Writing by Hannah Chung
An excerpt from ELOISE
Obviously, it wasn’t Eloise’s first rodeo. Or even her second. Or even a rodeo. The point was that Eloise was well-versed in driving the children at the hotel mad. The hotel had been her home for nearly a decade, and in that time it had remained virtually unchanged.
Sure, the ice machines had been replaced once and the taco shop down at the beachfront had been involved in some money laundering scandal (and promptly replaced by a hamburger place) but other than that, life went on just as it always had. Businessmen and tourists and visitors swarmed in and out by the week, and the children’s club Eloise reigned supreme over was nearly always full of new victims dropped off by tired mothers and fathers.
Eloise always had her fun with the children’s club. Her golden rule over the club had lasted nearly two years. But now she was ten years old and much too old for child’s play. If pressed, Eloise would admit that perhaps she was not too old for the club. They did accept everyone under twelve, to be fair.
Truth to be told, Eloise had grown sick of routine. There were always new faces at the children’s club in the summer, when the beaches were even whiter and the water even bluer. But the children were almost always snobby, or they had this look in their eyes Eloise could not stand — cow eyes, dull and empty. Being the child of some weasley businessman or tycoon was synonymous with the bovine aura Eloise had seen so often. That, Eloise knew, was one of the universal natural laws, alongside gravity and whatnot.
The weasel sons and daughters of the weasel men would come down to the beaches and the hotel and lie still like pale dead seals on the sand. When dusk fell, they would plod into the dining room and eat listlessly. The summers would have been dull just like them, if it weren’t for Eloise.
Oh, if it weren’t for Eloise! She was a hero, truly. Truly. She was the one who had convinced Sheldon Walsworth Jr. from last summer that the sink dripping throughout the night meant that he was being watched by ghosts. He ate it up, of course. He ate it up and called his father up. The next day, he was gone, but not before a night of hysterics. Eloise had watched gleefully. It was a little bit funny. All his life, Sheldon had been spoon-fed with no reason to distrust the hand that supplied. He wasn’t stupid, exactly. Well, he was.
But Sheldon Walsworth Jr. was more naive than stupid. It made sense to him that ghosts would want to watch him. Not because of his father’s wealth, though Sheldon Walsworth Sr. did own half the real estate in Southern California, apparently. But Sheldon Walsworth Jr. had always been taught that he was dear and lovely, and who wouldn’t want to oblige someone so dear and lovely?
Also, he had never been taught that sinks could even need fixing. Eloise supposed he would learn somewhere along the way that appliances could break. But that was not her job. Her job had been to entertain. And that she did. The Sheldon incident was one of the more minor ones, for from the age of six, Eloise had terrorized the weasel children (and sometimes even the weasel parents) with her practical jokes.
She was like one of those twelve plagues brought upon the Egyptian pharaoh in Exodus. Eloise had loved that story since she was a child. She wasn’t religious, of course, though her mother was. She wasn’t religious, and her mother was more like a sister. A mother-sister, Eloise liked to think of it that way.
Her mother-sister was named Celine, and she was twenty-six years old, and she was very beautiful. Beautiful in the way Eloise thought she might never be. Perhaps if her mother-sister spent more time with her, the beauty might have rubbed onto her more and she would not be so
skinny and sharp-angled and rough-looking compared to the fat milky weasel children who had none of the cleverness of their fathers.
Celine was beautiful in the way you might expect an angel or a Greek goddess to be. Eloise had heard from the hotel staff that her mother had received roses as often as one might drink water or change underwear. Celine was a very devout Christian, though in her own right. She did not attend mass like Mrs. Ollen, the cleaner down the hall, did, and she didn’t tithe or know hymns or pray. She was not affiliated with the church at all, but every living moment of every day, Celine talked to Jesus like he was her best friend on the phone.
Eloise had witnessed this the few times Celine came to visit from her apartment in New York, where she lived with a pianist and two painter-sculptors. Celine would ask Jesus out loud if the pink scarf or the orange went better with her top, or she would let him know that her hair was tangled. To be completely frank, Eloise was a little bit jealous of all the attention going to Jesus.
But today, today was a bright blue afternoon and her mother had not visited in months. Eloise was sitting in the lounge of the hotel’s first floor, and she was waiting for the new batch of weasley children to finish slathering themselves with sunblock (per request of their mothers) before heading to Rory Beach.
Eloise hated Rory Beach. There were no rocks, only white sand for what seemed like miles and miles. There were ticks in the bushes near it, and the weasel children never knew and had nasty encounters. They would come blubbering to her, because as the ruler of the children’s club, she was a natural leader. Eloise would reassure them that the ticks were dark pieces of sand that had stuck onto them, and they would ask her again after dinner if she was sure, because for some reason they weren’t washing off. That made her feel a little better.
One of the weasel children tapped her on the shoulder. Eloise jerked. It was stupid old Henry Pollack. Eloise hated Henry Pollack a little bit, though not too much.