I am Audrey. I am six. I live at the Great Northern Hotel.
The Great Northern Hotel is in the middle of a forest, with trees that are so tall they brush against the moon. I don't go out there much because my mother is afraid that I'll fall over the waterfall. One time there was a man who fell over the waterfall and Daddy said he was a drunk. I don't know what that means so I stay far away just in case I'm a drunk too.
My family lives in a big suite on the top floor of the Great Northern. I have a room all to myself.
These are the things in my room:
• A big bed with a lace cover and lots of pillows
• A bookshelf with all my books
• A dresser made out of wood with shiny gold knobs
• A television which is yellow and has a knob that turns and goes clunk clunk clunk
I'm the only girl I know with her very own television in her room. Someday I would like to lay in bed all day and watch cartoons and play with a flashlight in the tent under the covers. But whenever I try, my mother comes in and puts up the shades and pulls the covers off and takes my cereal box away and says it's time to get up and put that cereal away for God's sake Audrey.
By the time I come to breakfast my daddy is gone to work and my mother has already had a piece of toast with no butter so I pick up the phone and call Room Service. They always know it's me. I say, "This is Audrey Horne" and they say, "Yes, miss?" and I say, "Could you please send up Mickey Mouse pancakes for me and my brother Johnny and chocolate milk and eggs-in-the-basket and put it on my father's account thank you very much."
Johnny is 15, but he's not like the other big brothers I see in the hotel, the ones who poke their little sisters and make faces at them and say "Fatty fatty two by four, can't get through the bathroom door." He's nice to me. He even lets me play with his dolls.
Johnny doesn't like it when I make loud noises. He likes it when I sing to him. I sing Itsy Bitsy Spider, and Miss Suzy Had a Steamboat, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town even when it's not Christmas, until my mother comes in and says, "Stop bothering your brother and eat your breakfast for God's sake Audrey."
So I eat my breakfast for God's sake Audrey and then I go downstairs to the kitchen to say thank you very much for breakfast and do you have any cookies and can I help make the bread for dinner? I like to measure the flour and pour in the water and punch the dough and I'm mostly pretty good about not spilling.
Ray doesn't like for me to help in the kitchen. Sometimes he starts to yell at me but Louise tells him to remember who I am. I tell him I'm Audrey but he always forgets. Louise tells me that I can't stay in the kitchen because it's dangerous with all of the knives and the hot stoves so I go find Clara to help her with the cleaning. She's usually in the lobby and she gives me a rag and a spray bottle and lets me help polish the wood.
Everything in the Great Northern Hotel is made of wood. The walls are made of wood and the floors are made of wood and the ceiling is made of wood and the chairs and the tables and the doors are all made of wood. There's even a fish made of wood hanging above the fireplace in the dining room. One time it fell down but I don't think it was because I threw that orange at it.
Clara says all the wood came from the forest right outside the door. Sometimes I wonder if it hurts the trees to cut them down. I asked my Daddy but he told me I was being silly and they're just trees.
These are the things my father likes:
• Going on trips
• A damn fine steak, rare
• Being the owner of the Great Northern
These are the things my father doesn't like:
• Noise for God's sake Audrey
I don't have any pets of my own but there is a woman who carries around a log and I think that's her pet so I got some sticks and pretended they were bunnies and made them hop hop hop around the hotel. I got tired of carrying them around after a while so I put them in the fireplace and pretended there was a fire and I was a firefighter and I tried to save them with a glass of water but I didn't get there in time. Now I'm not allowed to dump water in the fireplace anymore for God's sake Audrey.
There are doors in the walls that are just my size and if I open them I can walk behind the walls of the rooms and sometimes I can peek into the rooms through little holes in the walls. Usually it's pretty boring though, just people watching television or mommies and daddies playing.
Sometimes when I go inside the walls I take a sandwich with me and pretend that I'm exploring the woods. There are bears and eagles and lions in the woods, but I'm very brave and fight them off when they try to steal my sandwich. I take it and hide in a cave and eat while I'm looking at the drawings on the walls. It's a cave with no owls, though, I don't like owls.
I like to play spy. I asked my mother to buy me one of those black notebooks with a flippy cover that the policemen use on television. They're much more official than notebooks with hearts on them. I take my notebook with me and watch Daddy's office through the hole in the wall and make very careful notes about everyone who comes in.
Mrs. Hayward comes to see Daddy a lot. She's always nice to me at church, even though she never gives me a ride in her wheely chair. She has a daughter my age named Donna, but Donna never comes to the Great Northern. I wish she would. The doors are just the right size for her too.
Mr. Palmer comes to see Daddy a lot too. I think he must have very good hearing because he always turns around to look at the hole in the wall where I'm hiding. He never sees me, though. As soon as he turns around I scoot away from the hole in the wall and hide until they leave.
Then I go see Johnny, because he's my spy boss and I have to tell him everything I find out. He spends a lot of time with my mother because he can't take care of himself very well. That's why he's the spy boss, because he can't sneak around behind the walls and write things down like I can. Sometimes when I tell him about what I saw, he gets upset and starts yelling and my mother makes me go find something else to do where I'm not in the way.
I like it best when there are other children staying in the hotel. The Great Northern has lots of big poles with faces and animals carved into them. I like to hide behind them when we play hide and seek. They sometimes scare the other children, but not me. Another fun game is to take our shoes off in the hallways and skate down the shiny wood floors in our sock feet until we run into somebody and Clara tells me to leave the guests alone and go back upstairs to my parents because it's time for dinner.
Daddy doesn't take us down to the restaurant for dinner anymore because he says it's not good for Johnny. If he's home, he has dinner sent up and we eat all together like a family and we pass the salt and talk about how work went today and whether I behaved. I usually did.
Other nights, Daddy has to work late and my mother doesn't feel like eating and just needs to lie down for a little while because it's been a long day. So I call Room Service and say, "This is Audrey Horne," and they say, "Yes, miss?" and I say, "Could you please bring me chocolate chip cookies and buttered carrots and a damn fine steak, rare and put it on my father's account thank you very much." Then they say, "Oh my, Miss Audrey, you mustn't say damn," and I giggle because they just said damn. I don't like to call Room Service for dinner so much because Norman usually brings my dinner and he scares me. He's too tall and so very very old and he can't move very fast.
These are more foods I like:
• French fries
• Red velvet cake
• Macaroni and cheese
These are the foods I don't like:
• Creamed corn
After dinner it's time to take a bath and get ready for bed. I don't have pajamas with feet anymore because those are for babies. I have a nightgown like my mother wears, except that hers don't have ducks on them so they're not as nice as mine. After my bath I brush my teeth and say good night to Daddy and get a glass of water and blow my nose and say good night to Johnny and watch Grizzly Adams with him until my mother says, "Time for bed now, Audrey," and I go in my room and get in bed under the lace cover.
My mother turns out the lights and says "Good night, Audrey" and it's very dark. Some nights when the moon is very bright I look through the window at the trees and pretend that I'm sleeping in a giant treehouse with the bats and the eagles but not the owls. I don't like owls.
Oooooooooooo I absolutely love the Great Northern. I don't ever want to leave.