I Saw Two Good Houses Over There NEXT TO Death
by Don Cheney
A multi-media project by Max Cheney
Chapter 17 read by Wendy
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-Good intentions…- Mr. Dawes said, flicking a booger at Josh. Later he’d flick a Chrysler LeBaron at him.


I knew that Josh didn’t have a corner on the immature pest market. But he certainly was a singular piece of shit. And what’s more: I think he’s a doppelganger. And he’s always flicking his fucking fleas on me.


-¡Let’s go, muscle-heads!- Dawes said, pushing hard on my dome with a styptic pencil. I looked to the sky, wondering what comedian had orchestrated this. The sun looked back at me and the shadow of God appeared and it was flipping-off my brother.


Josh didn’t want to go.


-¡That’s an order, mister!- Mr. Dawes was so enamored with Josh that it made me sick.


Josh stared at his crayon until he believed that it was making his arm rise. Later, he’d move his hand down, tracing the path that Landro Calrissian took when he passed out PEZ dispensers to the Parrot Nation of Pesaddo just as Mr. Dawes was moving his head up and down.


The crayon was god-in-the-flesh. With this unexpected turn and the expected sound




I pegged Mr. Dawes right between his legs and his royal assholeness folded into a giant pile on the ground.


Dawes didn’t say shit. His eyes were surprisingly open. He reached in front of his pants and pulled out the offending PEZ dispenser.


-¡God damn I, Josh!- he griped.


Now Dawes really had no idea what to do or say. Josh had been damned and he started zigzagging toward the hills, his head in his hands. And through all of this I still wanted to kick his punk-ass.


I listened to my butt until I actually heard it speak and then I looked at Mr. Dawes who was running after Josh and pretending he was The Nutty Dentist for career day. I knew they were going to tumble but I couldn’t take my hand from in front of my mouth. I knew that God would forgive me but I wasn’t so sure about Abbott & Costello so I raised my hands to the sky.


I had raised my hands to the sky but the sun wasn’t there anymore. ¡Damn! and I thought that if anything in this universe was going to be permanent it would have been the sun.


Josh was running with the dead but what he was really doing was trying not to turn into a statue of a marmot, or any of that species of rapidly aging, lederhosen-wearing, living jaded.


He didn’t turn into a marmot but what he did turn into didn’t resemble anything that could even vaguely pass for human. Mr. Dawes, apparently infuriated because he wanted to sing “The Dirge of the Fire Anteaters,” was screaming from the top of his toes to the tops of the trees.


-You don’t have to be so persnickety.-



I was so sure that that was Josh that I tried to rip out his superior oblongata. He then tried breathing through his Eustachian tube but I ripped that out and cut it into four parts.


I know, I’m a virtual asshole.


-And you just can’t resist staring at the sun, ¿can you?- I said, affirming the moment. He was sure going to miss being able to see his poor old mom and dad.


-¡This crayon’s stupid!- Josh said rabidly.


-No, you’re just preoccupied with it.- I said, looking at Dawes until I couldn’t look anymore and I started climbing up the tree to get at Josh. -¡Hey, idiot! ¿¡You wanna piece of me?! ¡You don’t know what you want!-


-¡Look!- Josh said and he took my dome in his homebrew.


It was like someone had lobbed a bunch of Oreo cookies at me that were now scurrying around in front of me. I had no idea where the heck to spit. The quiz will be in nine parts.


¿Why did I say “quiz”? when what I wanted was for “suck it out my rear” to be my final journal entry.


I was rapidly falling apart. Our house now looked like it was green and floating past the cemetery. I knew that I needed to start running and that I needed to grab my hat. My “to do” list was slinking down the avenue, glancing back at me like I was a dentist. I didn’t know how to salute and I didn’t even know if I should.


As a young child I had been deliberately fed a diet of anti-anteater pasta that came with a tray of porcelain army men. I had wanted marionettes with my anti-anteater but I may as well have wished to sing for the choir invisible.


-¡My rear end is loose!-


I was so sure that was Josh that I swore right then that I’d take his ass and turn him into a marmot statue myself.


The form was obscure and the movement was obscure, like a hat flopping in a pool of Olestra. I knew that if I took my medulla oblongata and wrapped it around my body three times that no one and no tree would come and take me away (¡ha ha!).


But as I tumbled toward the cemetery I could see it moving away from me in the direction of the oculists at the Anteater Institute.


-God took Karen.- I said calmly in my sleep. -¡And George and every-goddamn-one else!-


The boys in the new house were moving around like termites. One or two of them were up a tree, six or seven were taking a nap and seventeen of them were servicing the queen and silently counting to 300.


“This is uniquely Ray’s fault”, I thought.


And just because nobody wanted to do the funky matador with him.


That’s word. I wouldn’t do the funky matador with Ray unless he was dead.


-Did you creeps know that Mom and Dad are God? ¿Or are they a subspecies of anteater?- Josh asked, replacing my horrific thoughts with the thought that if he looked at me I would pull off his toupee and glue it to anything that moved.


-Look.- I told him. -Look me in the palm of my hand because if you look me in the eye I’ll sit on you until you pie-hole turns into a monument.-


Yeah, a monument to a very girly boy.


We came, we looked, and ultimately we figured out that to cure what was passing for gas we’d have to lay down next to some enormous trees and de-sapify them. The cemetery didn’t have any enormous trees but it was having a silent auction. I threw a slider that looked like a curve but I threw it hard, and since I was tall, it limped toward the sky like a blue bandana.


Very slowly, Josh and I moved closer to the anteater. It wasn’t wearing shoes and without shoes it walked on its head. This wasn’t as easy like a plate-full of foam is easy. It was easy like my pessimism is easy.


I think therefore I am tall.


I was so desperate to see Mom and Dad that I ¡started believing in God and man!


But that was something about my self that I didn’t want to look at. And I also didn’t want to look at that cow-without-teeth Dawes and his goddamn, bovine ass.


And I also didn’t want to look at... anything... dead.


I thought about that for part of a second. Then I extended my brazenness to a familiar container: Josh.


We had been parading around like the pie at an Arbor Festival (Now that’s where we could find some enormous trees or the axis supporting a rotating part on a lathe). I believed more in trees than I did in lathes, because at least you could listen to trees and hear their voices.


-¿Are Dad and Mom lathes?- Josh asked and I was so sure that I was going to kill him that I pounded the palm of my hand on my forehead until the thought went away.


-¡Of course they are!- I said in a low voice. I couldn’t kill him but I could humor him. Besides, we had been practicing the banjo together.


-¡But I have to know if Dam and Mod are lathes!- He said.


I was just about to suffocate the life out of him and steal his pocket change when...


-¡You stupid bastard!-


I said instead.


No one would’ve seen me if I had mowed him down with a Gatling gun or if I had torn out his trachea with some corn holders. What I really wanted was to tear out his cerebral cortex with my bare hands. My imagination was penetrating the intense, somber blackness that my brain produced like foliage.


Like vines.


Clingy vines, like Mod and Dam. Vines that ran up and down and sideways and especially all over each other like throwing pies from the very center of your being at anyone who looks like a toreador.


I knew what would be incoming if I looked up: ¡The Probes! And after the probes, a team of two razorblades. And after the razorblades, 40 Brazilian men drunk on fermented alcohol. Dad didn’t care because he was dead. Mom didn’t care because she was green. Sure, she put up a sober front but the inside of her head looked like a carne asada burrito.


Thinking this obscure made me feel as sad as a tree. That is until I looked up and saw Mr. Dawes, covered in pie, piled on by my new parents who were just as crazy as my old parents.


Whenever my old parents wanted to cash a check the banks were always closed and the land inhabited by giant reptiles. It wasn’t because they couldn’t hold a job, it was because they didn’t occupy and space in the world. If I had a dime for every time they yelled out, trying to move into the continual present... Well, I’d have a dollar two ninety eight - less ten.


-¿What’s a matter with Mom and Dad?- Josh asked, pretending to be brazen, dead and ugly.

-The last time I saw them they were in a van trying to convert a series of squeals and yelps into a meaningful relationship.-


-And later they sold you for nostril hair clippers.- I said, thinking in a high voice. What was tragic was that we were both starting to look like our parents. Both of us had two heads and six glands and all four of us got dumb and dumber when things got quiet. Especially when our destinies were on the line.


-¿What are we going to do and when?- Josh asked.


-¿What? Just because I look like my parents doesn’t mean I can’t concentrate from moment to moment. Now ¿what the Ferdie Perchecho did you just say, creepo?-


-¿What is happening and when is it happening?- Josh repeated, already totally afraid of my brazenness. -Now don’t ask me what I just said because, ¡looky here!, I don’t know what I just said.-


I gulped and I spat and then it was time to ask Josh what he had just said. It occurred to me that this might push him to repent, but he would probably just repeat after me.


-This time I’m not going to ask you anything that’ll make you salivate.- I said, looking a little like a tree. -This time I’m going to tell you what to think.-


Josh stared at me, looking antsy.


-We’re going to trip over this tree, Josh.- I told him in a tone that said “Sure, Mom and Dad are crazy, but me and you... we’re going to be 7-11 workers and miserable.” -We’re going to listen to this tree, we’re going to bark and, if I say so, we’re going to live under the moon and sun as out-of-work anteaters.-


-¡YES!- Josh responded a little too enthusiastically. -Look at me, I’m practically peeing in my briefcase. I’m surely as nutty as any Podunk Parent.-


Now I knew that my log rhythms were off, I just didn’t know how or where or if saliva was running down my chin. But I was convinced that, lo and behold, it was better than biting a rat or a log in a cesspool.


But I was also convinced that something was happening rapidly and I wasn’t sure what it was, ¿was I , Mr. Jones?


I did have a vague memory, though:


Once, when I was all alone, my parents left me in a trunk and I couldn’t see and I couldn’t move for days. All I could do was think how much I wanted pie.


And when I got out and when I was able to walk again, I said “Thank Christ for my mom and dad.”


-Let’s go, Josh.- I said. I was practically eating my impulse to dance and sing and push Josh into a tree.


Without using many words I had managed to retire the side: no runs, no hits, no Passovers. My only fault was that time I had pushed Josh during the Arbor Day Parade, yelling out “¡Cedar sucks!” Or maybe the day I had raced around practically tearing up the terra firma.


And now that I was thinking of it, Josh had deserved to be pushed. Just pushed. Well, he also deserved a sound beating and to be fed an anteater burrito. I was a beauty, yes I was. And brilliant like my dentist is brilliant: in a sad, creepy kinda way.


And the dead just kept serving up the Caesar salad.


And Mom and Dad kept spitting on Josh.


Everything was the same on my street.


-Let’s go, Josh.- I said. -¿Are you listing?-


It was as quiet as an ant’s uncle. So quiet that it was kinda solemn. So quiet that I couldn’t adjust my eyes.


-¡Great! ¡Thank you!- I gritted my teeth.


I was contemplating putting Josh in the trunk and then peeling out with my arm extended to signal a left turn and my middle finger extended to signal “¡Up yours!”


But an instant later we had run smack into a tree, gotten out and now we were pushing it down with our hands in a notorious frenzy and later with some other people’s help.


But the tree didn’t know enough to move.

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