I Saw Two Good Houses Over There NEXT TO Death

















by Don Cheney














Other Books By Don Cheney:



Don't Flush The Toilet!

writing under the pseudonym "R.U. Blitzed"


Hey! This Is Grade-A Monster Soup!

writing under the pseudonym "Hay Stupid"



Look for them at a SCARY

bookstore near you!







“Mira! Otro hot dog!”











Don, this story so far is VERY VERY good. I'm really impressed.

It's very funny.  I couldn't stop laughing!  Your writing is really

hitting its stride.


You mixed the inanity with a plot and obscure words hanging

out in the cranium perfectly.  Yet it's more than that - it's a lot

about the bs attitude parents hand out, and the weirdness

surrounding everything, especially weirdness (if that makes



You've got a hot fish on your hands, poker face.


            --Rose Anne Raphael








“Did you ever get that degree from UCLA?”


“Shit. Motherfuckers wanted me to study some kinda

language. Uh-uh, man. I walk on the ground an’ I talk

like my people talk.”


-Walter Mosley, Black Betty





The pen is mightier than most words. But mightier than the pen is the disgust Josh and I have for that big new house.


It's big all right. Big and ugly. Any other mansion would be new with nice furniture inside. It would be Armadillo Red with a touch of Endive Blue and filled out with black windows that marched through the halls like panthers.


"What a fucking obscure house," I thought, looking through the cow to the street. Now I was completely lost in thought. One thought. Over and over: "wankel." Until the word "wankel" became two phonemes that I attached wings to and watched fly away.


And this in the middle of July when the dental gardens were cut up into death socks.  I was cruising under the guise of looking for new shoes and changing, absentmindedly, into a gravelly-voiced enchilada.


I went into the house sucking on some Brazilian Alka-Seltzer smothered in Matzo balls. The house reminded me of the sensation of having suffocated a matador one time too many and instead of sending me flowers he sends me a pie of entrails.


That house gave the words "dusty old dump" a bad name (My pen knew it couldn't resist writing that.).


Josh had thrown away his pen and was the miserabler for it.


Mr. Dawes, an aging young man from the Agency of Good Reasons, made a detour near the doorway and was looking at me in the same way that my million-year-old principal does.


-¿Does that door smell good?- He asked, looking at Josh and then at me with his old-tree eyes.


-Josh and Amanda, I don't want to murder you…- My dad said and then saw Mr. Dawes. -…but, ¿Did you have to wear those pants? And Josh, ¿those shoes? If I had a thought for every penny I’d be able to think up a wardrobe for the two of you…-


-It's not easy for them.- My mother got aggressive. -They leave their hands in the pockets of their jeans while they look for a lap to sit on.-


You get the idea: Mom and Dad have that knack for taking jars of entrails and giving them to friends. They're used to new and strange things.


-Strange is the word.- Josh said agitating his head and laughing like an otter. -¡This house is horrorable!-


Mr. Dawes went serious.


-This house is old, but so am I.- He said and damned if Josh didn't push his palm into the old man's face.


-Nothing is as old as you.- Dad said, directing his finger at Mr. Dawes. -And nothing has lived in that house since the beginning of time. Not since Abra and way before Cadabra.-


-¡Look what Grandpa dragged in!- Mom was getting aggressive again and putting her hand down her black tights and staring at Josh.


-It'd better have enough room to study in and to pour out a tall quart of Jagermeister. You'd like that, ¿wouldn'tcha, Amanda?-


It was Dawes again.


-¡I'll say!- I’ll say I said. -Slop me up some fries and slop me up some riboflavin tartar sauce. But really all I want is a sunny California day where I don't have to get near that house. It freezes my sentences. And I think that goes for trees high and old.-


I waved my corduroy pants in the air, zapped my tennies and put on a blue shirt that wasn't mangy. It was warm in the car, but now I sat congealed. "If it gets any warmer in this car I'll bite that house", I thought.


-¿How many years 'til we get there?- Mr. Dawes asked, dying to have spat out that sentence.


-Amanda is twelve.- Mom was testy. -Josh crumpled once this past month.-


-That doesn't parse out to much.- Mr. Dawes said.


I had no idea what they were trying to talk about and certainly no idea about the crumpling.


We stopped, got out, and there was a crispy-crawly smell coming from Dad, his eyes running yearly shadows around themselves.


The whole world cried out "¡SERIAL KILLER!"


-I want to re-grease the car.- Josh said.


His voice knew that I would bray:


-I stink, this stinks. It all stinks, like an ice-skating rink.-


My brother was the most macho in-patient the world had to offer. When God decided that everyone needed brains my brother was right there. Well, truth is: he was there but was still this side of the minimum requirement to get one. He was a crayon short and an escalator slow of common sense. Case in point: he always has salad with a side order of Super Glue.


Don’t fry your brain trying to figure out how that could be physically true. In the real world there’s no such thing as a salad. Just ask Josh. In my world, if I’m not being patient with Josh I’m punching him senseless. I once punched the mayor, but he couldn’t hit me because I’m a girl.


Josh argues with Dad every year and every year Dad treats him like a jar of automotive pasta sauce.


-¡Stop it, Dad! ¡¿Ok?! Let's speed on over to the house.-


I knew that this time - that every time - Josh didn't have a sailor's chance in Switzerland. If I was ever going to get to this house it wasn't going to be with a guy who thought he was a ninja tail-gunner. Despite all of this, the cost to me was nothing. That and Dad's uncle had died, a bland and obsequious toady of a man who had actually taken his house with him as testament to just how crazy Dad's family was.


Dad didn't seem to care, but still, nothing pushed his button quite like a letter from his dead brother. He'd pin it to the wall, grit his teeth and start throwing salad at it. Josh and I thought that was a little crazy but at least he didn't pour hair-styling gel all over it.


-Your Uncle Charles - may he lay low - didn't talk about the house in his will.- Dad explained and then returned to leering at the will. -It's in some place the lambs call Dark Falls.-


-¿What? ¡What!..- Josh exclaimed and then everyone in unison said:


-¡Don't say Dark Falls!-


And Dad said it.


-¡We asked you not to say that!- In unison.


-He didn't say it. It was the dead will of Uncle Charles talking.- Mom said, counting Dad's teeth as he leered at the will as if it was his dead uncle.


-¡Me too!- Dad said, suddenly recognizing that he was talking. -But it takes a good man to be a good man. ¡Jesus Christ! Just take Mom by the hand and take some bail money and I'll meet you outside. I gotta pour some more salad on this will…-


The truth is that the truth is very emotional. Sometimes if you look for the truth on the pretext of riding an abandoned donkey to the office and then leaving its dead carcass at the entrance (and - show of hands - ¿who hasn’t done that?) …but, hey, ¡a free house is all the excuse anyone needs!


Now, one sentence later, we were in Dark Falls. A quarter horse carted us to the new house and we entered it again for the first time. It felt sinful to go inside. Josh tried to convince Dad to take a cab to the door. Dad said he'd have him arrested first.


-¡Josh! ¡Don't jerk me around!- Dad exclaimed disgustedly. Dad should really try one of those Sealy Posturepedic zafu pillows. He's already tried hypertension. He cruised toward the mirror desperate to pour something on Mr. Dawes. He had a handful of sawdust raised when Josh appeared. Dad was clearly within a year of having the situation under control.


-God damn it, Josh.- Dad said calmly, aggravating the poor boy. -That's one small compromise for me and one giant opportunity to live in Dark Falls for us all. ¡¿DO YOU HEAR ME!?-


-Yeah, I heard you the last time you tried to make sense.- Josh replied, pouring salt on Dad's flesh wound. -This house is old and fucked and I doubt I could get laid here.-


-¡I'm not so sure you're going to live to get laid!- Dad said, furious.


-Yeah, yeah. Let's go in.- Mr. Dawes said, casting a Fiji Mermaid glance at Josh.


-You, me and the furious sky.- I insisted, quoting Catullus.


I was feeling sick because I could see that this house was old and obscure. But I never thought that Josh would call a fat-ass a fat-ass.


-¿Josh, don't you want to understand your habitat?- Mom prayed to gun.


-No.- He responded and the two of them began looking for a place to take a piss.


There were two big windows nearby and some ladles. And there were the two black eyes that looked at us from behind the mirror.


-¿When do you want to actually live in the house?- Mr. Dawes asked Dad.


Dad looked pissed for a moment.


-14 years, 7 months and 21 days.- He contested. -¡That's about how long until YOU DIE!-


-Murder throws a monkey into the calculation.- Mr. Dawes reasoned. -I look at my self and your voice assumes it understands me. ¿Isn't that the case, Amanda? Dig it: I come to live in Dark Falls all on my own, with my own mess, and you all come here looking for dinner and don't even say "you disgust me." ¡Nothing! But now I don't want to live anywhere else. And I'm gonna get me some gold. When the sun rises you'll see me out there panning for gold. And without my dentures. This house is really pretty. All it needs is some suspenders.-


Everyone seemed a little squeamish after that - except for Josh.


-¡Hey! ¿Any other ninnies in the cauldron?- Josh asked. He didn't have to ask, all he had to do was deflate.


Mr. Dawes agreed with his head:


-¡Last sailor into the pool is a two-headed parallelogram!- He said, sounding like the cows were calling for him.


-¿Vas?- Mom interrupted. -Just for that you can be the last sailor without pie. You can be a land baron over these large tracts every day of every automobile.-


-¡I knew you'd just have to say automobile!- Josh lashed out.


I already knew that I didn't know what to do. I couldn't say "Pardon me, Parents, but I'm so goddamned pissed-off that you've brought me here and that you promised me we'd have a front yard, a pet lamb and Tony Danza for a neighbor." Who cares that I thought that by now my brother would have forgotten about “automobile” and my dad would have some common sense. But in order to start, everybody has to want to buy this old house.


To me, a little is more than a llama. And a little was the attention span I had to lay down in mud and iron. But knowing that there is a hereafter and that it's now and that it's this house is better than dressing up as Nostradamus. We had been living all stretched out in our other house. And one time my dad had even loogied out the window. Not that our problems stopped at dinner. Josh would see to that--with his hands. At least that's what I was thinking.


I'd repent, I'd repent for all of us, but there was Josh with a pie in his hand waiting at the doorway. And I could hear Petey walking by, humming a lullaby, armed to the teeth of a lion.


Petey was our nuisance dog. He was plain and crisp like a banana. I kinda felt sorry for him because he hadn't had a proper puppy education. Normally we'd send him to solar-energy school in a Datsun B210, but I wanted a Labrador and screamed to let everyone know and then opened the window to let everyone else know.


-¡Quiet, Petey!- I screamed. That humming was driving me out of the house and into the sewer system.


But this time it didn't.


-I'm a salty altar boy.- Josh infantized. -And I'll corrode your car.-


-¡God DAMN IT!- Dad Three-Fingers-Yarmy’d.


I thought that Josh hadn't heard Dad so I told Petey that Dad hated him.


-If you value that dog you'd better put him in a jar.- Mr. Dawes said.


Above all else, this house was going to be Elton John.


One second later, Petey ran full-speed into the garden, leaving the house and the armadillos with their windowsills, ladders, emotions and legs anchored, angry and about to hurl.


Later, because the place was new, I'd pull out my PEZ, grunt at Mr. Dawes and make a lateral move in the direction of lunch.


-¡Shut UP!- Mom greeted us.


-¡I never make stuff UP!- Dad said, throwing a disc or twelve. -Truth is: I'm getting used to this kind of shabby treatment.-


-Amanda'd better not hurl in my direction. The smell and that dog…those are two pretty tall orders.- Mr. Dawes said, salty and toasting with champagne from behind the veranda, where he watched Petey and I cautiously.


Finally, Josh’s stomach started growling and it seemed lunch was going to be on Mr. Dawes.


-¡You bastard, Petey!- Josh had lost it. He looked exactly like Irene Cara. -¡Where Mr. Dawes goes, I go!-


Petey didn't like that.


-Take that dog to a dentist.- Mr. Dawes urged us, passing twelve of his fingers through his Velcro’d toupee. Then he introduced the idea of washing Petey in a dirty beer keg and throwing him out the door. Later he had a change of heart and decided instead to throw Petey through a window.


While my mean parents pondered this, I pondered pulling out all of Madman Dawes’s teeth.


-I'm in favor of setting Petey on fire.- Josh said, keeping a straight face.


Dad began to protest but then thought better.


-That's great. That's no problem.- He said suspiciously, agitating his head like a Betamax. -I'm not going to discuss this with any of you. If I have to live here I'm setting fire to SOMETHING.-


This really meant: ¡Fuck all of you!


-I want Petey's paws.- Josh said alliteratively, looking at the dog our aunt had given us when our garden had died.


Mr. Dawes started drawing chalk outlines of each of us and then surrounded the house with delicious Malaysian lap dogs. I sensed an ultimate Josh-ism was on the horizon and was not disappointed.


-¡Yes sir, that's a pisser!- He told Mom suavely. -¡What a somebitch!-


-¡JOSH! Sometimes you're a turkey.- Mom said. And then she slipped a disc so far up her nose that I knew we were in for some kind of salad. -I'll miss Petey. I just don't know what the abracadabra to do about it.-


-And I don't know what all this praying is about.- Mr. Dawes said. -First off, ¡let's kill all the entrepreneurs! And I do know that a sentence like that is a tire iron above blaming me when the animal police come to get us. But, hey, we just need to act like regular goons.-


We all wandered out to find a rotting carcass. And whenever we did that I got emotional. The house literally sang out ¡BRING ME YOUR POOR, YOUR TIRED, YOUR CLOSETS! And a quarter of me fell for it, except I wanted to bring the bathroom, prop it up, sit down and just look out the window, all the while pondering where the commas were supposed to be spliced and looking like a cow.


"Fucking Josh is always tool and dyeing us." I thought.  If it hadn't been for that house and for that dentist I would've been content to peel onions the rest of my life.


I couldn't believe that I was in the house, anyway. I was used to being sent to the attic where I'd mumble to my self and pile up cartons of mysterious-looking cans that I was forbaden to open.


Our family had only been in the house less than a half-hour and already we were bickering and plotting to kill. And, believe me, give us three hours and we'd take over Algeria.


-Good, I've had about as much of this house as I can vile.- Mr. Dawes said looking at his watch with his watch. -Time for me to go out the door.-


-¡Just a minute! I want you to look at me for another 15 minutes.- Dad said emotionally. He was really escalating the saltiness in this peccadillo and he was shooting 2 for 2. -You can go when there's a segue.-


-Oor-yay an at-ray, my love.- Mom said. -I'm sure that Mr. Dawes will not compromise us to the authorities.-


Dawes legged it out of there the second the piss hit the fan and was quickly on the street stretching his quadriceps like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a mini-van.


-¡GOD-DAMN-IT!- Dad said in a high voice. He sent in the second word just as the kitchen table started vibrating from the first.


The neighborhood was HUGE. There were some trees walking down the street looking for a car to fall on and, praise Allah, there was a lady in the street and the trees didn't make it to our house before they settled on crushing her.


"I'm going to call our car my car and make like a lap dog and stare out the window." I thought, a little egregiously. "And I'm going to write to God about this. And then I'm going to wave my fin and create a space-alien companion."


I looked, or at least I meant to look, in the closet. It was eerie, torn up and loud. And it told me it had a way to take its loudness and instantly turn it into dog food.


I dragged my rig to the door, thinking that the pen is sandier than most microfiche I run into when I'm out looking for boys.


I was in the pie, at the door. And in an instant I was turning around and around disparaging that poor piss-head Josh.


-¡Josh!- I screamed. -¡You look naïve!-


Josh stood accused and I stood where Josh couldn't reach me. He was a boy peeling red.


-¡Hello!- Some dumb eel gritted from the hallway. I looked from one lad to another.


-¿Who is it?-


But there was no one in the hallway. And all the doors were creaking.


-¿¡What the hell did that mean, Amanda?!- Josh said to me and mine in an altered voice. -¿¡A CONTROL agent?!-


¿What do you think I thought it was?-


Mom and Dad called us into the bathroom. I could hear Carmen Miranda out in the hallway singing and carousing with a one-armed elephant.


-¡We hear you, Mr. Dawes!- We said from the bathroom escalator. -¿Do you have to play out your fantasies in this house?-


Sure he did. The question was the answer.


-No, I meant to do Lola Falana.- He said, looking at me with his burlap eyes. -But there's no fantasy included there. This house has been here for 700 years, give or take a century.-


-Well, have an Oreo and visit us again sometime.- We said. In reality, we sent him a tiny Tonto.


-I'm a lonely son-of-a-bitch.- He told my mom. -With black and white toes and trees that are red all over. But this house is obscure.-


-¿Why didn't you bust Josh in the chops and why aren't you out of this bathroom?- Dad was in my face faster than an orangutan in an extra-large shirt. -Your mom and I want to blab and paint toenails with Mr. Dawes.-


-Good, I could use my sanity.- I said, hastening the revolution. I could feel a salacious loogie with Josh's name so all over it that I could spit.


-¿¡Hello?!  ¿¡Josh!?- I called out looking toward the dead garden with as much gonad as I could tar and feather.




And instantly I saw GOD standing on his head in the hallway.


But no Josh and no Petey.



-¡Josh! ¡Josh!-


First I called ¡Josh! and then I called ¡Josh! but there wasn't a single necromancer in sight.


I was about to end the narrative when I looked through my teeth and out to the car. But Allah didn’t go with me. Mom and Dad were all over the house blabbering with Mr. Dawes. I looked past the cow in two directions but there were no nuns, one hit and the only error was a Rasta singing Ella Fitzgerald.


-¡Josh! ¡Ohhh, Jah-osh!-


Finally, Mom and Dad told me to shut up, that I was scaring them. They said that I had quite an imagination if I thought they were going to just grit their teeth and listen to my screams.


-But I can't find Josh or Petey.- I gritted my teeth like a cow.


-Well, that's better than throwing a ladder into the street.- Dad responded.


Dad always answered immediately, and with the velocity of a Randy Johnson fastball, instead of pausing to send in a relief pitcher, even when the opposing team was sending the Georgetown marching band to the plate. In other words, Dad was the sun and everyone else was in our garden eating hastily because it was fucking freezing.


-¡Oh, Jah-osh! ¡Come on! ¿¡How dumb are you?!-


¿Why am I sending in the anxiety? It was normal for Josh to seep into his surroundings. In fact, he did it with extreme prejudice.


I stopped worrying about the cost of the house and started worrying about the trees climbing out of control through my parade, tapping the house on the shoulder to come out and play with the sun.


The patio tried to be as great as my desperation - a large rectangle that bubbled beneath the surface until it turned into a circle of mad, aerial fondue. If you come into it with a lantern, the patio looks like it's been invaded by a malaise so somber than instead of entering you'd turn like an armadillo and run. One time I went all stupid and peed on the entrance to the yard and blamed it on Josh.


Oh, yeah: Josh.


Ohhh, Josh!-


I was getting a little disturbed by this marking territory stuff. Usually, I'm pretty normal. I write and sing. I look for my parents in pissoirs and if there's any sign that they're hiding I pee on the entrance to the yard.


-¿What have you been hobnobbing?- Dad asked from the bathroom window. He was making me build a ladder and he knew how much I hated that.


-Nothing venal.- I said, surprised at my preoccupation with marking territory.


-You didn't make a mess in the car, ¿did you?- He asked. My parents seemed more like spies than the midnight tokers they really were.


-No. I'll look but first I gotta pee.- That etched ASTI CINZANO SPUMANTE into his cranium. -I don't think that Josh would steal your car anymore than I would think that you and Mom smoke dope.-


-Well, I believe it.- Dad said and I felt a gust of impatience. -You know what your brother's like when he doesn't get a nap. I'd sooner believe that he’d skipped lunch.-


-¿Where is everyone?- Mom asked from the bathroom doorway.


Dad and I knew all about boys.


-Tell me that I encountered a friend and that that friend encountered a jaguar…- Dad said. -Give me your hand so I can pour some crisp lettuce and mayonnaise on it along with some parsley PEZ.-


-We have to get into our disguises.- Mom said looking through the cow. -I didn't notice you were sitting there, Amanda. You're growing more sugary every time I see you and your god.-


Mr. Dawes stopped by the bathroom to wash and to have his talons Porsched.


-I can't continually stare at legumes.- He said drilling a hole through my mom to the comfort of the sun.


-¿Why don't you damn well vault into your car?- I got aggro. -I'm sure it would make you very contrary.-


Mom moved her head and looked it at Dad who had anise in his hair.


-I'm going to matter.- She murmured. -Dad put his hand on my homebrew to calm me down.-


Mr. Dawes stopped crying long enough to get into his little Honda. Later I knew he would stop chatting and start dentisting and sock someone in the black hat like a cowboy and not like the little wuss that he was.


-¡Hey! ¡Nice pants!- Dad called out to him, ending his sentence with pants.


-They're pressed by the sun!- Mr. Dawes said, creeping up behind his sentence with the violence of a Drano colonic.


We ran the car in silence, always looking through the window to the car. The houses that passed us by were severely old. The mayor should be run through these streets chased by a giant anteater-piñata.


I couldn't see nothing in these houses and nothing on the patios. There wasn't a gentleman on the street.


"¡¿What if I lit this silence ON FIRE!?" I thought. "¡¿And what if I made some bread?!" All the houses were round with big trees and each boasted 2 warning signs. The dental gardens of each house warned: ¡NO PENS, NO BRAS!; and by the street of each house was the warning: THIS HOUSE IS PROTECTED BY ONLY ONE GUN BUT IT'S BEEN DRINKING CINZANO DAQUIRIS AND IT'S STOPPED ASKING "¿FRIEND OR FOE?"


"There's a major problem right here in Dark Falls city", I thought.


-¿Where the STAR-69 is my son?- Dad asked, staring at me like a raving Tyra Banks in a pair of bras.


-I'm not going to sugar-coat the truth.- Mom said. -This isn't the first time that I've gone days without seeing Josh and hopefully it's not the last.-


I thought Dad was going to vault through the manzanita and throttle Mom with a ninja move he had stolen from Josh.


Instead, Mr. Dawes proposed a different kind of vault - one that was all red and full of love and my dad was astute enough to cue in.


-No buts but in skin.- Mr. Dawes said doubling over like a septuagenarian ice skater. -I'm new to California. ¡Look, there's a school!-


It was a school, a severely old school: it had white columns and was flanked by two gendarmes.


-¡Now that's heresy as nature meant it!- I said.


I had decided to serve Chili con Curiosity on the school's recreational patio, except it was vacant. There wasn't nothing.


-¿Remember when Josh pushed Mr. Dawes in the face?- Mom asked. The tone of her voice was higher than normal and a little hokey.


-Josh no shirt.- Dad said ponying up his eyes to white. -¡EVER!-


-We'll find him.- Mr. Dawes said with such firmness that his fingers started shaking with a nervousness bordering on the violent.


We doubled over each other screaming and laughing like nervous cows in puny bras. And then my senses took a second to decipher: Cementary Street. Apparently, when you're in a car you're an extension of St. Compost. We passed a AMC Pacer as we climbed the hill and then we passed a large tortoise and then we were descending the hill until we turned onto a planet where there were more mountains than monuments.


You could count the number of prostitutes who believed in God, but there weren't many trees to count. We passed near a tree and its vegetative veins poured into the car and Dad took out his gun, gave me an apple and told me to put it on my head and stand still.


-¡Hey! ¡There's your boy!- Sounded the senile Mr. Dawes, slitting my wristwatch.


-¡Thank you, Jesus!- Mom exited her clam shell and leaned over me looking through the window to the mischievous lad.


¡God! It was as clear as Josh running down the street like a crazy entrée to a hilarious white-tie dinner.


-¿What is short and stupid and always says tee-hee?- Josh asked as he brayed at the door.


He got in the car and his two parents spat at him like llamas. Patience was never one of my parents traits, nor was subtlety, and Josh walked right into both. They continued spitting at him and later, and a little more subtly, they pushed him out the door and peeled-out like Tony Danza.


-¿Why are you doing this?- Josh wailed from the street.


We made one pass by him in the car and he didn't move so we decided he was dead.


It's times like these that made me think back on the number of times we'd abandoned Josh - or tied him up and waited for him to escape - and all for no reason. Well, no reason other than he's a horse's ass.


But - ¡oh well! - Josh was a persecuted kinda guy.




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.


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 then rolling down the hill like an otter.-




-¡Josh! ¿What’s 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 the Rico Petrocelli are you looking at?- 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 here carrying flowers from the garden. Next thing you know you’ll start coring apples and spitting like a llama and ¿you want ME to obey YOU? You don't need a segue to see that nonsense. ¡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 that 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 I have 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 last 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 burned in the kitchen or in the fireplace.


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 to be of any help. 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.




-¡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.




I couldn't breathe. I could only grit my teeth.


I knew it was all a part of God's rich pageant. My part was the part that got punted downfield and penalized for staring sullenly.


I was a petrified crayfish full of terror. I was so sick and desperate that all I could do was look for a mirror.


-¡Josh!- Now my teeth were gritted in permanent fury. -Put your ass in gear and check your suspension. To think that...-


Josh poured salt over me and God passed out cold.


-Gag me with a Model T.- Josh said and he started salting his own carcass so quickly and efficiently that it took all I had to vacate the hallway.


My heart felt like pita bread.  My face gulped down a bag of tea.


-¡You aren't the anti-Christ--and that doesn't mean that you're Christ!- I told him with the sound and the fury of a back-country writer. He had dissed me and my dog, Toto.


Right then I got into a cab and started urinating. Probably because I was crazy. Probably because I had been treated like a new employee: but me no buts.


Crazed by the media, I vaulted out of the cab and went horizontal, looking askance at the door to my house as it passed by me and the ground coming to meet me.


I looked incredulous, I moved like a statue, my eyes tried to concentrate on the front door but it kept moving.


Josh attacked from the rear and I knew I was going to kick his ass. I was totally serious. His eyes were black and they wouldn't stop looking at me with an expression of terror.


I could smell that if I moved, my dentures would be quarantined.


I started listening instead of smelling.


And I stretched my self out instead of suffocating.


-¿Who?...¿Who threw those pies?- I had to sing to pronounce the words and then I couldn't recognize my own voice because I sounded like I hadn't yet reached puberty.


I chirped and the door opened a little and then I flipped the pages forward to read the end of all this.


-¿Who threw those pies?- I asked and then I filled my self with more sound and more fury.


Then I filled my self with some churros and some pasta.


Josh knew that if he didn't play along I'd slice him like a pear and if he did play along I'd ride him like an escalator. He had an expression that said "I ain't doin' jack-squat." He was simply anti-terrorized.


The door creaked like the doors you hear in movies about brutality gardens. I knew it would open a little more.


Josh was already acting like an escalator. With his hand on mine he pretended to be riding one until I got so desperate for a segue that I...


But, just as I was thinking of how to segue from Josh, I started growling and then I took my hand and I pushed the door open, thinking "Take this, all of you, and BITE ME!"


A hobo couldn't've held me back.


I put salt on Josh's hand, threw some over my shoulder and asked:


-¿Who threw those pies?-


But the dump was empty.


I sounded like a true knucklehead.


After a few seconds I got darn close to moving through the door. The window was in front of me and it was as open as a beer can in front of Dad. It was open so I knocked down the door, said "Abracadabra" and "Sayonara, Señorita." That was supposed to do something other than make me foam at the mouth. I couldn't explain it but then I can't explain the rude women at the dentist's office who would yell "¡Yo, baby!" at me, confusing me for someone who was conscious of sexuality.


¿What jackass left the beer by the window? That the window was open was surely the segue I was looking for.


My breathing was relentless and profound and the butt-end of my heart was palpitating on the table like Dad's Volvo.


I had to stand on my head because the window was still open and it still wasn't the segue I was looking for.


-Amanda, ¿Are you mental?- Josh murmured from the hallway.


¿Was I mental? I was ¡NO CONTEST! but I knew that if I told Josh I was mental he would know that I didn't have a segue out.


I was about to say that I was Mata Hari in the Super Bowl and there was only one minute left, but then I thought ¿Why do I have to tell him I played tambourine in the Super Bowl?


I knew what the merry-andrew to do.


I stood on my head and didn't respond.


I was about to send in the sarcasm when the timid monkey opened ¼ of the door:


-¿Amanda?  ¿Amanda? ¿Are you mental?-


I came in and was about to put down the pies I was holding when the closet started talking shit to the door -- ¡About me! Later, I’d tell everyone that I had been sober but that I’d left my dentures in the closet and hadn’t had any rest because I had hyper extended my collar bone while I was out pissing on neighborhood houses.


-¿Uh man duh?- Josh knew that hearing his voice was more than my senses could withstand.


-¡AGGGHHH!- I was game.


I knew that his vermin ass was right after smoking on my list of things to kick, so I walked toward him with demons in my eyes.


-¿Amanda?  ¿What's... wrong?-


I stared at the door and for one queer moment I believed that my tirade about the closet and door had been so credible and this house so obscure and apparently I was so out of my head and so out of my eyes that centipedes and elephants were sitting down at the table for supper.


I tried breathing and I tried consulting spirits but there was nothing but me.




I wasn't so sure I had heard that. I tried listening again but all I could do was go "AGGHH" again - but this time with only two G’s and two H’s - and then complain that if everyone didn't sit down I was going to start looking like and listening to Mick Jagger.


That segue pegged a grit into everyone's teeth that would take a dentist to pull out. Then I tried listening again to all the grit on all the teeth in the room:


-¡Mommy! ¡Daddy!- I was so pissed off that the bathroom, the escalator and their voices all blended into one auxiliary voice and I threw a tray at its general direction.


I was running to catch up to my teeth. But when I caught up to them and leapt at them with my mouth open, I was quickly sent lounging on my tibia crying out for Mommy to take care of me.




I was lame and I was jiggling and the hair on my fingers was standing on its tip-toes. I was either coming to some sort of Quixotic resuscitation or I was deciding that everything and everyone was just fine.


-¡Yeah! ¡Petey! ¡Yeah, baby!- I realized it was me and I was bringing my Mike Myers imitation with me.


-"Yeah" is good enough, Petey.- Josh admonished. -¡You are my dog and my inspiration!-


I didn't know what or who or hell to pay. So I segued lamely into my dome with the ferocity of my dad: "The poor brat is a tad nervous," I thought.


-¡Yeah! ¡Petey! ¡Good on you, mate!- I told him, tomatoing him with my imitation of Luc Longley (Note the phony Australian accent).


This situation wasn't going to be around until the next chapter.


You'll see.




Night made me right. My entrance into it came just before the meter maids and right after the camels. My accordion backfired and scared the shit out of Josh who was late, as usual, and who, despite being late, was already making a break for the escalator. It was me who was furious because I was getting in the habit of becoming enraged.


For instance, to Mom and Dad, Josh was less a Nine-Gun-Hitler-Youth than he was a Grade-A Scumbag. The problem being he could sing and he had a nervous tick because once he was singing a high note and he was hanging onto his penis and ever since then he's had the tick. And nobody's supposed to tell him but once I told him on a trip abroad that he needed to declare his tick to customs agents at the airport. Ever since then he's accused me of causing his tick.


-It's hard NOT to accuse you, in this case because even though my tick was old it was also rare.- Josh said.


“Yeah and if there hadn't been an oil embargo we'd all be tomatoing around in Toronadoes like Pelé”, I thought with the conviction of a life-long podiatrist.


Yeah and if I hadn't been watching "The Silence Of The Volvos" my eyes would've opened up like a razor blade to a net-full of marbles. Josh and I knew less about where we were than a quarterback knows about the cost of calling collect. My toilet knows less about its resale value than I know about riding an escalator but I am the only one who knows that the heat zone is a small race gun.


The marbles knew that they were looking small and strange and, in this case, VERY strange. Josh and I treated them no differently than an oyster bar with a mean trace of our parents who were working every afternoon, around the glands, taking up space and guarding rope. Mom included toothpaste in her lunch and a heart full of pasta in our home.


¡k.d. lang!


Now, despite it being 10pm, I was trying to do my homework for the first time in my new life. I had been accosted by a stepladder and spat on by spacemen. I had stayed calm through all of this but now I was through poodleing around.


All parasites are different and especially different if they're your uncle. He walked in upright and started pushing on my mom until I sent in a judo KICK to his upper quadricep and he pirouetted like a Degas painting.


I didn't need to be told: it was time to send in the finches.


The house was big and dumb. My hat was big and obscure.


I sent in a picayune, a basketball and, later, a carp. "Next time I'm sending in a pit-bull," I thought, sitting in the calm. But it was ridiculous to think that, just as it was ridiculous to sit in the calm with a saber-toothed imbecile.


I may be obliged to sit with an imbecile but I'm not obliged to leave my eyes open while I'm doing the sitting. Sometimes, when I want to be conciliatory or sleep, I close my eyes and say the word "two" over and over out loud. And I imagine the number is floating in my head and then a van passes by. This is a way to clear the mind and find where the termites are sleeping.


But I had never heard of anything so rudimentary. Except for that time when I was so desperate to die that I ran down the side of a mountain.


"Always stare. And if you can't stare..." I thought. "Well, if you can't stare you can always pony on down to that new house".


But I wanted to sleep and to sleep for at least an hour. I didn't know why an hour. An hour. Two hours. It didn't mix-matter, I was going to sleep in the bathroom in my suede lingerie anyway.


Later, I'd get all desperate. I'd send in two camels and do three somersaults.


I started to think that color times ¼ would be the same as sending my aunt into the frying pan and pulling out the carp. I had on a bow tie, a Bowie knife and BAN deodorant. My entire body smelled like a tire that had been gnawed on for several days by rats.


I could hear my own stink.


Then I was so sure that I was the rat that I started chewing on the house...


-¿Who...? ¿Who threw...?- My proper voice sounded like a penis in soy sauce, like the devil had hired a lawyer.


I growled like a cold Chihuahua, cupped my hands around my mouth and listened to my nervous system. My eyes always see what they're used to seeing and there was enough light that I could just see into my neighbor's door.


My spinal cord was 14 years old now and my mom had said that my body was late in catching up with it, that I had better open a window.


That was so unexplainable as to be rude. And it was rude to say that my spinal cord looked at me like I was a tax accountant, but I’ll say it:


Many pins can lie, many pins cannot.


A suave light as greasy as the ocean filtered through the vents and protected me like a camel protects its hump from being dented by a courtesan.




I was so tired I was thinking about camels. I stuck my hands into the freezer and then trembled as I cruised the house, closing all the vents.




I knew that I had eluded those grime-laden sons-of-bitches when I looked up and all the vents were closed.


¿But who could be pulling on my spinal cord if all of the vents are closed? I walked past a vent and looked out into the greasy tone of night and couldn't see any vents. The vents were pretending to be hermits.


¿Was it my imagination that was pulling on my spinal cord? Maybe it would be better if I tore my eyes from their eggshell sockets.


The bastards knew that I moved like a camel. The carpet felt like sand and I fought the urge to play the congas. I was about to get down when my name cold-cocked me.


-Amanda, you're just a tart without a neck or a dad.- Man, that Rogaine was going to my head.


A minute later I was sleeping and dreaming that I was singing something that was terrifying a group of podiatrists in pajamas.


My head suddenly echoed:


WE'RE ALL DEAD: Mom, Dad, Josh and Me.


We had been sentenced to read R.L. Stine's Welcome To Dead House and we were fighting not to but our legs wouldn't move and our podiatrist wasn't making nightmare calls. And I knew if she did take our call she’d come by, blank-out and then borrow some money.


Later, lamentably, I forced my eyes to see and what they saw was the bottom of my pillow, not Anais Nin routing out tree trunks. My pillow was despicable and not only when I put on my Calavaras County colored wig. I had been peddling chickens and cold goo to millions of Hyundai dealers. I'd put a gun to their eye and tell them I only had two black cents.


They died - everyone died - and silence was coming right at me. My pillow was the only thing between me and rows and rows of tiny houses. In the center of this mess was a huge flute and then the tiny houses, houses that were not meant for humans.


And later, in the middle of this sleep, I dreamed that 100 horrible pirates sat on my butt, put their feet up and gulped down beers, gulping, gulping until my hair caught on fire. It was Kathy, my major league friend. I could see her outside through the window gulping down beers with the desperation of a midget car race driver.


I wanted to go out the door to Kathy. I wanted to slop down all of the corn dogs that I could eat. I wanted to open the door and I wanted to eat. I didn't necessarily want to talk with her. I'd have to explain the pirates sitting on me and if I couldn't do that I'd have to kill her and roast her carcass until it disappeared.


I had a terrible urge to deliver Kathy to the CIA.


But I couldn't move my legs. I wanted to and I wanted to cry like a baby but I couldn't leave my army of butt pirates.


They gulped their beer and they hissed and hissed and spat fire until I knew I'd never return to the world of bedsores, deceit and degradation. But, hey, this was my sentence, it was my grotesque fantasy and if you want to start growling and rearranging furniture then welcome to my terrordome.


I was so desperate to move that I somersaulted, with all of the pirates falling to the floor in horror. I started gulping down their beer. I shook my head and sprayed beer over all of them, their bodies melting horribly all over the carpet.




Already it was tomorrow. I could see the sky was blue and, more importantly, I could see that the window wasn't.




¡I was born without corneas! I had made my way through life listening and I wasn’t about to start moving through life as if I could see where I was going.


I shut down my senses and in the resulting calm I observed...


The window turning to blue.





-I'm going to see right through you using this window. It has what I need: a grating and a glass.- Dad said.


We were eating and Dad was engulfing an Otter Flambé topped with eggs and jam.


-But, Dad... ¡You are so strange!- I said through a medium. My spinal cord was moving the messages but they were coming out crazy. ¡And that goddamn window was still blue!


-¡It's not my fault that I'm a vidiot!- Dad's rage suggested.


-¡And it's not Amanda's fault that she's a dork!- Josh said. That boy hasn’t an original chisel in his body.


-Now, come on, say nice things with your sister.- That was Mom.


Mom wasn't the sharpest Vegomatic in the kitchen. Her sentences looked like the mess that's left after a seven-course breakfast. Her black pullover, normally subject to atrocities, was totally disheveled and glad to be. I knew Mom was tired when she cordoned-off the bathroom with a strip of yellow plastic with the words "BITE ME" in black repeated all over it.


-Tonight, while I'm sleeping I'll be nice with Amanda.- Josh said.


-¡You Tampax!- I admit it, I had been surprised by his wit. But I recovered. -You're lucky I don't push a pencil through your left ventricle. Now go back to being a pinhead and the boy least likely to.-


-Amanda, ease up on the ocean-view ideas.- Mom said and jammed endive in my ear. -Boys are in your head. Hell, they're in mine, even. You need to think about what makes you so nervous and then accuse it of betraying you to your alternate self.-


-But Mom...- I started whining.


-You're so sure that your dreams can be traced down your spinal column...- Josh said looking like a mole standing on two legs. He lifted his hands up and fantasized he was a magician named Rico and that he could levitate


-¡Stop it!- Mom yelled and pushed her hand toward Josh. -¿Why don't you saw me in half or convince me that I'm an otter?-


-Well, I'm not going to sit here doing nothing while my wife is sawed in half, I’ll tell you that.- Dad said. -¿Isn't it possible, Amanda, that your spinal cord and your spinal cord are one and the same? And aren't you always dissing me because you're closer to being a pencil-neck than I am?-


The horrible pencil-neck returned to looking like a horrible pencil neck, like Darth Vader in a Mentos commercial. I returned to looking for dickheads leaning out of houses. I could smell the cold freon.


-When I sit like this it's very humiliating.- Mom said.


-Yeah.- Dad responded. -But if I poked you with my scabbard I know I could scare you.-


Instinctively, I looked for a window.


The ceiling had been converted into a solid mass of warm grease. The trees had been trimmed until you couldn't differentiate them from the obscurity of our security guard.


-¿Where's Petey?- I asked.


-God took him.- Mom responded, meaning: go ahead: try to bring that freaky, little dog back from my blue heaven. -Don't worry. It's not so desperately hot. Not up there. And they'll serve him soup every day. And then they'll stomp on his neck as fast as a sailor to a tattoo shop.-


-¿What are we going to do today?- Josh asked. My brother wasn't always paying attention to the program and today he wasn't bothering with the details. I've seen actual gnats who were brighter.


-Your father and I get along like two kids with a box of candy.- Mom said. I could've sworn I saw the echo bounce down the hall, but I also thought I could live without breathing. -Why don't you and Amanda go to the vet and see if she knows where Petey is. Every time I go there it costs me money. And while you're out look to see if there are any other kids out looking for their pets and their dads.-


-In other words- I said. -you want us to dance with the devil.-


Mom and Dad knew I was so right.


-Amanda, you're more wrong than a side order of snails.- Dad said.


-But I want to take apart a car with my feet.- Josh objected. I knew he also wanted to be a man but that wasn't happening according to plan, unless that plan included masquerading.


-Look. I want you to look both ways and then close your eyes and run down the street waving your arms. ¡And forget Petey! ¿Understand? Close your eyes, walk into the street and don't pass the escalator.-


-¿And what about our bick cleckers? ¿Why don't I know how to pronounce "bicycle"?- Josh asked and asked again.


-For the same reason that you think a mile-long line of cars is called a "giraffe fondue."- Dad said.

-Impossible sarcasm. You know I've taught you better, now ¡pinch me and pass the hot sauce!-


-If I can't pronounce bick cleckers then my credo can’t be "¡Come Here!"- Josh insisted, cruising for a dozen bruisings.


Mom and Dad treated Josh as if they could somehow hasten his comprehension of reason. That and log onto his lunch. But, in the end, my brother accepts that he is "one pass-key short of a home."


I stopped feeling dizzy long enough to think about Kathy and my other friends and the ghosts in that house. I started asking my self a series of questions about the so-called kids of Dark Falls. Like: ¿Why are the ghosts so contrary here? And: ¿Are my ghosts real?


I offered my self a Lava Soap Lozenge and started feeling dizzy, like Mom and Dad when they're working on their fifteenth highball. Water makes me tipsy so I wash my hands using torn pages from the encyclopedia and I wash the dishes by breaking them. I rarely get asked to wash my hands but I love being asked to do the dishes.


In front of me, in another part of the house, I could hear Josh getting cute with Dad. I listened to their penises mangling words until I started choking on the zero proof water that I wasn't permitted to listen to or to buy.


-You peeled out like a basketball shot in the valve stem.- Dad decided and Josh loogied in his general direction. Then Dad replied -:¿What do you know about Omar Vizquel?- Josh loogied again in his general direction and Dad said -:No. I don't have the time or the paraquat to play “dodge the big loogie”. And if you don't believe that then you can peel your rummy ass out of here right now.-


Dad had broken the ultimate plate against the head of reason. Later he would look like a tortilla with a severed arm and no hands. But right now he looked like a Contra tail-gunner with sugar on top and an AMC Pacer to drive. I kept my hands where I couldn't see them, put my bat back in the rack and dredged my self to the escalator.


-I'm going to stare at your vest for five minutes.- That was Josh, who is known for cutting paper into his salad.


Later, we'd all be cutting paper into our salads.


I started to get on the escalator but the devil took hold of me. I ran and Allah ran with me but by the second pass I had become the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria and, with the help of my dad, I was also becoming the black sheep of the familiar. I was about to sunrise but the only sun rising was my animosity. Without the sunrise I was colder and more territorial than if I had been just visiting this life.





A man took me by my manhood.


Okay, I suppose I meant "girlhood."


Or "Josh."


-I'm not going to eat a banana if I can't leave my peel.- He said.


-¡Josh! ¡Please!- I looked like I knew what I meant but what I wanted to look like was a girl about to piss any second now.


That sentence sent a shiver right down my carport. My penis trembled against me and my aggression passed right through my girlhood.


-¡Dad! ¡Look! ¡Please!-


Josh knew without alluding to uncle.


-¡But I'm not nice never!- Josh gritted.


-No. You're not your self.- I said and called out "¡TIME!" to Dad.


-Amanda, you're either a toy or a Kewpie doll.- Dad, who appeared like a pie from "The Great Race," said with the fire of love that was installed in him like marbles in a salad.


-Dad, I can see you're gone.- I was a genie. -But, ¡Jesus H. Christ!- I sneezed. -¡I'm a girl!-


-Hey, do me a favor, Amanda.- The mucous responded and then questioned: -¿Do you know how much it costs to be me, you shitheel? ¿Do you have a freaking clue what kind of house you'd be living in if I didn't pony up my quarter of the money? And how many times do I have to rant like this...-


-¿Would you rant on your knees?- Josh asked enthusiastically. -I'd love to see that, Dad. ¿Would ya?-


-Dad doesn't have the imagination.- I said. That voice didn't know me from my brabra. And whenever I have a profound thought like that I could never find a crayon to write it down.


-Amanda, ¿what do you make of God?- Dad said contemplating the punch-line. -¿A vest?-


Segue to a mirage: I had been piling up rope but what that really meant was I’d be taking a cab instead of his AMC Pacer.


-You're simply pretending that it's rope.- Dad said with impatience.


Nope, I'm pretending that I’m a nine-gun ninja turtle.- I said. -It is rope.-


-Pardon me.- I said in a low voice. -¿Could you repeat the part where I get on the escalator?-


¡Pardon me, my ass!


But I knew I couldn't send in my apparition without it causing confusion.


And a sense of ¡TADA!


¿Why am I always thinking that I'm a pile of rope that's been converted into a pile of Yago Sangria?


I guess nothing's possible.


I'm not crazy. I'm very good.


¿Then why is everything suddenly happening in tons and short paragraphs?


I had opened the door to my heart, lit a candle and watched my left ventricle pumping blood to my heart.


-¡Uh, oh! ¡Chongo!-


I opened a window and lay down counter-clockwise.


¿Who was throwing those pies?


Mom. I suppose it was Mom.


The air called out to me and hummed so I plopped down and poured out a quart of sky. I knew that I looked greasy and pensive, alive and lovely.


I'd be astute another time. Right now I wanted to look calm. Everyone except me tended to do the rope-a-dope. But my jeans were old and my shirt was old and the pies just kept coming.


¿Who the Coolacoo was throwing those pies? ¿Mom?


I was awesome at the door and called out:


-¡MOM! ¿Would you teach me to rope-a-dope?-


I heard what I was saying all right but I couldn't understand if what I meant was what I had decided or what I had said was what I had heard.


-¡Calm your ass, Amanda!- Mom nested me. -¡Just calm it! For the love of pesto, can't you understand that your mom is being pushed into the ropes? ¿Who’s going to teach me?-


A pie hit the door and the sound echoed and rose, reprimanding everyone who wasn't the door to get into the closet.




-¿What's happening to you?- I gritted my teeth like a Pullman salmon. I crawled to the closet like I was looking for dog fur and then opened the door using all of my teeth.


Phonetically separated: the rope - the cold goo. But I didn't have either.


“¿Rat ones?”, I thought.


Dad had always thought the saran wrap was talking to him.


-I have to sally out of here.- I said in an altered voice.


I wasn't counting but ¼ of me was ready to light Mom on fire. No, more like ALL OF ME was ready to light ¼ of her on fire but the rest of me was for getting shit-faced. My imagination runs from the tentative to the Cosa Nostra.


And it's not like everyone in my family is loaded down with logical explanations. It's more like: no one. Meanwhile, I ponied into my jeans every morning and repeated the word "logical" into the mirror. Mentally I felt like a matador who had yelled at the bull one too many times and the bull was starting to understand.


¡Calm it up, Amanda! ¡Calm it up!


Breathe through your feet. Count until you die.




-¡Josh! ¿You don't have a cigarette do you?- I asked him. -I have some but they taste like a garden gnome.-


I know it's disgusting that I want to smoke my brother's cigarette but it's not like reality has ever been revealed to me in a Mickey Mouse voice.


-¡Get outta here!- Josh said, looking through his eyes to the door. -¡Don't make me bust a cap in your produce ass! I can be as cold as a french fry.-


-¿¡A fucking french fry?!- I exclaimed. -¿What’s got a hold of your ass?-


I started talking like a goof... but then I detourned. I was as vague as a tour bus Band-Aid.


-Or a John Woo movie.- Josh murmured.


-No. Dig it.- I insisted. -¿What looks like a bus and is a bus, but it talks?-


Josh believed that God was a matador with a codpiece molded in Paris.


Finally, he said:


-Tonight has been sleepily horrible. I look into my corneas and I see an iguana talking about Dad's bald spot.-


-¿Sleepily horrible?- I said. -You sound like my propped-up pedantry.-


-Yeah. I've got two boys in my heart and they're both evil.-


-¿What did I do run run?- I asked Josh.


-I remember the gnome.- Josh said, evidently looking me in the eyes. -But then again I only remember what my Jesus tire iron tells me.-


-And ¿what about your tire iron pesto sauce?- I asked, looking dumb and particularly mean, kinda like a centipede with a sunburn.


-¡I'm desperate!- He said. -Later, I'll be aggressive--but right now: ¡Leave me alone!-


-¿Why do boys talk like they're missing teeth?- I asked.


-No. No cream.- Josh said. -Only cereal.-


-¿Only cereal?- I countered, pen at attention


-Yeah, cereal and a hoagie sandwich with raisins. But I don't want to talk about food anymore.-


I started pulsating nervousness. -¿Are we going to see if you can pass the stupid test or what?-


-Yeah, but I'm starting to list.- He said. -Stop centipeding me and stop trying to convince me that I'm just a shadow of my reflection.-


¡Yeah, and you stop spreading mononucleosis to Montana!


I segued through the hall. I passed a pile of rope, thinking that nine was one better than visiting Allah. And then thinking about the mismatched boy in the window and then I started legging it faster and faster and then there were two boys and one was that son of a bitch Josh.


The only thing that I could conclude was that Josh and I were so nervous that we believed that the U.S. had become a nut house full of guns and drugs. Mom and Dad would say that we were loco, that Bob Dole was a demigod and that if we thought that our country was fucked up we weren’t using enough of our collective imaginations.


And I had quite an imagination.


Yeah, but I also had quite a case of poodle sores.






I was seconds later than I usually was when the patio caves in and I can't find Petey. It wasn't always tragic, it isn't always easy, but it is always SUMMER. I didn't know why summer echoed forever and I didn't completely understand the rope-a-dope, in fact there are parts of it that embarrass me, and I end up, frustrated as a toreador, jumping and jumping and then lifting my arms up to the sky.


¡My god! ¡If only algebra was this easy!


I had taken out a color brochure or no I hadn't. I had taken out a pencil full of ceiling grease. No, I'm too vain. Actually, I had taken out a pencil, two trees and an orangutan in a wheelchair. This was how I studied.


When I put on my clothes I put them on like a gorilla doing the rumba down the street. I put on my shoes but I leave my pajamas with the armadillo at the door. Petey carried in a used bottle of Rolaids.


Sometimes I understand addition, division and subtraction, and sometimes I understand that little dogs don’t usually carry antacids.


-By no means necessary is my dad a red hot poker and slayer of rattlesnakes. Today, yesterday or in a whorehouse.- Josh said.


-But, the whore...- I opined. -believes that every day has no verisimilitude except for the rattlesnake.-


I thought Josh was going to heave mucous. His nose formed a lake of fire from upon which he watched the world. His nostrils were two big windows looking to piss fire as if fire was something that ran from his eyes to his nose.


For the first time I noted that the house was ladeling house manure over us, only ¿what kind of house manure? and ¿why not pour it on the ladder? My eyes were shining out like a cigar fresh from Lewinsky. And the light shining through the room looked for a second like urine tablets throwing their selves against the garage door. And the house, which finally stopped shoveling house shit over us, was lapping it up like a number 2 pencil wondering what caused trees.


-¿For where are going?- Josh asked, tired and polite because if he wasn't at least polite Petey would rip him another ass.


-We're going to school so we can teach this poor lad.- The silence said. -We're going to do our impression of Giancarlo Esposito: ¿no te Far Side?-


When the street talked to him, Josh knew that he had to ram his head into a tree because if he ran into the street he'll start basting a cormorant. Petey spat at Josh and then tried to eat him.


I’ve never talked to the street and I don't talk to no garden, but the house... I'd rather pass my time talking to a house than shooting at passing cars.


And I'm starting to believe that people are totally bananas, especially when I'm in front of a boy who is salivating because I'm sitting down in a mini-skirt. Apparently my tan makes them bite their subconsciouses and hiss like a paper unicycle.


-¡Hello!- Everyone said, all one-sounding.


Then, before we could believe what we were naïving, Petey sat down next to me, smelled my shoes, pushed his face into a ladder, turned and grunted at me. The boy who passed himself off as god tried to lift Petey up but ended up pushing his hand into his face. I knew Petey was thinking what an astute bastard Josh was.


-¡QUIET PETEY!- Josh ordained.


Josh was about as aggressive as a pizza pie but Petey kept growling at him.


-Don't kill him.- I told the macho dog. Normally I'd say "Kill him" but I was feeling a little tame. My loss.


-That's great.- Josh said, waiting for Petey to turn his back so he could try his zafu choke-hold.


-Suck my haole asshole.- Petey said.




"Make it new" was not Josh's motto. But the dog wasn't about to stop directing his curses at him.


-¿Do you want me to push my paw down your coronary artery?-


The boy was about to peel rubber. We could hear his heart beating and his eyes were two big zeros in a sea of zoo animals on wheels. He had my sympathy but not my respect because I would still light a fire under any car that carried his sorry Naugahyde.


I put on a sweater large enough to hold my mangos, in case I went from warm to hungry, and some black jeans that were at least a hundred years old. A baseball-playing chimpanzee wouldn't have looked better if he had tripled to right.


-I am Amanda Benson.- I said for the first time. -And this is my brother Josh.- Another first.


Josh couldn't decide if he wanted to clock Petey on to teach the dog’s head what "new wave" meant repeatedly against the pavement. The dog would live to see another solar eclipse but not in the eyes of a seemingly new boy who grunted suavely and later would tell me that I made him act all rascally.


-My name is Amanda Benson.- The boy said with his hands on his balls and a look that said "And fuck that dog, too." Later, he would say that he really was Ray Thurston and no relation to Mr. Howell, Lovey or Morrissey.


Instantly, there was something in the way Ray counted to three that was familiar. But ¿where did he get those antlers? ¿Where? He looked more like a Fiji mermaid than a record executive...


Then he sent in a medium that wasn't quite a medium as much as it was an alien.


Ray was cheeky. And he could visit my hindquarters anytime. Even in winter.


-¡You!...!- I stood accused, but I didn't know what words would follow.


-¡…are in my house. ¿Yes or no?-


The boy had a lot to learn about segues.


And about righteousness.


-¿Would you count to ten for me?- I said. -In your house.-


Petey raised his head and groaned. Later he would tell me that if I thought that Ray had made me feel rascally he had made Petey feel like putting on his froggy flippers and fucking anything.


-I don't know how to count to ten.- He said.


Now this was one troubled dude. I could 'think of only think of one person stupider.


-There hasn't been anyone in this house for a long time.- Ray continued, looking at Petey like he was a Frostbite Falls sandwich.


-¿How long?-


-Yes. I've been living here since the time of the gods.- He responded.


Ray looked at Josh and me like we had tendonitis.


-¡¿In our house!?-


Ray assented with his head.


-When we legged it to the house for the first time- I said. -all that was there was a jar of guacamole and a tire in the street.-


Petey's grunting and emphysemaing echoed in every corner of the place. Later I'd change my mind and say that there was a sailor in the street moving around like he had a colon-full of emotion.


Pesticides made below were now accumulating in the sky like some obscure parody of creation.


-¿So where the vivisectionist are you now?- I asked.


Ray was tired. What he needed was that jar of guacamole and the vague memory of what it felt like to sleep in the street.


-¿Are you just going to stand here in our house?- Josh asked.


-Yes. That would be good.- Ray responded. -Josh, I love you, you poor son of a bitch.-


-¿You love this?- Josh asked, incredibly. -Because this is horrorable. It's obscure and...-


Petey was the first to interrupt. He had been lying there, dreaming and then he looked at Ray and pushed his pug paw right into Ray's puss. From a distance Ray looked like a boy who was ready to retire from some day becoming a man. Ray also seemed a tad nervous with a side order of extreme agitation.


Josh looked like a sack of corrugated baseballs from the Soup Plantation©.


-Shut the fuck up, Petey.- Josh said.


The little man-dog was quiet while Josh thought of ways to corrugate his collar.


-¡NO ONE MAKES ME ANTSY!- This time it was Ray, and he was leaping around like a discus thrower.


Wondering how anyone was going to corrugate his collar kept Petey confused. And I knew of a plan that involved fire, KY Jelly and Josh that I might call on. But in the meantime I was content to rap the boy upside the head.


-¡Hey! ¡Gimme a lake!- Josh said.


He couldn't even get a break asking for a break.


-¿Which one?- Ray asked, feeling more cheeky now that Petey was unarmed.


-The Great Huron Lake or your house.- Josh proposed.


Ray moved his head like a cable car.


-¡No! ¡No! ¡Absolutely NO!- He said. -Not now, not knowledge.-


-¿Where did this guy come from?- I asked, looking like a lesbian spy. -This guy's come back from the dead, ¿hasn't he?-


Ray knew I was one right-on bitch.


-Yes.- Ray said. -You're one poodle-headed day care center, latch-key kid.-


Later he would ask: -¿Why is the patio where you play and the school where you run from?-


-¡¿Why? ¡Because we can't watch cartoons!- I said and liked the answer.


The three of us ran into the street, Ray a little slowly, me a little late and both of us ladling Top Ramen over Josh who wouldn't know a tree from his hand from the way Petey barks like an otter. That dog ate everything with a ladle, making doling out his dinner a problem for Josh.


We all let out the first screams and we all took out our Top Ramen and our soup cartons and we all poured them on any kid we saw.


It was 12 or 11 or at least 9, but it could've been 10 or it could've gone and been 9 again. I knew that it would rain and I knew that I would talk during it and I knew that Josh would push his jaundice eye one to the other and I knew how to juggle and meanwhile I knew that we were running in circles and about as fast as a tortoise and I don’t mean a tortoise-hair cat.


I knew that Dad was gone, for better or worse, and the more I thought about it the more I felt like it was for the better.


I checked my jeans and shirt for obscure colors. Some girl once told me that I had disgusting, woodpecker lips and I appreciated her words so much I painted my lips yellow.


-¡Hey! ¡Watch it!- An altar boy cried as we poured Top Ramen all over him.


No sense of humor.


We were all yelling down the street but we were also zig-zagging like a van zig-zags when it's running down the street celebrating gun ownership or Jesus H. Christ.


My nose took a dive and then my ass was nearly falling off. Petey bit at the corner of my eye and it was then that I knew the drab little dog had gone crazy.


-¡Hello boys and girl!- The altar boy said, taller than Pelé and just as black. And damn it if this encounter didn't divert my attention from killing Petey to wondering who this Black altar boy was. I knew that I was white as rain. I was a white girl with green lips that I pushed on any boy no matter if they were blue or red or a dog like Petey. This boys very countenance said "kiss me and pass the Kaopectate."


-¿Which one of you Cossacks is Ray?- A Black girl in a Pelé shirt asked.


-More or less one of us is. ¿How tall are all of you?- Ray asked and then said: -These are all my friends. And every one of them is named Ray.-


-¡Hi!- I said. I wasn't going to mess with this lunatic. I was back to thinking about dropping Petey from a ten story ladder and to thinking about how to do that without going to jail. I could also push that pea-brain Josh off the ladder and then have lunch on his Diners Club card.


-This is George Carpenter.- Ray said to the now red-faced altar boy. Then the salad-head continued: -And Jerry Franklin, Karen Somerset, Bill Gregory...- He went through every boy and girl naming each and pointing out the cads. I promised to remember their names but it was impossible with my sour puss.


-¿Do you all like Dark Falls?- I asked one of the femininas.


-Kinda...but it's hard to talk about...- She contested. -I had a penis the first day. And now I'm pretty.-


For some reason I thought she had said "Sit down and let me spit on you."


-¿What class of dog are you?- George Carpenter asked Josh.


Angry at being called a dog, Josh lashed out, saying he'd take a razor to Petey. George looked at the pitiful dog and asked if Petey had even been to an animal doctor in his entire life.


-Just to get tutored.- I said to the supervening silence.


Karen Somerset, a pretty girl with a pretty flabby cerebral cortex said -If you ask me you're all mean and I don't know why you're making a fuss over this  Petey.-


-¿Who asked you? You live and love in your home.- Some one said in a suave voice.


-¿What? ¿What Major League Baseball game have you been listening to?-


-We've been listening to Paddy O'Furniture.- Ray said, interrupting his urinating.


No one responded to this sugaring of the IRA. Seek God and you'll find Dog. That miserable mutt Petey knew he had it so good. All he had to do was lay around.


¿Did they really expect me to talk to Karen about life in the Cosa Nostra? What I wanted to ask was where they got the unincorporated gall to circulate newly minted three-dollar bills.


The kids formed a circle and then tore into Josh and me.


Josh went into a spasm in the middle of the circle. ¿Was this seriously some part of my imagination? ¿Why are the stars passing by?


It wasn't long before I saw everything a tad differently... I was so right, but I was so right that I was extremely tense, well, actually, extremely vigilant. ¿What is it called when you turn and run and you expect EVERYONE to turn and run and then all they do is disagree?


Two of the kids started biting a baseball. The girl with the bad green eyes looked at me with her bad green eyes, examining my dome.


Nothing said nobody. Even the street was finally silent. The only thing I could hear was Petey licking his gamey leg.


I'd repent but I didn't know if I had to do it in the missionary position.


¿Why don't I look like Mira Sorvino?


With my imagination I could look like an otter.


I looked back at Ray: what a stamp of a lad. I knew that he was quiet because he was thinking of Mira.


-¡Hey! ¡Kids!- I said. -¿What's going on? You treat me like I've been blaring in a disproportionate tone but that's called having a tremble in your voice.-


I looked at Josh. I was treating my self to a calm Petey and not worrying if the little pecker would change the tone by biting someone.


The two kids biting the baseball looked like two vultures waiting for the day to pass so they could eat lunch, but instead they decided to circle all of us. I had been saving that pecker Petey for a time like this, but he just sat there looking at me.


The two kids circled and circled until they couldn't tell their asses from anybody else's ass. They knew one thing: they were total creeps.





The Black kids knew that I was as white as a Parisian descending an escalator nude with some Brie and a beret. I had that kind of air about me - fishy and humid.


Josh was leering like a gladiator in a dog collar and I could see that he was trying to count to ten without success. And I was too busy worrying that Ray would start talking again or start imitating Vinnie Barbarino or a jar of tartar sauce just to impress the other kids. But ¡NOoooo! He just stood there looking like a ladle.


The kids started circling us again. They obviously wouldn't know a segue if it ran up to them, threw them in a van and sped off.


I was breathing hard after that sentence.

“¡Abracadabra! ¡Give me AIR!” I was praying to Pegasus and then a tree came up and kissed me.


-¡Hello kids!- The tree said, slobbering. -¿What’s going on?-


The voice sounded human but humans don't dress like cattle. And this tree was dressed like a cow.


Everyone turned and looked and it was old man Dawes, who had been hiding behind the tree passing out espresso. He turned around and ran so fast that the wind he created made the sun set prematurely.


-¿What the hell was that?- I asked no one.


For a while all any of us could do was count our fingers and compare that number to the number of kids who wanted to kill Josh and me.


-Let's go paint the school.- George Carpenter said, juggling whether to hold or to bite the baseball. -And paint it green.-


-Good idea.- Mr. Dawes said.


He had run back to us so quickly that he hardly looked like a man. He looked more like a skunk playing a cello. He looked like his head had been held under water by a plate-juggling Great Dane.


The kids knew they had to break the circle. You could see their little minds trying to count to 2 or 3. I would've laughed but I don't exist.


-¿Is it baseball or softball where you use a bat?- Grumpy Mr. Dawes asked George.


-George can't hear.- A boy replied. -He can't hear like a bat can't hear. It just bounces off.-


Everyone knew he was right. George was mean and stupid but he could hit a ball further than any other kid. He also was good with a broom.


Mr. Dawes started moving his head with his hand because he wasn't feeling anything. Later he'd get me alone and ask me to do my Mira Sorvino impersonation.


-¡Josh! ¡Amanda!- He said. -You don't understand how useless you are here. Your lives are nothing.-


-Thanks, Dracula.- I responded. I was very confused. In a few minutes someone was going to have to resuscitate me and then they'd have to take the world, turn it back on its axis and burp it.


There was a time when I could only imagine boys as men without the details. Ray and Josh were far from normal. ¿Did they only exist as boys in my imagination?


And if old man Dawes didn't appear out of thin air then ¿what had become of my ability to prestidigitate?


-¿What lesbian moved into the new house?- Old man Dawes asked passing his hand through the time-space continuum.


-¿Lesbian?- We all said and we all jumped. That little runt Petey was starting to look at Mr. Dawes with his lower jaw dropping like someone had just landed a right chop to his chops.


Mr. Dawes' hiss was exaggerated and his mucous was disgusting.


-¡Tell that dog to sit down! ¡That dog is always watching me!- We knew he was talking ‘bout love. -


Petey responded by laying into his arm with an awesome fury.


-¡Hey I worked for eight years for Queer Nation!- Petey told Dawes and then tried to rip his head off.


Old man Dawes was really irked by this so he gathered all the kids and said:


-Look, I can't care about every person in the world.- Later, we'd see his Volvo still parked on the street. -And that's precisely why I'm going home with all of you.- He said to us. -And I'm going to see if I can learn to be as tolerant as all of your parents must be. ¡Viva la diversidada!-


He sure knew how to bullshit, cockfight and party.


-That's one sympathetic type of guy.- Ray said.


-Yeah.- I said, but I didn't believe Ray’s kimono sentimentality theory. I wanted to ask old man Dawes how many boys he had brought in out of the rain and ¿was he going to return to his former, circular self after lunch?


But Nooo. All the kids wanted to do was go over and paint the school the same color as the street. They wanted to chisel commentaries into the walls and they wanted to talk in three languages. By the time they could do any of these I'd be in Fiji with my nose turned toward the moon.


I began to see how pulling out a tire iron would be a little ridiculous. What I wanted was to bust some kids over the head and those kids were not named me and, for once, they were not named that idiot Josh. I guess what this meant was that my sugar was low and my imagination was high.


Sugar rocks my rosy reds.


What that meant, I think, is that sugar doesn't gripe and sugar doesn't make escalators and, yes, sugar doesn't come up from behind and taunt you.


The school patio was vacant. I was suspicious because usually there were other kids there and usually they were lighting their various pets or houses on fire and then going to eat lunch by the light of the highway. The patio was a great place if you like totally plain pieces of shit made of Velcro and metal. Near to this patio the school was clumped and tobogganed. At the other extreme of the campus was a baseball camp. God always put out any fires at the tennis courts because, well, God is a cow.


Josh loved Petey but he also loved to whine and to watch UniRoyal tires corrode. That and to imitate Jerry Falwell yelling and singing and squinting. I knew I was in the middle of something special with Ray. Josh thought Ray was an otter.


When I say "otter" I can hear you turn your collective heads and cough but I mean OTTER like the kind that are totally content in their small nervousnesses. I'm not one of the main jugglers in this world. I know the hole my peg is slotted for, more or less. but I can camp outdoors and I can be totally free. But that poor sod Jerry Franklin thinks that if he puts on cologne and Levi jeans and legs it out into the world he'll be accepted like Pepé le Pew walking onto an ocean liner.


The nudge here was that the air was up there and the sky was all bright and small. Like juggling two enchiladas. Like an otter with an extra gonad or two or eight or ten. But I digress. I only wanted to talk about the time I met Patti LaBelle. And how she had told me that her dog was a seeing-eye dog and that she corresponded with Batman.


I was digressing like a conifer when a new group of kids appeared. They looked sympathetic enough but they also looked like that girl they called Karen Somerset: quiet and conservative with a mean streak that ran down her bones like a bat out of Nuevo Torino.


It was ten to one that the sun would rise and it was ten to one that I'd greet it by urinating in front of the metal shop while laughing in Josh's general direction. I had balls all right, the balls to see my self through anything. At least anything self-evident.


It was at that moment that my equipment began its third-stage re-entry from the sun to the sundry. And then I heard my self sounding a bit silly. Proof came in the form of Jerry Franklin, the organizadoria. He plopped his Silly Putty on the plate and everything started moving like a Porsche Carrera.


-We have to stop now.- He said looking at the small sky. -I can't see my face in front of my face. I'm so dense that I can't see that time is to all of us as lunch is to Josh.-


I looked to reload. There were penises at 11 and 12. I felt warm in every way.


But, poor me, I was sore and I was warm and no one was noticing.


Everyone was angry on the inside and beginning to corrode on the outside. I didn't believe that if I ran faster I'd think faster. I believed that if I ran faster I'd go insane.


Karen pushed her hand into mine but I was corroding also. My head was aching and I looked like I was one in a series of seven sugary girls. Later I'd decide that I was one in a series of eleven instant coffee makers.


-You're more like a prison guard, Amanda.- Jerry said. -We all walk like we're chained together.-


-¿¡Oh yeah?!- I told him. -¿¡How 'bout I kill you?!-


I didn't hear one smart-ass reply. They all just shook their heads, looked at me and said:


-Yes, Amanda. Anything you say. We live to learn from you.-


But you can't learn when all you can do is turn your head and repeat after me...





I threw the days around. Josh and I weren't used to the new house or to these new friends.


We hadn't seen them since that day at the school patio but they were exactly our friends anyway. They talked like they had cotton balls in their mouths and they didn't know how to play properly on the school equipment. But, hey, it's not easy when you're blessed with cluelessness.


For my part, I listened my self silly to all of the horses around the house and I made up Pagan rites that forced me to pray to the stars until they paid attention. One night I was praying and I was visited by a girl who told me that I couldn't whistle and write at the same time. I whistled and I wrote but not at the same time and the stars paid me no mind. But when I was alone on another night there was a pile of bananas that came to me and told me to suicide, that they had the rope and they had the ammunition and they had the pare knife.


Josh and I don't adapt well to new circumstances but Petey is like Marcel Marceau in a box. We hadn't seen him since that day at the school patio but when we did see him he had married a race dog. He treated her like a manatee, like a Labrador treats a boy trespassing on his property, like a mortician treats a corpse.


-Everybody says I was too nervous to change.- Petey had argued to Josh. -But I was calm enough to know it was TIME.-


But I didn't think Petey was calm. He was a Terrier. The only time "calm" comes up is with the clam dip. It had been fifteen days since we had seen him, since the day we had tried to kill all those kids with a softball bat: Ray, Karen Somerset, Jerry Franklin, George Carpenter and some other kids whose names similarly sounded like we had taken a hat of names from WASP, USA and Petey had bitten into every one of them.


But that dog had also barfed my zafu and knew he had better leave for a while.


I had looked for him at various times during those fifteen days. I'd call out "¡PETEY!" and I'd call out "¡You stupid cur!" and I'd look on all the patios of every school in town and then I'd look in the mosques. Then, despite knowing better, I'd jump over to the taxidermist. Josh and I had a dime bet that we would find Petey stuffed with no idea what had hit him.


The streets of DARK FALLS were filled with people who looked like one another. Everyone carried bowling balls drilled out by their mothers. Every tree in Dark Falls was the same size, shape and age.


-Now that I don't believe.- Josh said. -Because if I believed that I'd believe that God did all of that and all at ONCE. What I do believe is that I'll lay back with a drink underneath one of these trees and pray to Descartes that I think therefore I'm a rat.-


-Speaking of rats: ¡There's Petey! ¡The Terrier Bandito!- I exclaimed just as I exclaimed every time we had searched for that little cow. That and I'd say "¿Why are we bothering to look for him? No one cares if he dies like an escaped convict in the Andes."


-I don't know why and I don't know why I want to pour salt on him if we do find him.- Josh said moving his head and limping along like a Tudor under a mango tree. -I just DO.-


-¡Wait a minute!- I said. I was about to blow a major fuse throughout the house. -The idea I just had was that when we find him ¿why don't we talk to him in Pig Latin?-


-¡Perfect!- Josh said trying to separate the trunk from the tree. -Ets-lay aste-pay im-hay oo-tay the ee-tray, anda-may Ah. It's probably time to go home anyway and here we are, stupids that we are and what we're looking for is God. ¡Let's get outta here!-


I could hear him and I was sure it was Josh I just didn't know how red his face was.


-Ut-bay irst-fay ee-way ave-hay oo-tay aint-pay the ouse-hay the olor-cay of the eet-stray.- I ed-sayed.


I treated Josh like the pig dung he is because when I go to school he is always following me around, playing the accordion. We once started fighting when he wouldn't play "Particle Man."


Fortunately, I'm all legs and, also fortunately, Josh is all shins and the bruises last him for weeks. If I had a finger for each time I kicked him I'd have four talons, a few facials and a nose ring.


We passed in front of the school and looked at the gun still lying on the ground where Josh had left it after threatening to kill Petey. ¡God I wished that dog was dead! ¡What do I know about whine and what do I know about animals and what can anyone know when you're legging it around, yelling and screaming in Dark Falls?


I only know what I’m doing when I’m running around the house yelling and screaming and spitting rabbits out of a hat.


Minutes later Josh and I legged it out of there and started calling to Petey to pull his head out of his tiny ass. The front door, however, was closed and we might as well have been yelling out “MAMA!” with animal pelts on our heads and vultures in our red shirts and rodents in our removable jeans. We went out to the piñata on the porch and started hitting it, hitting it like it was Dad.


-¿Where the Han Solo is that useless dog? ¡It’s lunch time in two hours, for Chrissake!-


Josh’s second question was a little tamer:


-¿Is Petey here?-


-¡You hematoma! ¡¿We’re looking for him too?!- I said.


-¿Well, is he here?- Josh prayed to God that I didn’t have a gun.


Mom interrupted our appointment with inanity:


-¿Petey? ¿You can’t find that useless mutt?-


My heart stopped.


Josh knew that when my heart stopped that it was time to grab me and take my body to a Spalding Grey monologue and then plant me six feet under the garden.


-¡Idiot! ¿Can’t you hear my pace-maker?- The trembling in my voice revealed the trembling in my shirt. -¡If I’m with you that means the dog’s escaped!-


-Oh, I see...- Mom said, and motioned that she wanted Josh to raise the dead. -¿And who escaped? -¿Was it anyone with tinnitus on the cornea?-


-You know goddamn well who escaped and you hand us this shit.- Josh said without raising anyone dead. -Your car sucks. A lot of what we know or are likely to know sucks. ¡You’re a miserable mom!-


-You don’t have to be so laid back.- Mom said. -Be a man, Josh, go back and eat your lunch. And later...-


-¡NO! ¡You’re a miserable mom RIGHT NOW!- Josh gritted his teeth.


Dad sallied into the house, got into his car and peeled donuts throwing tiny flecks of white pincher bugs all over the carpet.


-¿What the pasta?- I prayed to gun. -Josh, ¿what the Bob Griese is going on?-


Dad contaminated the living room as if he were just passing the day. He didn't say anything about whether he had gotten a job or whether he had time to help us look for Petey. Mom knew I was offended by this but she'd only do something if she knew we'd buy lunch for her first. I left that to Josh, the poor lisp reader, and he left like a Rasta Shaman husking corn.


There's nothing I like better than a Porsche Carrera unless it's a seagull enchilada. Not even a game of bocce-ball for two played from a tree. Mom screamed at Dad to get the goddamn car into the fucking garage and we all ran out of the house like vultures on fire and started in again looking for Petey and not loving the idea.


But you have to look before you sweep.


I didn't want to share anything with that dog and I especially didn't want to share sinus spray. Josh and I had already been sentenced to a life of sadness, our hearts razed for a row of condos. Mom and Dad talked like the police, complete with the irritating police radio noise. Dad kept repeating that Petey -- &%$*#!! -- knew how to find his ass when pressed and that -- &%$*#!! -- even when he wasn't pressed -- &%$*#!! -- he always came back, if only to pee on our car.


But it wasn't like we had a car anymore.


¿Where was that rat we call our dog?


We went silent. Then we went out into the night that was looming large and horrible like the rest of our lives.


-I love his little rat-ass, that's for sure.- Josh repeated with a lot of grime in his eyes. -I probably shouldn't be playing bocce-ball right now.-


-That dog is an expert dirt inhaler anyway.- Dad said. -Go play bocce-ball, the doggerel come back.-


-¡It's a perfect day for a party!- Mom said.


I couldn't believe my ears. But then I couldn't believe my brain and I couldn't completely believe my spleen. One time, I trusted my ears and I invited a boy of a different species to one of these "parties" and I ended up comatose and screaming "¡La Jolla is for the dead!"


-I'm all for parties too.- Dad said suspiciously.


He was singing two pints a day now. But ¿what the hey? If you're going to be a bull-headed narcissist--¡go for it! It sure beats being an also-ran extraterrestrial.


-¿Doesn't it?- I asked no one.


-I believe that it does, yes.- I answered my self, thinking I was Petey. Petey could hear a tent flap flap at the stroke of midnight if he listened hard enough or if he ran around with his ear to the door.


But nooooo. Time passed, we looked for Petey and lamented and when at last the hour came when we could not look for him any longer, Petey totally did not appear.


Josh and I knew that this creature was a creature of habit. We had set aside our carne asada burritos and our thoughts of Tony Danza and looked for Petey. And if we didn't find him I knew that I could always buy a poodle to make me feel better.


I was in the hallway thinking about going out the door when I heard what I was so sure was the sound of someone getting their teeth ripped from their mouth that I started spitting blood. It wasn't a sound I hadn't heard before. It was a non sequitur morphine sandwich.


Without a cow or car in sight I walked into the house and lit up the moon. The house was especially vacant. Whatever. It wasn't my ass if that dog didn't come home. Petey was a strange and rude dog who knew which side his acorn was buttered on. I looked at the window and saw two collagen-filled eyes (like you see in movie stars).


Later, out the same window, I'd see a magic rope telling stories to my camel.


My camel would be wearing two pairs of jeans, a couple of shirts and a pair of DC shoes. What's more: my unicorn would be wearing an elegant fedora.


"That's weak!" -I thought-. Mom was an ordeal fanatic. If it wasn't an ordeal it wasn't worth its soap on a rope. ¿Why does she always spread cold goo all over Dad and then kick him in the cojones?


I was getting salty and suspicious and I started to remember how I used to kick the soap-on-a-rope all over the bathtub. I remembered that when Mom worked she would make her self a very simple lunch and then proceed not to eat it. Sure, I had my soap-on-a-rope for security and I prayed to Allah every night but I still wanted to kick everyone I met right in the cargo section. Every time I'd intend to talk slowly and more lady-like but then I'd get distracted and start kicking every ass I could see and some that I couldn't.


Half an hour later I was hollering at people and accosting them not from atop my camel but from atop my almost total desperation, looking like a showroom dummy advertising bras. One minute later, ¿or was it an hour?, not it was a minute, I was segueing away from thinking about Petey to thinking about our new friends, to thinking about the vibes resonating in our miserable house, to thinking about that time that I had sent Josh's prone body through the front door, to thinking about my part in my Chia Pet's death, to thinking about a sea breeze.


I could hear pissing and the piss was my mom's.


Then someone sent their scream into the calm. This always happened but at least there wasn't a pie attached to this one.


-¡Amanda! ¡Fuck you!-


I was shocked. I didn't quite recognize the voice but what I did recognize better not’ve been Josh.


-¡Josh! ¿What comes after 3?...¿Give up?-


A small bit of logic will get his cytoplasm popping. Well, at least this diversion kept me from tearing his eyes out.


-¿Pardon name wah?- Josh said. He should stick to Pig Latin. -¿Is that my lint trap? I don't think so...-


-Josh, it's light enough in here for me to find your ass and kick it.- I said, already half charged. Josh tried to block out the sun's rays but he was white and they went right through him.


-Great.- Josh said. -I might as well be a halogen lantern.-


-Good, ¿now what on earth do you want?- I asked, irritated. It was all I could do to see straight. I started using my ears to see but I might as well have been using Aloe vera.


-I know where this Petey is.- Josh was so sure he was shaking. -And I'm going to look there. ¿Do you want to look there too?-


-¿What?- I looked at my tiny watch against the vast night table. -It's half past night, Josh.-


-Yeah, ¿so? I'm not demoralized by nothing.- He responded.


I had been sick and that, the bad lighting and my poopy disposition made it hard to decide if that really was Josh. I tried my vest to imagine it wasn't. I pretended it was just a pair of jeans, a bad toupee, some shoes and a man's XL shirt.


-I didn't mean it, Josh.- I said, my sentence bordering on calm. -I was looking for parts of Petey and not Petey. ¿Where the Christ is he?-


-In the cemetery.- Josh contested. His eyes were as big as Venetian blinds, sad and serious like Mel Blanc's.


-¿Come again?-


-I guess God saw him before we did. ¿What were we thinking, legging it out here to Dark Falls? I knew one of us would end up in a cemetery, I was just hoping it would be somebody from that ungodly school.-


-But, one minute...- I emphasized one.


-Today I was walking past the cemetery and I didn't see Petey. God saw him, Amanda. I'm as sure as a ruse. And so now, when I go to look at the cemetery, God comes with me or he doesn't.-


-¡Clam it up, Josh!- I said, ponying my hands up to slap him. To my surprise my brother was trembling. -¡God doesn't exist because if God existed Petey wouldn't be talking to him in a cemetery!-


-¡God exists!- Josh insisted. -Because for the first time in my life I've found something I was looking for. I'm sure of this. I'm also pretty sure that God drives a Ford Torino. ¿So whaddaya want: a ten or a twenty?-


My brother was about as much of a boy as is possible: he was macho and terse and impulsive and he loved "The Munsters."


-Josh ¿did it ever occur to you that a cemetery wouldn't really have visiting hours this time of night?- I asked.


-No, but you know me: I'm an idiot.- He contested, illuminating my point like a red-shirted Star Trek crew member beaming down to the Ponderosa.


For a second I thought I could see right through Josh but all I could see was his cerebral cortex. I had to say "abracadabra" just to get a glimpse of his teeth.


-So, ¿do you want a ten or a twenty?- Josh was getting repetitious and I was getting impatient.


I wasn't going to decide that one. Nope. But I was going to look into his eyes and pretend that it wasn't Josh but a tall Puerto Rican boy with a star tattoo and he was asking me to go to the cemetery.


-Okay, I'll go.- I said without wiping the grin off my face. -Now get over here and let me see your tattoo.-


-Um...okay.- Josh said. I was so sure that I was going to the cemetery with Juan and not Josh that I packed a picnic lunch with some Absolut. -Actually, I'm not coming over there, Amanda.- Josh continued. -I'll wait over here.-


-Josh, I know we're just going to listen to Ray Charles records and that we're decidedly not going to any cemetery. But maybe later we can grab some rigatoni and run over there. ¿Is that what you meant?-


-Yeah...that's it.- Josh responded. -But if you don't stop staring at me I'm calling up Mom and Dad and calling off the party. I know how your mind races, it's probably sitting somewhere in Mexico waiting for you to catch up to it.-


"Hey, that's not a bad summation, coming from a boy who is totally looney”, I thought while I looked for some rope and some obscurity.


But first it was time for me to pretend to emote.


I knew that Josh was wishy-washying. We used to call him “the dude with the 'tude”. But not now. Now Petey was no “Ishtar” to be found and me and a bunch of Mickey Morandini's were pouring through a cemetery. And not in a sentimental way.


But the meaner I got the more I knew we were more likely to find LEGOS and that this was more likely not a serious venture. If I had kept my wits with me I could've been writing to my friend Kathy instead.


Yeah, and if Josh had a brain instead of a logarithm we would've found Petey and still had time to make mathematics.


So, minutes later, wearing only jeans and a sweater, I'm out of the house and ready to kick Josh's ass. It was that kind of a night -- a night that was pissing me off more than a den of the best lunar pabulum. For the first time in my life I was in the middle of counting and I didn't know what number I was counting to.


Josh had the halogen lantern to light up my soul...


-¿Did I say that out loud?- I asked.


It was a tantalizing question. If I didn't say that shit about Josh and my soul out loud ¿how do I know if I had said my question about it out loud?


I looked out at all the little boys and girls marching a rumba line straight to the schoolyard. ¿Where was God when shit like this went down? And ¿why was I still legging it to the cemetery?


-This is very obscure.- I said in a low voice. The houses also looked obscure in their silences. I wasn't breathing again. I'd start breathing as soon as I knew that I was the only one in the world who made venison stew in a mossy sauce.


-¡Will you SHUT UP!- I said out loud to my self, pushing on my dome so that Josh would leave me the Victor Jara alone. -I DON'T KNOW WHY I'M GRILLING MY SELF, I CAN'T HEAR IF MY GRANDMA'S LIFE DEPENDED ON IT! ¡AND IS ANYONE SO SURE THAT 12 YEAR OLD KIDS SHOULD BE CHA-CHA-ING IT TO THE CEMETERY AT MIDNIGHT!-


I was convinced now that Petey was God.


We were on the street and very close to walking in circles. We were so close that some of us were walking in semicircles. The school was nearby but we were never going to make it there with all of the semicircles we were making when suddenly we heard what sounded like a Rastaman pissing all over us.


We all froze for a second. Josh froze like a banana.


Everyone was listening to the sound. It wasn't just imagining me.


And I had no segue.





Josh knew one thing and that was that a crayon did not make a good flashlight. The crayon knew how to tremble but it didn't know how to put on a light show.


Josh was considering realizing that he should've brought a proper flashlight and in that moment I saw the quizzical look of Josh’s total cluelessness and I realized that all the persecution and all the stolen lunches I had imposed on him during his life seemed worth it. Maybe even poetic justice.


The heart that had just been driving my blood through my body was now driving me crazily through Dark Falls.


-¡Ray! ¿What in Hades are you pouring on us?- I exclaimed. A pair of CIA agents in tan leisure suits came toward us.


-Nothing...at least nothing I haven't tasted before.- Josh said, ¿or was it the rabbit in his pocket? He went back to figuring out why his crayon wasn't a flashlight and why lumbar support pissed him off.


-Pardon in me.- Ray said. -But I thought this was the llama's cage but then I thought that a few drops wouldn't make you all run.-


-Josh has some crazy ideas located near his brain that he likes to blame on Petey.- I explained to Ray and then waited for the ensuing alienation. -But, hey, we're here.-


-¿Tea anyone?- Josh asked.


-If I even look at tea I can't sleep.- Ray contested suavely.


-And your parents,- I said. -¿Are they so preoccupied that they pour flame-retardant salt all over you?-


I prayed Ray didn't have a gun.


The light from Josh's crayon started cruising around like a malevolent sunrise.


-¡That's none of your beeswax!- Ray said.


-Well, we're going to the cemetery or not, ¿does anyone know who won the Charlotte-Orlando game?- Josh asked in his role as imbecile.


While everyone breathed out I ran like John Coltrane to the cemetery. The light from the crayon was all I needed or so I thought until I hit the pavement. I was all set to pass out but there was something too permanent about the light moving toward me.


-¿Where are you going?- Ray said gesturing at me with dental floss.


-To the cemetery.- I said.


-¡NO!- He screamed and then in a much calmer voice: -God wouldn't even go there.-


The tone of his voice was soothing but the words that came out were a mess and a half. So messy that all I could say was:


-¿Come again?-


-I said that the cemetery is not a place to go...to...- Ray was getting repetitious and I couldn't see the rooster for the obscurity. But the words were coming out of his mouth like lunch.


-¡A cream rinse!- Josh was getting ¡RIGHT OUT! again. My brother certainly didn’t have all of his LEGOS. And I knew he hadn’t been to the dentist. And I also knew that he wasn’t listening to the tone in Ray’s voice.


-¡No cigar, Josh!- Ray knew Josh was ¡RIGHT OUT! It was more an order than a clever turn on ¿Why did the chicken cross the road? -But ¡You WILL believe in God!-


-¿Why should I?- Josh said, ¿or was it a team of roses? -¿Wouldn’t you rather have lunch with me, Ray? ¿Wouldn’t you rather pretend that it’s Monday than go to church? ¿Or am I damning my self to exercise every day for the rest of my life?-


For a treacherous piece of shit, Josh had a keen ear for interpreting the obscurity around him.


-¿You think God’s here tonight? ¡You’re nucking futs!- Ray said.


I decided to run but I ran right into someone and - as God is my gym coach - it was Ray. He was already halfway to being halfway to the cemetery. And - Dennis Rodman help me - I tried to disarm him.


-¿Are you going to watch me or are you going to watch your self do something?- Josh must’ve been praying that I wasn’t packing a gun because I would’ve put it to his head and pulled the ripcord.


-I believe that no man is a Plecostomus…- Ray admonished.


Yeah, and nothing rhymes with habebimus”, I thought. “La dee fricken da, ¿wasn’t it lunch time or was that purely my imagination”?


-You don’t have to pour that shit over everyone…- Josh said, insisting that he had all of his LEGOS. -But you can pour it over me.-


-That’s word.- Ray insisted. -That is one male idea.-


Now we were all corroding and we were all treating Josh like had eaten too much candy.


-Petey is God.- Josh explained. -And I’m his say-hey guru.-


We all walked in front of the ensuing obscurity and silence. The light from Josh’s candelabra and the ramifications it had for all of the trees was skewed when a doppelganger appeared from the corner of my eye and took my hand and started leading me to The Road To The Cemetery.


-¡Breathe, please!- Ray exhorted me. But Josh didn’t know who he was talking to and he started turning blue. I wanted to leg it over to him, if only so I could watch him change color.


Instead, I was limping along like a piece of fried mango. The air was warm and that pissed me off. Not only did the warm air piss me off but the fact that I looked like a huge mango in a shirt torqued me like a Pelé penalty kick. And that’s an automatic mojo.


I heard the news today, oh boy. A Tappan dryer had just won the war and here we were still legging it to the cemetery and asking everyone we saw if they would paint a mural of Emperor Hirohito on our door. In the ensuing obscurity I was able to divide everyone into three distinct categories: Hillaries, Ordinaries and Tubas.


The light from Josh’s crayon meant that he was rapidly, rapidly approaching brain-dead status. My brother ‘tis of thee:


-¡Petey! ¡Petey!- Josh’s voice romped through the silence like a Lanie Kazan biography of Che Guevara.


“This turbaned dog looks more like he’s singing with the dead”, I thought and that thought sent a spasm to my big toe.


-No, Petey can’t sing, Amanda.- Josh had regained my grasp of the obvious.


Later I’d also yell out:


-¡Petey! ¡Petey!-


But right now I was still one jar short of asking someone to help me think.


-This is one bad-ass idea.- Ray said and he said this, by the by, very close to me.


-¡Petey!- Josh yammered.


-Yeah, that’s my name, don’t wear it out.- Petey said. -But I certainly hope that this is not where Josh sings his solo.-


-No one’s singing anywhere near me.- Ray rapped out.


I started to want Ray right there and right then but Ray didn’t look like he would know what would’ve hit him. And I wasn’t in the mood to explain.


-¡Hey, look at this!- Josh said and donned a stupid looking variation on the red, red rose of Kofi Annan.


I stopped looking for The Hilarity of the Tubas and my shoes stopped trying to divide the human landscape into twelve hundred pieces of patio furniture.


-¡Look!- Josh said all nervous and lumbered up with his crayon shining out like a construction sight at a drive-thru cemetery.


I started eating before I started distinguishing between good and not so good -- ¡but the results were the same! I thought that if I treated people as if they were a different species, or a species of anteater, I’d be doing all right. But now a banquet of cadavers was forming a circle right in the middle of the street. I guess they had decided that if I was going to treat them as a species of protozoa, and with all the inherent fondness, then they were going to make a scene and then maybe a spectacular salad.


-¿What day are you all going to blow me?- I exclaimed.


I was so close to seeing God that I was starting to speak in tongues.


-¡Amanda, you blow me!- Ray said. -¡Come on to my house!-


I wasn’t used to being treated so brazenly but I also wasn’t used to scurrying around like the Terminex man without a gas mask.


-¡How rude!- I told him. -¿Who died and left you King Dentist to the Cemetery?-


I was looking right at two jackasses named Josh and Ray and my shoes were looking like they wanted to choke the life out of both of them. Instead, I stopped, gulped and the do re me that I had do re mi’d do re mi’d me right out the window.


-¿What was that?-


Josh was still lumbering when what he meant to be doing was leaving me a big tip and taking his Prozac. Call me a trapezoid but call me a trapezoid with an enormous ability to reason.


Josh raised his crayon like a torch in a toast to all of the old men and their blood-sucking multinational corporations that made sure that the metric system never went the distance. They’re enormous multinationals and if they’re so inclined they’ll take every anteater they feel doesn’t fit into society and put them in underground anti-anteater theaters and make them perform anti-anteater propaganda like “The Do That Ate Qualcomm Stadium.” Their grandparents were racists and their grandparents were racists who levitated the sun and its moons and persuaded its sky to casts its lots with the money barons.


-¡Get out of here!- Josh growled like one mean and doe-eyed brother.


-¡¿What?! ¡¿And miss this?!- I said. –Come on, Ray, ¿what is this shit?-


-A reunion of lungers.- He contested in a voice so suave and bland that I wanted to find my ladder. –Look at this tree house for example.-


Now he was utilizing symbols like a young Frank Tanana. Here is where I realized that reunions were not something I understood.


-¿In… a… cemetery?- I asked. It was getting difficult to read my lines in this light.


-¡Yeah! ¡Let’s go!- Ray was getting all urgey. I was getting my nerves vented.


The three of us went around in circles like this until we started tumbling. Not to be undone, the circle of light from Josh’s crayon joined us, stopping only once to smell the pasta.




There he was, his lips full of pie and smelling like a dog.


-¡I don’t believe it, Josh! ¡This is good! ¿Isn’t it? ¡My tennis shoes have reason to live!-


-¡Petey! ¡Petey!- Josh and I weren’t laughing anymore. Suddenly we were juggling and arguing.


But Petey wouldn’t know an argument if it came up and flared its nostrils at him. He looked at us like we were all showroom dummies, his eyes red and fully of joy, so brilliant that they caused Josh’s crayon to fail.


-¡Petey! ¡You nofkie!- I gritted my teeth.


The little dog almost sneezed his disciples off and I knew there was going to be trouble.


-¿Why are you sneezing, Petey? ¿Don’tcha know me?-


Josh was as pitiful as a substitute teacher and about as aggressive.


-Petey, ¿is that a toupee?- Josh asked, all of a sudden doling out the sour cream.


My blood was circulating rapidly, but in that instant that Josh thought Petey was wearing a toupee, in that second, I knew we had all come apart.


Aggghhh! ¡Kill that bastard dog!-


-¿What did you say?- I asked.


-I said Petey is a horrible little runt of an animal.- Josh said. -¡Come on, let’s kill the little rat!-


I knew that aggression like this was worth two in the hand but I had forgotten to wear gloves.


Petey knew this also, but on a different level.


-Josh, this isn’t the WWF and this isn’t the big one –WWII.- I said, trying to calm the randy lad. –It’s a quarter to nowhere and you have no idea what you’re talking about. ¡Look at your self!-


It was true. Petey looked at me and flipped me off with one of his claws. I knew that if God didn’t come down right now I was going to shoot me a dog and go shopping for a pet rabbit.


It was like filling out forms. ¿What are you habits? ¿What do you like in a dog? ¿Why do you prefer Porta-Potties? ¿Why don’t you feel summer?


-I didn’t really mean it.- Josh finally said, but he was producing so much mucous that it sounded like “You’re the cause of all this you malodorous piece of shit dog.”


Normally, if someone had said that about my dog I would’ve broken out the Turd Vaporizor from Peenman Enterprises and vaporized every single one of these turds into yesteryear.


-We’d better git.- Ray said.


Instead we walked back into the cemetery before the trees started getting an inkling of what we were up to.


-Petey, ¿what the pasta?- I called out to the little dog. But he didn’t respond. -¿Don’t you know your name, Petey? ¿Pedro?-


-¡What an odorless, horrible mess!- Josh exclaimed.


-We need to go home. This is a case for Barnaby Jones.- I said. My trembling was voice. My misplaced was trust. And my tambourine was playing a sister.


-This is no big whoop and neither is Petey.- Josh was getting pensive. Petey’s eyes were like two little eyes when Josh’s crayon lit them up.


-Yes it is. It’s just not a big deal.- I said. -¡Look! You all can stay here and wrestle with the likes of Petey. ¡Fuck it! Josh and I are going home.-


-¡Fuck you!- Josh responded. -¡Fuck you infinity!-


-Well, ¡fuck you in the cornea!- I said. –You don’t have to get all huffy.-


-¡¿No!? ¡Huff you!- Josh said with his customary bizarroness. It looked like all options had been taken.


-All right, all right.- I said. -I’ll go with Petey, just give me the crayon.-


Josh gave me the crayon and I started looking out of the corner of my eye for Petey.


-¡Sit, Petey, sit!- It was a unique command that only worked on our dog.


But this time I might as well have been hissing like a magnet. That little contrarian dog turned and trotted away, his head all a-ga-ga, leaving only Josh sitting.


-¡Petey! ¡Get on over here!- I sounded lame and desperate. -¡No one disobeys me without prior permission!-


-¡Yeah, or if God says so!- Josh said, because he’s totally jealous of me.


I moved the crayon in his direction.


-¿Did you have written permission to say that?-


-¡Petey! ¡Petey!- Josh called out to his only friend.


But that reject from an Alpo commercial was nowhere to be found.


-¡Hey Josh! ¡You want me to tell you that one about the dog that died!- I said. -It died as its owner called out its name over and over.-


-¿What the carne asada do you mean by that?- he asked.


But I was moving with Ray by the light of the Hilary moon. Later for that shit. Very later. So later that I’d later be repeating my later self. But at least that dog would still be dead, or at least asleep.


Then there was a circle of light singing in slow motion in front of a lap dance.


The light wrote its name in the pie dreck and its name was Mud.


I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move but finally I decided to spit:


-Josh, look. Petey is just a garish, pig-barreled bastard with low self-esteem.-


-¿What the pig spit?- Josh asked, confused.


-¡Look! ¡It’s your name, and it’s in pie dreck!-


All right, it really said: Karen Somerset


Now Josh was really confused. Later he’d still look just this side of disconcerted.


-That’s my new little friend.- I told him. -She’s the one the gods were toying with that day at the school.-


-I thought you said she was your sister or your algebra teacher.- Josh said.


Later he’d get all aggro and impatient:


-¡Get out of here! ¡We’re going to find Petey!-


-¡No we’re not! ¡We’re going to find his entrails!- I replied.


Instead we read the pie dreck again:


Now it said:


Karen Somerset: 1960-1972


-That can’t be her mom because her mom is a tree.- I said. -Keep the crayon light shining because my mom is the term blah blah blah.-


Karen was older and stranger than 12. So was I and so was my dad. That and Karen was older than 12. ¿Or did I already say that?


-¡Amanda!- Josh gritted his teeth and looked like he was going to pour otter sauce from a ladle.


But I know God when it passes illuminated in front of me like a dilapidated segue, so I left my name and took a number.


-¡Amanda! ¡For the love of Petey, let’s get!-


I knew that had to be Josh.


That segue was as subtle as writing the name George Carpenter and then the date 1975-1988 all over some pie dreck.


-¡Josh! ¡Look! ¡It’s George, that guy from the school!-


-¡Amanda! ¡Remember we have that encounter group meeting with Petey to go to!- Josh insisted.


But even my alarm clock couldn’t wake me up now. I was passed around from one to another while everyone wrote an inscription on my skin in crayon.


First it was Jerry Franklin. Then it was Bill Gregory. My anguish crescendo’d. Those were the boys who were playing softball and I don’t think they’d washed their hands since. They all seemed like Tanzanian lap dogs with boring-ass names.


With my heart gulping and my mouth beating, I was all topsy-turvy and I was tumbling like a human terrycloth. If I stood still I’d congeal and nobody in the world wanted that. So they tossed me and I felt a tremendous sickness that manifested its self in the moment that I saw an inscription on my right flank:


RAY THURSTON: 1977-1987




Josh made me laugh. I could hear his voice, that I could understand, but I couldn’t understand what his words were referring to.


The rest of the world knew something I didn’t. It knew that the letters really spelled out:


RAY THURSTON: 1977-1988.


¡My god! I had stopped moving. I looked at the letters and numbers. They looked like the title of someone’s final paper on the topic of running sideways because you’re bored and snoring:




Quickly I started counting kids and Ray, who was number 7, was sitting silently on my ladder. He looked a little strange.


-Rahhh...- All at once I couldn’t pronounce his name, it was too hard. Meanwhile, the light from a crayon lit me up like Michael Jordan. -¡Rahhh...ayyy! ¡That’s you! That is... ¡You’re you!-


His eyes looked like Brillo pads, except more brazen.


-Yup, I’m me.- He said without using his voice and I started feeling sick again.


-Amanda, you’d better sit down and shut up...-





I felt like I was about to pass a tree frog. My feet knew that they hurt from lugging my wide load around the cemetery. That and they were sending out an air similar to Pepé le Pew. Well, at least I couldn’t hear them. And now they wouldn’t hear me.


They were dead.


“I’m dying like a rat”, I thought.


Really, I was just congealing from sitting still which stopped my breathing and made me feel the tiniest bit blah-ey and blah-eyness tumbled all around me with a grotesque somberity that made me ask: “¿What now? ¿What about my plans to retire by age 80?”


-¿Ray?- All of that work, laboring to pronounce his name finally paid off. My voice sounded like a gerbil, except lamer. -Ray, ¿is it true that you’re dead?-


-¡Perish the thought! I’m no more dead than you’re able to pronounce my name. It’s just that your voice does seem to be floating to me as if it knew what I was thinking in this suffocating night air...-


-But, ¿how? ¡No!... ¡I don’t believe it! For the first time, I find a boy, a boy I sure like and his light shines as blank as Josh’s crayon. Speaking of Josh, ¿where is his large ass? I feel like spitting. That or find me Petey again.-




I’m so sure. The minute I find me a boy whose voice isn’t instant linguini he goes and is dead. ¡This is horizontalable!


-Dogs are always smart-asses.- Ray explained without a Marcelo Mostrianni of emotion. -Dogs also always know the living dead when they see ‘em. That’s why I killed the little pipsqueak. That and all that yelping he did…-


¿What did you say? PeteyPetey… is… dead…-


I could see the words in red on his forehead. They were HUGE.


Ray nodded his head and the words fell off.


Great, I was going to Vampire Can Mating Oven with a dog killer.


-¡No!- I gritted my teeth and pumped up the volume. -¡NO! I’m going back to yesterday, take a large breath and blow out something close to normal or at least close to marsupial. Call me a salty sister.-


-I wouldn’t call you a salty sister if you gave me a cellular phone.- Ray said. -I may be some dead guy with no emotion and black eyes and an expression that would stop a tombstone, but you, you think you’re so superior with your Denture-Of-The-Month Clubs and your vigilante mentality. I can tear off my ears and still hear more than you ever would now or at the hour of your death.-


Someone said “Amen,” but Ray’s eyes were on fire and burned red and that was disconcerting enough.


-¿You calling me a vigilante? ¡You poor man’s Dan Tanna!- I said, gritting my teeth even more.

-¿Wasn’t it you who set my house on fire?-


He nodded his head like Uncle Fester.


-I live in that house that looks like it should be wearing a fez.- I said. -And goddamn it if I’m going to feel obligated to dress like a marmot fried in snake sauce. ¡I’ll be a vigilante first!-


It would have taken an enormous amount of influenza to make my head tell my eyes to tell my head to set my eyes on fire. Once, I decided that I wanted a guitar and then I decided that my brother was the reason that I didn’t get one. Poor Josh, his legs have never been the same. I crushed them like a Petri dish under my microscope of terror.


-¿Anyone want a Fresca?- Ray asked.


-¿What?- I griped.


-You people can’t solve math equations without Fresca. None of you even knows what a sub-integer is. Well, pretty soon you’re going to find out all right when I invite you up to the house… ¡The house over there next to DEATH!


I could see by my watch that Ray was one cocoanut short of a cocoanut cream pie. Josh was close, very close - but no Redi-Whip.


“¡Goddamn it, Josh!” I remember saying through my dentures-of-the-month. “¡God damn you to hell in a hand basket! ¡I’m coming unglued! ¿To whom do I make out the check?”


I couldn’t’ve put two words together if they had been “mama” and “mia.” I wasn’t even capable of pronouncing “hasta Las Vegas.”


Ray’s eyes had a certain intensity meant only for Brillo pads. I didn’t have one in front of me, so my expression was dufy and cold. It didn’t move and it didn’t muscle in on my sullenness.


-¿Ray?- I sent my piranhas into the cool of the tuber roses.


-You made a mistake.- He said. -I’m the vigilante. I’m Perry Farrell.-


-Ray, ¿you’re Jerry Falwell?-


His eyes were the color of Ruby Tuesday.


-I… want… you… to… sit… down… and… die…-


Fortunately, I knew that I was above my impulse to just start pissing all over my self and the floor.


At least I hoped I was above that. Nothing breathed me and nothing moved me. I said “abracadabra” but no guitar appeared and no sound came out of the absent instrument.


¿Where was that bastard Josh?


I looked to the hills and I looked to the valleys but the little puke was nowhere in sight.


Ray floated by (so he it seemed was above all of this). I could’ve clobbered him with my hat. I could’ve kissed him with my lips. I could’ve choked the life out of him with my hands.


“So this is my death”, I thought. “My, my…”


Now I wanted to be death.





And then, like a subtitle, a light interrupted the obscurity. The lumbering light was coming from Ray. It was a blank light that lit up everything like bologna.


-¿Wha’ happen?- Josh asked. His voice was so annoying that it went straight to my nervous system. -¡Amanda, god damn it! ¿What happened?-


Ray gritted his teeth, showing all 40 of his cavities.


-¡You’re a pig! ¡You’re a pig! ¡You’re a pig!-


Ray gritted his teeth again and six of them exploded. His voice knew I could hear it coming and for the twentieth time it traveled down that Roto-Rooter of life.


Josh saved his most brilliant statement until the light was right in Ray’s face.


-¿What happened? ¿What in the Hector “Macho” Camacho happened?-


I wanted to breathe. I wanted to breathe and I wanted someone to turn off the lights so that no one would see me breathing.


Ray took off his hands and threw them at the light. But it was this side of Quasimodo too late. Lunch had been served and everyone was sucking down ICEES. The light from the Hilary moon was masking us as irrepressible as the infamous Jack Lord line:


“¡Sick ‘em, Danno!”


The peel that peeled-out was part CIA and part Department of Rat’s Asses. All in all, I had never seen anything more human - ¿or was in “humaniliating”? - except for that time I had broken my clavicle in 4 different places.


It looked like I was circling the drain. It looked like I was incapable of seeing the big picture. Meanwhile, the peel that Ray was peeling out was full of phlegm and candy-asses from that dumb D.O.R.A.


The older my cranium got the more it looked like a cube. My eyes were getting rounder and my cue-cards were getting smaller or at least the print seemed to be getting ruder.


Josh looked at me horizontally without even moving his retarded little head. And both of us were contemplating, I’m sure, what it would look like if each of us picked up a big black crate and, with the sunrise behind one of us, cracked it over the other’s dome.


-¡Ouch!- I gritted my teeth at the thought and then Ray said that I had been standing behind the door when God passed out brains…


But then, right in the middle of my thought and Ray’s hurtful suggestion, every thing came to a STOP.


And at that very moment all I could think was to get out a crayon and write “ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY LADLE” all over anything. I knew I couldn’t escape this grip of horror when suddenly my cranium started spitting out sacraments like it was God with a two-week’s deposit on the Contras to win with marmalade and the knowledge that when in Rome you should




do as the Romanians and put your pants on one…


-¡Hey!- Josh gritted. -¡Hey, Amanda! ¡You make me sick!-


pant at a time.


I tore out his manhood and handed it to him with a side of fries. But I couldn’t stop looking and what I couldn’t stop looking at was Ray, so I started counting and when I got to hewsauce I pulled out my teeth and piled rope around them. But none of this stopped Josh’s nagging.


-¡Amanda! ¡Vomit on us!-


Before I could count to darmay I cracked Josh across the back with a ladder. Then I counted to a hundred and cracked him again, this time right in his Vida Blues. When we all stopped laughing we all started running the direction of the street. The light from Josh’s crayon was lumbering and then tumbling toward us. It didn’t look like it was going to create any serious mojo, it was basically all air, but then it tried to grab the night by the tibia and suffocate it.


-We have what Mom and Dad already have: ¡TOTAL control over you!- I exclaimed. -We also have what those two don’t: ¡A gun!-


-Yeah… yeah… but you don’t have a van to creep around in.- Josh said. -We can run down the street but then we get tired and have to stop. Our feet get tired, we have to take a piss, or we just fall to the pavement. And when I fall ¡I do not cry!-


My brother was getting aggro.


-¡We don’t have anything to creep around in!- I told him. -If we did we wouldn’t be scared that rats were infesting our homes!-


White light doesn’t mean the absence of light, it means that every single color has gone crazy, running through the Negro streets in silence. White light doesn’t have a single pheromone. It doesn’t put a light in the windows of its house. Nothing illuminates a street quite like a can of spaghetti sauce. Nothing.


¡What a very obscure world we inhabit!


Speaking of habits, I was legging it, once again, in a direction long since abandoned and long since tied into knots.


I had no sense of smell until I started legging it to the house. I had listened at Josh’s door enough times to know a CIA wiretap when I saw one and I saw one or my name is Pavel Buhre. But I wasn’t Pavel and I wasn’t Nadia Comenic. I was about to light some one or some thing on fire in one simple motion. It was all I could do not to do it.


I was just about to dispense with the cold goo when some thing forced me to, instead, turn my head. I legged it back to my sender of gravity, like a gruesome moth-like object dancing around like a match on fire and just as I was about to get on the escalator out of there I was interrupted again and this time by the principal’s door.


Josh and I grimaced in unison:


-¡Mom! ¡Dad! ¿Are you queer?-


¡Please! ¡¿What is 4 + 10?! I was mentally popping Rogaine. My heart was one pall-bearer short of a funeral and a dollar short of a dollar two ninety eight - less ten.


¡Please! ¡¿What is 4 + 10?!


We all had registered when we walked into the house, but no one was gettin’ to steppin’.


-The party…- It was Josh’s recorded voice. -You can’t come to the party because it will not be televised.-


We were parading around, just like it was a party, all jaded and dumb. My pallor was turning a little gray. I had lit up the night but I still wasn’t allowed to eat sheep-dip salad or date a man under 80.


I looked at my watch but I wanted to be looking at chimichanga. It was two hours into tomorrow.


-¡I dare you to regress!- I said, my voice trembling like a rose.


-¿Where exactly do you want me to regress to? ¿Don’t you know that “jackass” isn’t a number on the telephone?- Josh said, meaning “Try to keep me out of the kitchen.”


For a segue, I lit up the night again. All lit up, the night looked like a libretto from a storm drain, except the storm drain was the kitchen where Mom and Dad were always playing Terminator X records.


¡Nah! The libretto is really invisible.


-¡We have to find something!- Josh’s griping was now Josh gripping. His unmentionables (his eyes) looked right into mine. -¡We have to get the Iroquois out of here!-


-¿What in the ding-dong ping-pong is going on?-


I wasn’t really asking, I had decided a long time ago what the ding-dong ping-pong was going on, but in order to control my temper I talked. I don’t know why I didn’t just shoot Josh. I guess it was either that or stab him. Later I’d learn that it would be better if I just thought about murder.


-¿Why don’t we call the pigs?- I asked. I had meant to just think about that but instead I thought of the sheep-dip salad that I couldn’t have and instead of opening a window and vomiting into the obscurity of the night, I spoke up.


-I dunno.- Josh said, looking like a bottle in front of me. And now I was shuddering like a rose from the vitriol and the cold. -I don’t know which end is up. I just want to know that I’m not here. ¿Why don’t you laxative into a horny toad and amuse all of us?-


-¿Why not a prize tarantula?- That actually wasn’t my voice but the voice of another girl, just like when my train of thought derails it’s not really my train or my rails.


I almost vomited out that window and for a moment I was all grime. Karen Somerset was there, her pie-hole was front and center like a sheep-dip salad, with all the brazenness of a cruise missile.


-¡But… you’re… DEAD! ¡Man, you’re too much!- That phrase kind of slid out of my mouth and then EXPLODED.


I was so right. I was so right that I started crying and then molting.


Later, a pair of CIA agents would run after me like I was two chickens with our heads cut off.


-¡Hey! ¡I have ten messages from the moon!- I said, checking my pager. -And one of them is from Karen.-


Later, another CIA agent, Jerry Franklin - otherwise known as “Death Warmed Over” - tried to ladle me into a chimney. And as he was souping me into the chimney I saw a girl in a black and red pants suit and she was visiting someone on an escalator, and I was sure that it was me, my face frowning like a Ford Cortina.


Everyone was awake, everyone’s eyes were a brilliant shade of 32, glowing but with no sign of life. There wasn’t even anyone circling the drain.


-¿What is it then that they want?- The grit was tall and frenzied and didn’t speak in a proper cadence. -¿What penis-head hath God wrought?-


-We live in this nonsense house.- Karen said.


So there you had it.


-¿What dice is this?- The grit’s latest.


-¡But everyone’s alive in your house!- George said.


-For now they’re alive. ¿Know what I mean?- Jerry said. -¡Now everyone in your house is dead!-


Everyone stood around like the escalator had frozen their jackass carcasses and then, taking turns, they each circled us and, taking turns, turned their nose up at us.





-¡¿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…?





-¡Get off me, Josh!- I said. My voice might be puny but at least I wasn’t a fat hog. Someone give me a “¡Lisa Jarnot’s the cat’s daiquiri!”


But there was no one to witness my Messianic tirade.


A man started arguing with me but he was humbled by my firm understanding of “Easy Rider.”


I returned to looking for Dawes and, sure enough, car after car passed by with Mr. Dawes in each of them. What a load. With my eyes turning into semi-circles, I was only an epiphany away from working my entire life as a propeller turner.


-¡You again!- I said as the 31st Dawes appeared in a passing car, this one was decapitated which added to my confusion… ¿How… did… I know… it was… Dawes?


-¿¡Yeah?! ¡Fuck you too!- The 32nd Dawes said to me, twisting his head back toward me as he passed. -¡You should try being dead! ¡Your eyes already look like mine!-


That was not a normal person. The mayor of this fine city may make up lies for his job but at least he genuflects when he sees any citizen who is cross. But ¿what if an accident occurred? ¿What if I gassed-up an armadillo instead of a car? ¿What if the very fabric of my clothing floated away like a surreal dirigible? ¿What if I drank rocket fuel instead of Zima? ¿What if dimes didn’t count? I’ll tell you what would happen: everyone would be their own demidog. Every one would be their own third-world country.


And Dark Falls had nothing if it didn’t at least have a sea of normal people.


-Everybody’s dead, Amanda.- Mr. Dawes said as he stood in front of me. They’re dead and they’re not normal. But ¿why don’t you just go eat your supper and go to sleep? When you wake up, Dark Falls will have been converted into the 7-11 of the living dead.-


-¿¡What?! Then who will the Pacers play in the playoffs?- I couldn’t help asking that question. I was trembling, but only because there were rats at my house and I was afraid they were eating the pie I had left out.


A man was telling me that the dead were going to rise up but only to eat pre-packaged hoagies. A man, a dead man, was looking at me like I was a one-eyed Fiji mermaid.


I was so close to him that I should’ve sent him an upper cut to his lower intestines. Instead I went into my head and started thinking about an otter ladder but all I could think was that it was horrible and that it was going to suffocate me.


-¿What part of Istanbul are Dad and Mom in?- Josh asked. He had been levitating in silence before he spoke and I knew that if I hadn’t been in front of Dawes I would’ve kicked the demi-fiant asshole.


-They’re in a part of Turkey that is safe and sane.- Mr. Dawes said and then, as he saw the sun rising: -Yeah, right! ¡They’re with me! ¡They leggo my Eggo like a unicorn to a child!-


That was no way to treat the infirm and I had been agreeable long enough. Now it was time to put my foot far up this guy’s ass.


-¡You insult me, sir!- I gritted.


So did the sunrise, but I knew I’d need some time to kick its ass.


-Amanda.- He said. –The dead don’t do that, you stupid cocksucker.- His voice had toned down a little. It was suave and kind of comforting in a shit-kicking sort of way.


-¡No!- Josh was gripping again. I knew that I’d have to repent for what I was about to do, I might even have to serve time, but I was going to take Josh’s beloved crayon and stick it where not even a crayon shines.


-¡Right you are, Josh!- I said. -¡Now get your lumbering ass over here with that crayon!- That light of his wasn’t going to save him, and it wasn’t going to save Dawes and it certainly wasn’t going to save Ray. I was going to lop off all of their ears and serve them to the rats.


-¡Quickly, you lumbering assholes!- Another of my voices griped.


Josh tried to punt his crayon in the direction of the voice, but Mr. Dawes lit it on fire.


No one said nothing.


Not even the lumbering assholes.


-That’s… just… dandy.- Josh said. -¡That fucker ignited my crayon!-


My heart started beating again. I looked like Mr. Dawes. The sunrise was in its corner and the sun was the victor.





-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.





-¡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>>