dog had been in the cemetery the whole time.


-¡No, Josh!- I gritted.


Mr. Dawes seemed alarmed.


-We don’t have time.- He said. -We don’t have time to get that darn, prissy dog. Now call Josh and tell him to get his asshole back here.-


-¡You tell him!- I said and then went out the car door tumbling and tumbling until I came to the cemetery entrance. I stopped, puked and called out to my brother:


-¡Die, Josh die! I never liked your sickly ass. Not only is it sickly but… ¡Petey is dead!-


Josh could be a punk when he didn’t have lunch. After he’d eaten he’d be okay for a little while but then he’d hustle right up to me, tilt his head and say something like “One pressed pair of starlets, attention: Josh.” And he’d repeat it. Josh was one trapeze artist who wouldn’t know a sway pole if ti came up from behind him and bit him on his sarcophagus.


And he had the equilibrium of a gopher with a peg-leg. He was fine if he was juggling crayons in the air but one he vaulted his self into the air: ¡every body watch your lap!

That segue acted like it didn’t even know where Josh was.


-¿Are you breathing?- I asked him.


I was about to pronounce him dead when he looked at me like he’d never seen me before.


-¡Josh, god damn it! ¿Are you breathing?-


The low roar and stench coming out of his windpipe told me that he was a) alive, and b)had had lunch. But I still could see his face looking at me like a fish gasping for water, his eyes like a Pterodactyl’s.




-¡My rrrr…!- He finally said something coherent.


Well, at least he was alive. With Josh it was hard to determine if he was conscious especially when he had low blood sugar (low for Josh was 365mg/dL).


-¡My rrrr…!- Josh repeated, sounding a lot like someone who was tumbling over and over and who looked like a habeas corpus.


I tried to write on Josh as he tumbled by but then I just listened to what he was pronouncing, taking in syllable after syllable in silence until it was all out:


COMPTOM DAWES R.I.P.: 1950-1980


My head started to fall off. I knew I shouldn’t have learned to read. It had been forced on me when I was a little cur and after I had run screaming from the sight of Josh.




I didn’t have a new father, I had a new uncle. ¡That miserable excuse for a walking Dictaphone didn’t exist except in my family’s set of encyclopedias!


And now that swinehead Dawes was dead.


Dead. Dead. Dead.


So dead that he could now demand a funeral.


So dead that he was no longer one of us. He was one of the dead.


Josh and I didn’t look back as we ran in horror toward the horizon. We stopped only when we had reached a sort of purple obscurity from the cemetery. It was a rodeo. A rodeo of the dead.


¿”And now what the…? I just prayed there would be guns where I was going.


¿And now what the…?

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