I Saw Two Good Houses Over There NEXT TO Death
by Don Cheney
A multi-media project by Max Cheney
Chapter 18 read by Lani
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-¡Push!- I gritted my teeth. -¡Oy vey!-


Josh exhaled just like he inhaled: with a desperation bordering on Venice.


-I can’t, Amanda, I can’t move.-


-¡Josh! ¡God-fucking-damnit!- I was mired in my own sordid web of anger.


I knew that my anger was going to start echoing and then people would trace it to my playing Halo on XBOX and I wasn’t about to let that happen.


I also wasn’t about to let the voices in my head get out because no sibling would dare voice such fury.


-¡Hurry up!- I gritted my teeth once again. -¡Jesus-jumped-up-Christ!-


We weren’t lying around to become human tree trunks with roots for toes. We were lying around because my watch said it was time for the ¡ULTIMATE FIRE!


-¡Push! ¡Or at least pretend that you’re pushing!-


My hands were turning into vines and, in my sanity, my pants were turning into bark.


I knew that I could move, but ¿could a tree?




I was a little bit cedar. But Josh was not a little bit rock and roll.


The voices were creeping out...


-¡No! ¡Not Donny and Marie!- I said, feeling decapitated, frustrated and... territorial. -¡No! ¡Not Donny and Marie! ¡Get the fuck out of my way!-


I was deteriorating rapidly. I could feel my stomach becoming a trunk and I could feel leaves where my hands used to be.


But before I had left my house, before everything had become ruinously strange, I felt a calm that could only be described as strangely ruinous.


Now all of that was ruined. It had been converted into an earthquake, and an earthquake with an upset stomach. It was like the land had been torn to rubble except that the land was my stomach and the rubble was my Capezio shoes.


So I was to die an old tree crying dewy tears. It was all too real it still seemed six continents short of a landmass. If poodles had danced through a bowl of strudel it would’ve hit the earthquake right on The Richter Scale.


Josh and I weren’t very brazen or marvelous but what we lacked in brazenness we made up for in incredulousness. When it came to incredulousness we were in a league populated only by anteaters.


I knew the sound of teeth gnashing when I heard it and these teeth were gnashing in horror and with a fury that could only be described as furyetic.


Then the gnashing became inaudible. Audible to deer - but then only deer in Patagonia.


The gentle gracefulness of anteaters reminded me: When I die I want to be vivisected and then poured down a river or set on fire in front of everyone: escaped lunatics, grifters, jailers, snails, pushers... And I want the fire finally put out by utility player extraordinaire Jose Oquendo.


But it was getting late.


I think I was a peel-bit depressed because I kept holding up placards with the message “¡SOS!”. I was mired in my own bouquet of bad jokes. Jokes that pre-dated the poke in the eye. I knew I was disintegrating and that soon I’d start grabbing at anything. And, sure as rope, I started by grabbing Josh’s throat.


His guttural cries of anguish resonated in the cemetery like a corpse who had just been decapitated, like a pile of sedatives, like a house crying out that vultures had started eating it.


I saw Karen Somerset, a rat’s ass if ever I saw one, pouring some Rico Suave. I saw her playing with a disembodied head and then I saw her throw it into a pile of pies and then I saw her cut up the pies and push them greedily into her own pie-hole. She had heard me like a mirage hears me, and a mirage doesn’t hear, let alone listen.


Later, she’d take the eyes and throw one for distance and use the other as a crayon. That broad had the balls of a Carney, without the small hands, cabbage smell and constant chatter:


-¡Thank you, Amanda! ¡Thank you!- She said without interrupting my embarrassing thoughts.


Josh and I didn’t know if what we didn’t hear was what we heard or if there had been a horrible mistake. We looked at each other - my hands loosening their grip on his neck - and decided that people were just agonizing entities converted to flesh and then pulverized and murdered, their souls destroyed long before this as if someone had turned up the sun’s volume so that we didn’t tan safely, we tanned catastrophically.


When Josh and I looked at each other again we were desperate toads. Mom and Day may continue to believe in Allah -- and pie -- but we believed that we were two. We were so sure that we were two different people that I pinched my self in a mixture of horror and incredulity.


-¡Mom! ¡Dad!- I gritted my teeth.


Now here was a sunrise more welcomer than that time two Satan lovers chased us through the park at dawn.




Dad and Mom weren’t morons. They knew that the Empire had Striked Back and that most parents performed the mundane tasks of caring for their children on a daily basis and not just when they weren’t in bars or passed out.


-What a beautiful sweater you’re wearing, Amanda. ¿Can I buy that from you and put it in our new house so that you’ll always be with me and in case I get cold?- Dad asked, when he knew that my answer would be to take the car and try to run him over and over and over.


Dad had been retrofitted as a sailor. I knew that if I ever started listing to port that he would always run under a car. When I entered the “terrible twelves” Dad was always there to listen but whenever I wanted to talk I could never find our house. It was inexplicable, but it was one of those “incontinent moments” that I’d never forget.


-¡Just a fucking moment!- I gritted my teeth and bit into the car bumper.


My obstinate parents didn’t protest. I could’ve taken the car apart and eaten it and they wouldn’t’ve flinched. I thought about doing just that when all of the sudden the silence vaulted down and I could hear the Diet Pepsi and bean burrito that I had had for lunch asking to come back out.


I felt like I had been hypnotized. Case in point: I didn’t know what the Toucan Sam time it was.


This lack of experiential knowledge sent croutons up and down my gravity spot. It’s rude of me to mention but I felt like a sack of entrails. I felt like Ken Caminiti striking out and falling down. And I looked like I had been stationed at Fort Red In The Face.


Two rotten kids. That was, more or less, what Dad had in Josh and me. We were lower than Ken Caminiti ¿or did I just use that analogy? We were lower than that part of Argentina that’s way down there on the map. Our parents were sedentary robots sent to us in stylish GM cars.


-It’s time to go, cheeky kids.- Mom said and she was so right. -We’re your new parents and this is your new house.-


-You aren’t my parents. My parents are Vietnamese.- Josh announced.


Later, he would tell me that he could see into my soul and that he breathed through his eyes.


-¿Who are you?- I asked “Mom”. -¿Who, who, who, who?-


I had been voted the most demanding member of my family. Actually, we had had to do a recount because Josh and I had tied.


-¿Who am I? ¡¿Who AM I?!- Sure. I ask one question and my new mom goes all tomato surprise on me. And my new dad’s in the backyard impatiently toking on a bong. -I’m... ¡I’m the worst pho ga you’ve EVER tasted!-


Later, God would vault halfway down from heaven to tell me the 0 to 60 time of the Ford Fiesta.


-¿Who on this senile earth would tell a parable like this and then close the door on the old house and walk into the new house like they were punting Dad in the manhood?- I asked. -Besides, if you’re mean to me I’ll never stop crying and then everyone will know that you’re rotten. You are rotten, ¿aren’t you, ¡Mr. Dawes!?-


No. No, it wasn’t possible. ¿That fathead Dawes was really a part of our family?


And no, I couldn’t breathe.


And no, I couldn’t find the pamphlet, “So You’ve Decided To Stop Breathing”.


I got in the car, closed the door, jammed in a Steely Dan tape and pushed the gas pedal to the floor.


<<The SCARY End>>


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