Eloise and Chunk

by Courtney Henning | 9/24/98 5:00am

It was an innocent, unplanned visit to the pet shop in West Leb. My roommate Kelly and I had just tagged along with Kendall and Abbey for the ride to Kmart so that we could get the much desired, much needed bath mat; but Kendall needed food for her fish, Paco and Rosa.

Since at least last term, Kelly has wanted a pet. I said "no" to the fish idea since, in my opinion, fish bowls smell bad. But then one day last spring, I was reading in our common room , and Kelly was reading in her room when she shouted to me, "Hey, Court! Are snakes allowed in the dorms?" I shouted back "NO!" in horror, and suddenly, the fish seemed like a good idea.

So now, here we were in a pet store, and after walking through two aisles of aquariums, Kelly and I had decided we were going to buy two fish. Kelly was excited to have pets for our room, and I was just excited that the pets were not snakes. Downstairs, there were tanks of beautiful, exotic fish selling for anywhere from 79 cents to $18.99. Needless to say, we went for the 79-cent comets.

Later, as we roamed Kmart, Kelly and I discussed names for our fish. For me, pet names have always been important. The Henning family always suffered the presence of a fish or three since my brother and I excelled at winning carnival fish. In the car rides home from the carnival, Matt and I would proudly hold our baggies of fish and select their names. I always baptized mine with names like Barbie, Augustus or Lazy Boy; Matt always called his fish Frankie, Frankie Jr., Frankie III and so on.

It's not so easy to name a duo when two roommates have to approve of the names. First, we went through a bunch of famous couples -- Bonnie and Clyde, Bill and Monica -- but none of those seemed to work. As we waited in the check-out line, Kelly suggested we give our fish candy bar names. Snickers and Butterfingers? Ah, no. We started to think about movie character names.

I said, "Hey, what's a good name from the Goonies?" and Kelly laughed, "Chunk!" Everybody smiled, so Chunk it was. Chunk would be the all orange fish, so now we needed a name for the white and orange fish. We needed a name that would balance out Chunk. Someone suggested Eloise, and it stuck. Chunk and Eloise, our beautiful, non-snake pets.

Since all the West Leb stores seem to close at 9 p.m., and since that hour was already upon us, we returned with our fish to Hanover. The fish then waited in the car while we parked and went to the Aires show. Then we went home and acclimated the fish to their water. Then Eloise died.

When Eloise started floating in the bag, I insisted that she was just swimming on her side while holding her breath. I insisted that we pour Eloise into the bowl along with Chunk, although Kelly protested that Eloise's corpse would emotionally damage poor Chunk. I argued that it would emotionally damage Chunk more if Eloise was just in a coma, and we flushed her down the toilet. So we played Scattergories, and I knew that by the game's end, Eloise would be swimming laps around the bowl. She was not.

I am a firm believer that fish just like to pretend they are dead. When I was in the 4th grade, my carnival fish Barbie died, and I tossed her into the toilet. Just as I was flushing her to the sewers and beyond, she came back to life! Needless to say, I was ecstatic and ever since that incident, I have been unable to accept a fish's death.