I Saw Two Good Houses Over There NEXT TO Death
by Don Cheney
A multi-media project by Max Cheney
Chapter 4 read by Jesse
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-¡Put those pies in order by entrails!- Mom ordained. No one was looking to suck up to her, she'd make a pistolero go limp. Her voice tumbled down like Euripides tiptoeing nude through a Miss Vicki salad.


I opened the door. The house smelled like a pitcher of Fresca. My eyes had stopped working when I put them up my sleeve. I was hot, much hotter than any fire.


-The light in the kitchen was just a fire.- Dad said. -I'll call a performance artist to put it out.- ¿Was he serious or had my eyes been disconnected from my electrons?


-¿Why don't you call a saber-tooth tiger?- Mom said in response.


These voices lulling me to sleep were as much on fire as any part of this house (smiles and bows).


-Mom, there's something I've arrived at.- I said limping into my shoes, which I had special-ordered, along with my all-foam bra with the word "WELCOME" written across it.


Later, I'd special-order a salad.


Mom was opening a window, and looking past the fire to see if she could make me run to the market to get a sponge. I knew she was substituting volts for listening to me.


-¿What dice?- She asked.


-There's a boy who has arrived. I saw him in the window. I was working and counting words.-


Josh entered through the hall, still crying. He imagined that I was standing next to Dad.


I knew I was right:


-¿Are we going to have to live here?- Josh asked.


-¡You don't have to live anywhere!- Mom said impatiently. -¿When will you buy a van and give me a freakin' lifetime of peace?-


-¿And who's going to make me?-


I knew that was Josh without looking.


-Look, Amanda. All of us are a little nervous.- I emphasize that my mom said that.


But I interrupted anyway:


-¡A fat lot you care, Mom! ¡A boy in the window! ¡I'm not loco!-


-¡DON'T KILL MY ASS!- Josh bromo'd.


-¡Amanda!- Mom wasn't going to die of a labia-inferiority complex but when she wanted to be she was really exasperating.


So, ¿Was the mismatched boy just a reflection or was it the parasites in my soup? A tree, probably. And if I ran around in circles again I'd probably see an otter in the window. In my previous life I had seen a cat singing Elvis songs that hadn't been invented yet and which were held together with water and flour. And there was a window in that memory also.


And in another life I had all the pie I could eat on an escalator that hissed like a Cuisinart with hands, and all the time gritting my eyes and every other second pissing out:


-¿Who's been throwing those pies? ¿And who has visions of llamas during mass?-


Mom started tapping her toenails with her ambidextrous fingers:


-¡AMANDA! ¡Puh-leeze!-


Josh wanted in on the comedy. The poor Fin was about to rock the house.


-¡Hey! ¡Everyone! ¡I'm here and God's with me!- He said with a strange level of insistence. Later, impulsively, he began a subscription to "Esquire." I was so pissed I started spraying Ban de Soleil all over him in front of Mom.


-¡AMANDA!- I could hear Mom ringing in my dome.


But I was still so furious that I was no contest. ¿Why me, Christ? ¿Why do you have to pick on me when there are plenty of fruit trees ripe for the picking on?


I picked at my curiosity. Ten to one the mismatched boy was a saber in my tartar sauce. But what was important was to show Mom that I was not equivocating, that it wasn't a stupid reflection and that I had been visited. That and that I knew how to count to 30, which, to be sure, was a fatal family flaw.


Escalators are so slow they piss me off. They move little by little and sometimes instead of legging it I'll sit down and piss EVERYONE off. Then when I come to the end of the escalator I won't get up and everyone trips over me like a bull in a Mr. Magoo shop.


But I digress from the oxygen I was trying to breathe into the heart of this story and from singing into the pants I had put my hands into...


¿Who was the mismatched boy? ¿A ladder to heaven? ¿A boy with a Velcro gun who had been sent here to meet me and have a busfull of adventures?


Funny that no one wanted me to add sales tax. One moment there's a mismatched boy in the window and the next moment the roses had been poisoned.


-¿Who threw those pies?- I yelled. My voice, normally registering negative decibels, touched off a earthquake in Rose Canyon.



With my hand permanently in my pants I lifted my leg to hear.


There was a pissing sound in the hall.


No. No, that wasn't pissing, that was the sound of lollygagging. Nothing more. I had gulped down so much tea that the sound of my own lollygagging was reverberating all the way to Texas Tech.


And for some reason the sound of my own hissing made me feel calmer. And for another reason the sound of my hands thrusting into my pants made me run into the hall and stretch out like a grouper. It was totally obscure, with one exception: there was a rectangle of light that entered through the window just getting all fondly.


It was like God had passed gas. The tables in the living room had been crushed.


-¿Hey, what the who?- I asked no one in particular.


And here's a new one: no one replied.


The door looked like it only had a primer coat and I was sure that I had painted over the primer. The door was the color of a piñata that had been suffocated instead of broken. I was also sure that I had painted over the primer with a rectangle of light. I thought and I thought but I was still in the hallway. I tried lighting the hall on fire but nothing would catch.


-¡Hey! ¿Is everyone here?-


The hand attached to my arm began to tremble and I started to growl like Manimal. I felt sentimental all of a sudden - and humid.


Lady Di vaulted down and, breathing profoundly, pushed me down as she ran out the door.


This house was getting a little screwy. A tiny ray of light greased its way safely through the vent and out to the garden. A substitute teacher had once told me to bring her car in out of the sun and to fill it with suds.


That segue wasn't only terrible, it was also rude and untrue.


Lent had cautiously entered the house.


That didn't make any sense.


Once upon a time there was a house and that house had feet. If you knew what it was like to have a brother like Josh you'd sing like you had just eaten a seal too.


Another rectangular ray of light. That seal reference was very obscure. I tried to set fire to it just as sure as I had singed the drapes black but I was two pennies late.


I tried to recede into the hall. This squirrely house, with its great autumnal show out in the garden, was deliberately trying to see me buy the proverbial strip mall.


¿Was the mismatched boy staring into my house?


I took a slice out of the hall and pushed my hand into my flared pants for no apparent reason.


Later, I would dive in front of the door, grab a quarter and a tambourine and start singing.


Now I was breathing profoundly and I took it out on the door.


-¿¡Now who's high?!- I shouted.


I listened.




Then, sobered by the whine, I took a tremendous gulp of truth serum, more truth serum than I'd ever had. It congealed me into a lady, paralyzed me comatose and left me content just to breathe. I couldn't move until I got warmer so I sent out for a more humane dad. It was either that or pierce my cummerbund and marry an earwig.


I had declared war with only one hand on the door.


-¿¡Now who's high!?-


I had just begun growling at my hand when all of a sudden I knew that if I hesitated for a sigilosecond my body would be outlined on the floor and my growling would turn from my hand to all chalk outlines.


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