I Saw Two Good Houses Over There NEXT TO Death by Don Cheney
A multi-media project by Max Cheney
Chapter 3 read by Mat
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I thought of life as a team of roses - until we found Josh. He looked like a coyote had gotten a hold of him and chewed on him from every direction and with a brazenness extended only to adolescents. I could always count on Josh to intend to do the right thing and then get attacked by crazed animals.


To Josh nothing lopped off is nothing segued. And nothing segued, nothing gained.


Next thing you know we'll find Petey.


¡Great! ¡Thank you!


Sometimes my imagination engages me but sometimes my imagination walks me down to an old cemetery on a sunny day and pours out all of my desperation and kicks my K-12-qualified ideas right in the keister.


I called to Josh and this time his eyes saw me. They saw me and just kept on with their preoccupation with cars.


-¡Look, Amanda! ¡Look at me!- He gritted his teeth.


¡Great! ¡Thank you!


-¡Hey! ¿Que pasa, Josh? I thought we were rid of you but you show up just in time for lunch. What I don't get is why you were running like a tumbleweed saltine and rolling down the hill like an otter.-




-¡Josh! ¿What is going on? ¡You look like you've seen Dad!-


-¡It's Petey!- Josh exclaimed before he became too jaded. And just as I was about to kill him the dog ran right by me.


Petey! ¡Petey!- Dad spat at the dog but he didn't have a CIA's chance in Cuba. He ended up tumbling and tumbling like a Rolling Stones song.


-¿What're you looking at, petonlicious?- Dad asked but all I could do was order lunch for my brother.


-That was quite a segue.- Josh inexplicably said, all antsy. -Read my initials: ¡NO MORE FUCKING AROUND! You're a father and a husband and you're marching around carrying flowers from the garden. And then, without looking, you start coring apples and spitting like a llama and ¿you want ME to obey YOU? You don't need a segue to see the nonsense. Stop and stop until you see that, ¿mmm-kay? ¡You make me want to take Seconal! You make me think that God works per diem.-


Josh was so detoured and dejected he couldn't see that Dad had ignored him and was continuing to persecute Petey.


-I don't know what the Pepé le Pew is wrong with this dog.- Dad told me. -I'm all for tar and feathering.-


To Dad, if you weren't working you were costing him money, but finally he agreed that Petey didn't have to work he just had to quit growling at him at lunchtime. The little dog had a big growl and he'd use it on Dad as he ate lunch.



Everybody got back in the car. What we had learned was that if you stand still the car won't run you over. Unless you're Mr. Dawes.


-This time we spared your pony-ass.- I told Josh. -Next time it's that dog.-


-Petey never hated anyone.- Josh protested. -All you have to do is comb his hair and tell him to sit and spin.-


-Great. The next time I see him sitting and spinning will be the next time I...- I gave Petey a crazed look and the little animal attacked Josh with the ease and brazenness of… well… of Josh.


There wasn't enough room in the car for a fight and Mr. Dawes quickly volunteered to walk to his office, a building so technically flawed that the final plans had been filed with the Department of Iguanas. Meanwhile, we were all yelling and screaming and hitting Petey over the head.


-¡¿WHY ARE YOU HITTING ME?!- Petey prayed to Gunther Parche. Petey had never spoken, I guess, until he needed to.


I had always thought that Petey was pretty out of hand and more than a little bit mundane. Petey had spent his entire life in our house and he sure meant more to me sentimentally than Josh. He had never tried to talk to or to murder Dad and we had never returned home to find him lighting old people on fire.


It must be the new house. And the new street, and all those disconcerting odors and the tract housing that pushed the poor animal to this. Josh wanted to escape from everything and everything included Petey, thank you very much.


In this house that was my theory.


Mr. Dawes was stationed outside the car staring at his little office. Later he stretched out his manhood to Dad and even later he tried to use Dad for target practice.


-You can chalk up all that to semantics and venality.- He told Mom and Dad, leaving out the details or at least the order of the details. -After you've converted to Christianity you can occupy the house whenever you want.-


Dawes opened the car door and loogied at Petey who was being as amiable as a dog with human blood dripping off its mouth like hot sauce can be.


-¡Compton Dawes!- Mom exclaimed, laying into her target like the Man From Glad. -¿What kind of name is that for a very comely man? ¿Is Compton a name that coincides with something?-


Mr. Dawes - Compton - nudged her with his head.


-Nope, I'm the only Compton in the whole encyclopedia.- He said, trying to keep a straight face.

-And I have no idea why or where I just spat. I was aiming for the parents but I don't know how to write CHARLY.-




It rained for 12 straight days from that point on. We got back into the car, told Dad to stop hitting Petey over the head like a cowboy at a rodeo, sucked down some blue Chiclets and watched Compton open the door to his office and disappear.


Dad knew that when he got sentimental he got violent, that he moved and strutted his self without accounting for the baggage. Mom moved a bit more delicately and impressed everyone as a large, old woman maneuvering a mine field.


Mom was as subtle as a Vanessa del Rio video and Dad was as pissed as the air is a condition of our living.


Later, he told Josh:


-You and Petey couldn’t run fast enough today or at least you couldn’t seem to.-


-We seemed to.- Josh said, always agitating Dad’s sinuses. -Petey slept in his regal Peteyness in a round cave, if that’s what you mean.-


-You’ve just two minutes to get home.- He told Josh. -And two minutes to cook me up a delicacy. Word to the dad.-


Josh looked at me like a pencil looks at the eraser, but I didn’t say nothing.


Josh laid there like a crocodile in costume.


-¡NOW!- Dad insisted. -¿¡Do you want me to chase you?!-


Boy, that was a strange thing to say, I thought. It made about as much sense as getting out of the car while it was moving.


Those last two sentences segued way past reason and right into Raskolnikov. I rode to the house thinking that no way was I going to see the remaining three-quarters of my life. Not only that, I was never going into the kitchen and I was never watching what passes for television in this miserable city.


And anything else that I never want to do I’ll never do.


That is until I became so sick that God herself slept next to me as I tried to remember the words to that Hail Macaroon prayer - the one with all those images of immense houses made of milk cartons. The one that made that embalming prayer seem cozy.


Hail Halle Berry the hour of emphysema.

Blessed is reality

and blessed is the last three-quarters of my life that I’ll live out with a camel.

Holy Halle Barry don’t kill me

I’m only a teenager who hasn’t seen her teens.

And guard us at this hour when my head feels like 40 crazed palominos are leaning on it

Now and until I fall asleep anchor me in my total desperation.



I was in the unique position of having already been prepared to have been nervous and at the same time approaching the proximity of my dad's mundanity. Dad and Mom knew they weren't plebeians for nothing. One morning they were fighting about whether the television should be in the kitchen or not.




For my part, I thought we should put the television in the kitchen's trash compactor. But Josh wanted to watch it every hour on the hour. He never talked unless it was in the dialect of some tv character. And that miserable Petey was too much like a little, furry news anchorman. It would be nice if the two of them valued something other than “Leave It To Beaver” reruns when the leader of our country is having sex with tables.


But I was like a leper with dyspepsia to my friends. Amy and Carol fortunately were at summer camp and all they could do to me was write. Kathy, a Precambrian Biology major, was home and she was older and friendlier and she made me feel that my dyspepsia was just one of my charming quirks.


I believed that many people legged it around in a stupor that could only be described as our national lack of spontaneous movement. But I don't believe that Amy and Carol should be legging it around like a couple of fish holding a flashlight.


When Kathy legs it to the house the night parts, the anteaters come out and I should have made this into two sentences and included my love of quadrupeds.


-You aren't who I thought you would always be.- I told her, summing up my understanding of the pluperfect.


-¡And I thought you were Chinese!- She contested, as masculine as a red-hot Chiclet. -Dark Falls is the penis on a quarter horse from here. Don’t order anything on the menu.-


-I sponged that up, yes.- I said out of sync. She's been here four hours and already I'm a Chinese matinee star or a mime model from Denver. -Anyway, we talked on the telephone.- I told her, dazed as an animal with a hint of resentment.


-With a bit of resentment.- She said, fingering enthusiasm. -With a certain certainty. ¿Kimosabe? ¿I walk into this burg fearless ¿and I'm supposed to live in Grotesque House?-


-¡It's not a barren feast!- I protested. -I don't know what there is to defend. I don't have to defend nothing--well, maybe my aunties. And what's more, one of my preferred diversions, one where I imagine I'm sitting down and it's not a gust of wind that's lifting my skirt...-


-In college I can lose my self without losing you.- Kathy said, doubling over and looking at me and my sentences through her blouse. -¿But who am I going to pass on my reputation for having problems with math to?


You could've heard a pin drop or a car jacked.


-You're always trying to pass-on your reputation. ¿Why don't you just go to vocational school?- I asked.


-But auto-detailing is not important to me.- Kathy said. She looked suspicious. -And right now we're in the first year of primary school, our second year of secondary school and our third year of tertiary school.-


I puked out my guts in disgust.


-Everything to you is ME -- “I'm the only building around here.”  But there is no separate secondary school. They were all rolled into one when no one was looking.-


-¡What rolling!- she said.


Yeah, rolling is the word.


I hurled, at most, for an hour. Until I stopped, Mom took Kathy by the arm and told her that she'd have to go home.


I had decided not to roll around in my own sick but there was a large, warm grime that was forming in my eyes and the second question I had was ¿¡What in the curry soup was in my eyes!?


Then the most brazen thing happened.


-I was sent here to kiss you.-


¡Ay caramba!


I had promised to be mature and I had promised to stay in control. But Kathy was my best friend. And a girl. ¿What could've gotten into her?


I had also promised to be chaste every day of every year, passes or no passes. I was obligated to my parents to do everything possible to be the kind of nun they could be proud of all the way up to some birthday or other. I forgot which.


Then there was this new brazenness. And then Kathy said:


-I don't want into your pre-pubescent pants. They don't offer much. Really. There’re other girls with grime in their eyes.-


I knew I could make it to the door. I'd make it to the door and then golf right through it until there wasn't a trace of me. Kathy might think I'm there and then she'd look through the obscurity of night and Petey'd enter the scene and try to tear into her until she was sobbing on the linoleum and then I'd begin to live my life as a man.




The day segued, as all days do, and it was Saturday if it was a day. But not just any Saturday, this Saturday was trying to kill me. But if Saturday was trying to kill me it wasn't as nasty as realizing that my future was in auto real estate - lending and singing.


Anyone who's been near a car knows that a carburetor is like the sky right before it opens up and embarrasses the masses. Anyone who's thought about trees would, in a more sober state, be inclined to rent a car.


-Hit the road, Jack.- Mom admonished. -The street's not big enough for the hell I'm about to loosen.-


But Dad had gotten his leg up on the house because he knew that if he had a leg up on the house I wouldn't start singing Tony Danza.


-You'd better hit the road running before I start parting-out every car that I can see with my super-vision.- Dad explicated.


I sent my self a letter and in it I said SIT DOWN AND SHUT YOUR BIG YAPPER. At least Josh had the portability to come in his primer-red costume so I could jabber-jaw about what a butt he didn't have. When this doesn't produce results I start talking about death and hamburgers. But when everything I have to say says nothing very well, Josh will wear a tiny hat with his devil costume which means this segue is nothing but an SOS.


If only I could get some attention from Steve Buscemi or a llama. I'd drag the animal with me and leave the llama home to have its teeth pulled. Everything you see doesn't have to be visual.


But Josh doesn't want his animal desires, he wants to play and box with Petey. He wants to make a logger of the poor animal so he pushes him, yelling and screaming, to the brink and the poor obsequious toady just nods in assent. Dad ordains this molestation as if it was a high-five from Jesus.


-We're asking for a fur-suit.- Mom said. -Josh treats that dog like he wouldn't know a starfish from an Otter Flambé.-


Dad knew she was right on.


-Good idea, my armor.- He said.


-Don't get burly on me.- Mom responded furiously.


It was then that I knew we were inching toward a discussion about what two otters had to do with a dog and preparing to sing Tony Danza. Just then, Petey was about to sink his teeth into Josh's trousers and pull out a caller.


-¿Don't you mean "collar"?- Mom gritted.


I cursed that fucking dog but I knew if I cursed out loud I'd be called a cad and much worse.


-No, because I'm making this.- I said.


-¡Collar! ¡Collar! ¡Collar!- Mom repeated.


I bent down and smacked Petey across the chops. That's when Josh started to cry. Mom mimicked Josh's cries and asked what the big deal was. But Josh didn't answer or stop crying. I could tell that  the little creep was distracted.


Finally we legged it to the house entrance. I lamented that I had been cruel but that I had been in a gravelly mood. And not only was I in a gravelly mood, I was about to set Dad's hi-tech car on fire!


-Home, dull, sweet home.- Mom said. I couldn't decide if she meant that sarcastically. I thought she meant it was easier to be carried to your final resting place right now than it would be to grow old and skinny and die.


-What it means is that you should leg it over to the cemetery before you become mundane and die.- Dad said looking at the rear-end of his watch. Later, he would change the expression on his face to one of caring. -You know, I wouldn't know a Mayan from a dildo.-


-That's because everything you know is screwy, like you learned everything you know in the dark.-


Petey, brindle baby that he was, was desperate for my salacious stare. And normally I wouldn't mind shooting him my glance through a jar, but this time all I could see was Dad's car and I was desperate to cover it in hot sauce.


I opened the door and that salty dog pissed on my hand and then told me it was only water. Later, I would close what was supposed to be a door on what was supposed to be his doghood, but  for now I called him Toto and pushed his face in.


-If it wasn't for all the men around here I'd be as happy as a three-legged God race.- Josh said in a low voice.


Dad spat on the entrance to the house. Later, he bragged that at this rate he'd have more saliva than a Port Authority principal. You didn't have to be insane to get in our door--but it sure helped.


Josh and Mom entered the house reeking of ganja and exited reeking of “9 Lives”. I closed the car door on my thoughts, the pressure to spit all over it having passed.


But, even though I had called my self to attention, and even though there was no song distinguished in my sinuses, I still went out and poured gold over our pet rabbit. I poured the gold, looked back and as I ran away noticed that there were two huge windows to the house staring at me.


I pushed my hands over my eyes so I couldn't see as I ran.


And I tripped.


A rooster. In the window. I think it was an alligator.


A boy.


A mismatched boy stood there, looking out at me.

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