The dawn of Wonka's test day broke glum and uninspiring. Charlie met the sun as it freed itself from the horizon from his position in one of the upper rooms of the factory which afforded a breathtaking view of the town below. He was feeling as apathetic as the weather looked, and found himself wondering if he even wanted to stay in a factory whose proprietor was wholly sane. Chewing his lip, Charlie mulled this until out of the corner of his eye he spotted a black sedan pulling in front of the factory gates. He glanced at his watch. 7:30. They were right on time.
Charlie hopped down from the sill and jogged to Wonka's office, where he pounded heatedly on the door. "Mr. Wonka," he said loudly. "They're here." He heard some shuffling inside the office and a moment later the door opened to reveal Wonka's sleep-deprived face. Charlie flinched. "Have you been up all night?"
"Never mind that, Charlie. Would you escort the gentlemen in here, please?"
It was, in fact, the last thing on earth Charlie Bucket wanted to do at the moment but he was used to compliance and met the car at the gates. The early morning air was crisp and downright chilly, but the internal anger of Charlie was enough to keep him warm. Shooting the car a dirty look he didn't care if they saw, he forced open the rusted gates and allowed the car to enter before closing them again and locking them tight.
A saggy man Charlie immediately recognized at Ginker emerged from the car, and a younger gentleman with an apparently permanent apologetic look on his face got out on the other side.
"Mr. Ginker," Charlie said flatly as he approached the car. "Mr. Wonka's waiting for you. I'll take you to him."
"Thank you, Charlie. And how are you today?" Ginker asked slowly, as if Charlie couldn't speak English.
"I've been better," he answered shortly, marching furiously up the stairs and through the door. He held it open for them and slammed it shut as soon as they were all inside. "Come on," he barked. "This way."
Ginker and his associate had to practically run to keep up with Charlie, who felt he could only keep his fury at bay if he was too out of breath to express it. They arrived at said door a few moments later where Charlie came to a sudden halt and jerked his head towards a pair of large, mahogany doors. "In there," he said.
As if on cue, both of the doors flew open to reveal Wonka standing in the doorway. "Mr. Ginky!" he cried. "So good to see you again!"
Ginker shifted in annoyance. "It's Ginker, Mr. Wonka. And it's not Mr. It's Dr. I let it slide during our first meeting, but feel that if we are to conduct today's test, then you should know – "
"And who's this?" Mr. Wonka interrupted as he looked at the small man next to him, not giving one hoot about Ginker's titles.
"Dr. Wadd, Mr. Wonka. He is my associate."
"How wonderful! Well, friends are always welcome here," Mr. Wonka said, giving them both an over-the-top smarmy smile. "Come in, come in gentleman! Can I offer you some fish paste and cold water? It's just that I don't normally have guests, and it's my preferred breakfast…"
Charlie bit his lip to keep from laughing.
Ginker and Wadd looked thoroughly disgusted. "No…thank you, Mr. Wonka. I think we should just get on with it."
"Get on with what?"
"The test, Mr. Wonka."
"Test? Shoot. I didn't study. Can you come back next week? Or perhaps this is a pop quiz. I hate those."
"Mr. Wonka – "
"But then why are you here? I knew you were coming. But if you're not here for the fish paste and this isn't a pop quiz, I really can't imagine why you're standing at my office door at this hideous time in the morning."
"Mr. Wonka – "
"Or are you from one of those awful prize radio shows, come to tell me that if I can correctly tell you how much rain falls in Bulgaria every year, then I will win my weight in radishes?"
"Yes?" he said demurely.
"You know very well why we're here," Ginker said impatiently, his cheeks trembling a bit. Charlie couldn't help but notice how much he resembled a turkey. He even had the flappy skin beneath his chin. "And, if you'd like to stop this mindless banter, we can get down to business."
"Business. Hm. Yes. I see. So this definitely isn't about radishes?"
"No. Now can we get on with it?" Ginker shrieked.
Wonka gave him an innocent look. "On with what?" he asked calmly.
Ginker's nostrils flared. "Mr. Wonka," he said in what was supposed to be a dangerous voice, but came out more of a desperate rasp.
Wisely, instead of saying another word, Wonka showed them into his office. He'd never seen a vein stick out on someone's forehead like that. Before he closed the doors he threw one last look at his heir. Charlie could have sworn he winked.
Charlie sat outside the door for the next three hours. The doors did their job in keeping noise from leaving the room, and Charlie resisted the urge to lean up against it to listen. It didn't really matter, he felt – he already knew what the outcome would be, and he also knew he couldn't stay in a factory that wasn't really the old Wonka's anymore. He sighed. He was going to miss this place.
"Well, Mr. Wonka, congratulations. It has surely been a pleasure. I'm glad you're feeling better," Ginker said, shaking Wonka's hand in the office doorway a few hours later. Charlie found he'd fallen asleep. "The future will certainly be very bright for you."
"Oh, yes, indeedee," Wonka said quickly. "Oh, I almost forgot!" He fished in his pocket and withdrew a couple of Wonka candy bars, handing one to each of the two men. "Compliment of Wonka's. A brand new candy, hasn't even been released yet!"
"'Reparo,'" Ginker read off the label. He looked up and smiled. "Well, sounds exotic. Are they any good?"
"If they weren't any good, I wouldn't be giving them to you," Wonka said sensibly before leaning closer to Ginker and raising a knowing eyebrow. "And much better than Maple Whip Delights, I might add."
Almost to disprove this theory, Ginker indignantly tore open the wrapper and took a large bite out of the creamy dark brown chocolate within. In seconds, his face contorted into the first genuine smile Charlie had yet seen spread over his face. "Not bad," Ginker conceded merrily. "Not bad at all, Mr. Wonka."
Mr. Wonka looked pleased and nodded affably to the two men. "Now that you're fed, and now that we've had a nice chat, I really can't see what else a wonderful morning visit like this could afford us." Of course, for those who knew Wonka, this invariably meant, Go away now, you twits.
"Our pleasure, Mr. Wonka," Ginker said, grabbing his coat from the floor of the hallway and taking another bite of the chocolate. His smile broadened. "It was certainly nice meeting you again."
Though this phrase had always baffled Wonka – how could you meet the same person again? – he simply smiled, walked them to the door, and shut it hastily behind them. He leaned against the door and gave Charlie the first real Wonka-smile in two months. "Well, I think it worked!" he crowed proudly.
Charlie, who had been watching this spectacle quietly, frowned. "What do you mean it worked?" he said in a low voice. "Judging by the fact that they didn't drag you off in a straight jacket, or demand that my family pack their bags immediately, you seemed to have aced that test. They got what they wanted all along. Ginker was right. It 'fixed' you."
Wonka shook his head excitedly. "Charlie, that's assuming that there was something to fix."
The old, nervous, squeaky voice of Mr. Wonka had suddenly returned and Charlie's gaze shot up sharply upon hearing it. "What did you say?" he asked breathlessly, almost too hopeful to breathe.
"Of course! When you fix something, it means it was broken. You can't fix something if it's not broken."
"B-But these past two months, Mr. Wonka. You can't deny that you changed."
"My mind changed, Charlie. Not me. There's a difference. Your brain is your brain. But you are you." Mr. Wonka smiled at him. "Oh, I wanted to tell you, Charlie. I wanted to tell you all along. And not that I didn't think you'd understand, but don't think I didn't know that you were testing me as much as they were testing me."
"Testing you? I don't get it."
Wonka walked towards him until he was only about a foot away, which was quite an intimate nearness for Wonka. "Charlie, you have too little faith. Both in me and in this factory."
Charlie looked hurt. "How can you say that? I'm always the first to defend this place. And you."
"Did you know that colonized warriors often fought for Rome when they hadn't even seen Rome in the first place?"
"What does that have to do with me?"
"It has everything to do with you, dear boy. If you think that this entire factory is simply dependent on something as trivial as sanity, then you've been defending the wrong thing all along. You are defending something you've never even thought about, never even seen in its full, brilliant light. Imagination, Charlie, is something wholly different then what those dips wanted me to be."
Charlie shook his head, completely befuddled by this point. "I don't understand, Mr. Wonka. The buttons on the elevator, the machines, the fact that you couldn't make any of your experiments work. What about all that?"
"What about it? That will all come back. Their departure was only temporary." He shifted his weight, leaning in closer to the teenager. "That first night I took the medication, I realized something. I came back to the Inventing Room after dinner without you and began working on those licorice gloves that melt if you stick your finger up your nose. I designed them to discourage nose picking, of course. Anyone who doesn't want to abolish that habit must have their eyes sewn on backwards. I looked down at the gloves and thought, 'This is ridiculous! No one would wear these in public, what's the use?' and I threw the whole batch in the incinerator. Then I realized that I had missed the whole point of the gloves in the first place! Because anyone who picks their nose in public deserves to have gooey licorice running down their arms!
"You can imagine how much this worried me, Charlie. I thought, 'Heavens, the medication is doing something to me!' But why then did it even occur to me that I was wrong in destroying them? Because imagination is something different! It's something better!
"But the experiment to see what exactly was going to happen seemed much too interesting to give up. And your reaction intrigued me. You are quick to defend what you don't understand, dear boy. I wondered if you knew you could trust me not to change, Charlie. So I kept taking the pills. True, Charlie, the things that we worked on never seemed to work, because I was thinking of logical ways to make them work. I wasn't using my imagination. That's why the machines disappeared. That's why whole rooms seemed to die and wither away. They weren't being nourished by creativity. Only when I realized what I was missing did I realize that I could put this whole odd situation to good use. It was the only way.
"So I began developing a new candy, focusing solely on what I was missing. I had my imagination, and that was enough for it to succeed. Only when I harnessed what I wanted, what I needed, did my creativity come to life. It wouldn't, it couldn't, with the other candies we were working on, because I was only making those to make people happy, I wasn't trying to replace what I feared losing the most. You defend the factory Charlie, and I defend my imagination. That's why it worked."
"But, what candy was it?" Charlie asked, his mind swimming. "None of the things we were working on seemed to work. And besides, if you still had your creativity but not your illogical mind, how could you possibly know if the candy worked or not? How on earth did you test it?"
Mr. Wonka gave Charlie a brilliant smile. "That's my favorite part. Let me show you something."
Wonka escorted Charlie to the enormous entrance door, opened it, and gave a smug look to Charlie. Brows knitted, Charlie looked out into the courtyard, expecting perhaps a colorful array of something in the sky, or at the very least a parade of Oompa-Loopmas hopping about ecstatically, but all he spied were the two backs of the psychologists still making their way to the factory exit. Charlie looked back at Wonka. "I don't see anything."
"Look closer," Wonka whispered.
Charlie peered out again into the mid-morning light. His eyes landed once again on the two men, but this time he noticed something different.
They were happy.
Both Ginker and Wadd were smiling, laughing, and making animated talk to one another. Even their faces had more color. Their steps weren't somber. Their voices were not serious. Ginker even did a little happy kick in the air. Amazed, Charlie turned back to his mentor. "Did you do that?" he asked in an awed voice.
"No," Wonka admitted. "Those 'complimentary new Wonka candies' I gave them did that." Wonka pulled Charlie back in from the cold. "'Reparo' means 'repair' in Portuguese, Charlie. The pills didn't 'fix' me for the same reason that Reparo 'fixed' those two. Can you imagine it? One bar of Wonka's Reparo and your imagination comes to life! Instead of pills to sedate what is left of your creativity, fire up your mind!"
Charlie cocked a suspicious eyebrow. "The ingredients, by any chance, don't include anything like magical mushrooms or exotic weeds, do they?"
Wonka shot him an impatient look. "Charlie, please. The only people who need things like that to be creative are the ones who aren't creative to begin with." He sighed. "Chocolate means more to me than just a livelihood. To do an injustice like that wouldn't be – wouldn't be Wonka."
Charlie smiled a bit and crossed his arms. "Fair enough," he said softly. "But how did you do it?"
Wonka's eyes twinkled. "Guess," he whispered.
Realization suddenly dawned on Charlie and he erupted into laughter. "Of course," he said. "You added what you missed. And the rest just fell into place. All you needed," he tapped his head, "was this."
"Exactly!" exclaimed the velvet clad candy man cheerfully. "You're catching on, Charlie. We'll make a chocolatier of you yet!"
"All right. Then answer this. How'd you ever pass that test?"
"Well," Wonka said as they began to walk down the hallway. "I've had a lot of practice in normalcy these past two months, wouldn't you say? The effects of that medication will wear off because it didn't affect the part of my mind that is vital to my work. Or even who I am. But the effects were enough to show me what I needed to say to those ego-inflated, deranged lunatics who tested me. I told you I would be fine. You know me well enough to know I'm not a liar. All of that was good practice."
"You shut down rooms in the factory. Made them disappear. Made all of the wonderful stuff that makes Wonka's Factory Wonka's Factory vanish. All that for practice?"
"Uh huh," Mr. Wonka said proudly with a smile. "I did."
"You made me think you'd gone absolutely sane, for practice?" Charlie made an exasperated sound. "Are you crazy?"
"Of course I am," Mr. Wonka said, unruffled. He brushed some invisible dust from his jacket. "Else none of this would have happened in the first place. Sanity is in the eye of the beholder. See?"
For once, Charlie couldn't argue this explanation and shrugged, looking crestfallen. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess you're right. I guess I still have a lot to learn, hm?"
"Don't take it so hard, dear boy. You've just learned the most important lesson of all," Wonka smiled as he opened the door to the Chocolate Room to let them inside. The wonderful smell of Mrs. Bucket's lunchtime culinary delights were already beginning to waft across the meadow.
"To never, ever underestimate Willy Wonka…"
Dear readers, you really didn't think that after subjecting you to my previous story, I would subject you to anything other than light-hearted insanity this time?
Have faith, dear readers.
And why Portuguese?