Know what, I won't even try to explain my excuses.

Initial delay was from :don don DON music and lightening: Mid term exams at school. :gasp from the audience: Yah . . . Second delay was because I was flippin GROUNDED from computer for a flippin MONTH, which didn't help at all. And lastly, I've been having major writers block ever since the long wait . . . but! :golden light: Just this morning in the shower (no one take that the wrong way), I had a BURST OF INSPIRATION! It all just CAME to me! So I'm happy to say that things really should be getting back on track now.


Ta Maman (aka Ziggeh): I love writing extra little things about the characters, especially Wonka. I'm glad you like it, and you aren't one of those people that are, like, :note naisly voice: "Yah, we never heard anything about where he got his pocket watch, you made that up." -.-;

Oracle Phoenix: Awww . . . I'M SO HAPPY YOU LIKE IT! :hugs self: And I know, I loved how in the end of the movie, Wonka and Charlie start talking about raspberry kites, and Mrs. Bucket kind of "boys"s them both. I just love it, cuz it reminded me of like if Charlie was having a friend from school stay for dinner, ya know? That's like how she was to the two of them.

ChaosOfTheUniverce: Don't you just love that warm fuzziness? I'm glad you like it, and I promise I'll do my very best to get the next chapter up soon.

Piscaria: Awkwardness is always fun to establish in a story . . . heheh. . . as well as Wonka's shyness, since he's like NEVER shy, because he hadn't in a long time been in the presence of someone who's going to actually worry over whether he's ok or not.

DemiDevil: . . . . . . :tremble: don't hurt me! . . . If you don't send over the whangdoodles, I'll send over a box of Girl Scout cookiiiies . . . :hopeful smile: I liked your fairness on the last chapter, I really did! I appreciate you not just saying it was your favourite chapter, because that's what I look for when people review; what they liked and didn't. And to be honest . . . :looks around and beckons closer: . . . . that wasn't chapter one of my favourites either.

Bogumil: YAAAY NEW REVIEWER! I, myself, am unspeakably glad that you're unspeakably glad for the story! Because I'm just a good person like that and it makes me happy when others are happy. . . Actually, no, I just really like that no one hates my story (yet). Best wishes for the New Year to you too!

Clymestra (aka BOBCUT?): . . . . . . I'm terribly about that tingly feeling . . . I sometimes get that too, right down in the tips of my fingers . . . but that's usually when I wake up and find I've slept with my arm turned the wrong way underneath me all night. I . . . do hope you get well. O.o

Jon'ic Recheio: Here you are, my dear! I'm so terribly sorry I worried you like that . . . But I can promise, that no matter how long a chapter might take, I won't drop the story altogether. I have a need to finish it now that it's been started.

Chapter 8

A Few New Things to Talk About

Sun washed over the town like spilled milk, filling every little crevice with light. What they said was true about April showers: All the tiny buds that had slept in during the winter were finally opening up their petals and rubbing their eyes. You could scarcely hear the last birds flying back from the South.

The afternoon was less than busy, only a few scattered people meandering about the street shops, finishing up their daily list of things to do. In the center of this quiet town sat the most noticeable figure there; Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, the largest, most famous chocolate factory in the world. This factory was fifty times as big as any other, but that alone was not what made it so well-known. The reason for its fame was at the most, its owner, Mr. Willy Wonka.

Now, a few months ago, if you were to walk up to a person and say, "I beg pardon, sir, but who owns that marvelous factory there?" the initial reaction you would get would be a sputter of laughter and look of awe. The factory was very well-known, indeed. But eventually, once their senses were regained, they would tell you, "Why, that's Willy Wonka's! He's the greatest chocolate maker in the world, and that's his chocolate factory!" Lately, however, if you were to approach someone with the same inquiry, you more than likely would not receive any answer at all, but simply be swept into a thickening rant of gossip on the subject.

It was true that, after some time, people had come realize that Willy Wonka's factory tour in February had not simply been for profit, or publicity, or companionship. Willy Wonka had no need for more money or publicity, and, as many could tell from his history, he was not one that had any particular desire for other human company. No, people had been sure that none of these were the reasons for the factory tour in the beginning of the year. And with these new found suspicions, the media was digging for some information.

One fact, though, was absolutely certain when it came down to the tour and the tourists:

Five went in, four came out.

Reporters were beating themselves in the head for not catching the name of the fifth Golden Ticket winner before the gates opened that day and they saw the last of him. At the end of the day, he was the only one that didn't come out fudged, blued, sullied, or stretched. In fact, he was the only one that didn't come out at all.

But after weeks of digging, and after an empty little patch of land at the end of town was finally noticed, reporters brewed up a name. That name was currently rushing through the town streets like a flood: Bucket.

This was the name that was reaching each person's ear like a plague, and one silent question was now on everyone's lips.

"Who's Charlie Bucket?"

Mrs. Bucket flipped on their broken down little television and took a step back. The monitor was all scribbles. She reached down and bent the antenna a different way.

"Try twisting it," suggested Grandpa Joe from the bed after the woman's numerous attempts to clear the screen failed. So Mrs. Bucket twisted it, and the monitor de-fuzzed, going onto the news.

"Thank you, Joe," she said as she went back to the dishes, and everyone set their focus onto the television. Showing on the news were a dozen reporters interviewing a man in swim trunks and a fluffy white robe.

"Mr. Salt, what did you do after the factory tour?" The man with the gray hair swirled over like an ice cream cup folded his hands.

"Well, as you can see gentlemen, this is not our usual setting; we're in our beach house," he said (and indeed the beach house looked like a regular mansion. It seemed that wherever the Salts went, they lived like royalty.) "We decided to take off on an early spring vacation, just to loosen everything up." The smiling little girl next to him was in a royal blue striped swim suit with a ruffled skirt ending. Her hair was all in curls. Another reporter jutted up to her father.

"And what if any actions to you plan to take on behalf of your predicament while in the Wonka factory?" Mr. Salt opened his mouth casually, but the little girl turned her head up to him.

"Daddy, I want to sue." Her father glanced down to her calmly.

"Veruca, you're not suing anybody, now go upstairs and play." Veruca turned to face her father stubbornly.

"But daddy-"

"No 'buts' young lady, now march." His wife, who was sunbathing on a long chair in oversized sunglasses next to him, picked up her drink from a table.

"Mind your father, darling," she said languidly as she took a sip. Veruca pouted angrily, but turned around and began to stomp up their blue stairs. The reporter turned the microphone back to Mr. Salt.

"So you don't intend on pressing charges?" Mr. Salt chuckled and waved a hand, keeping his chin tilted nobly upwards.

"Heavens no, for what? All she needed was a bath." Veruca called down from the top of the steps through huffily clenched teeth.

"And another, and another, and ANOTHER-" Her father sighed and turned around.

"Veruca darling, go on upstairs, and I promise we'll get you that pool you wanted later today if you're good." Veruca's eyes lit up, and she nodded happily then rushed upstairs. Mr. Salt turned back around to face the reporters.

"Kids, right?" he chuckled. A female reporter jumped in front of the others with her microphone.

"And Mr. Salt, what is your nut business doing while you're away?" Mr. Salt straightened himself up once again in his naturally dignified manner.

"Well, I didn't see any harm done in giving them all some time off as well. Just until we return."

But, though one couldn't directly track it, just a bit of harm may have been done in the long run.

After the pox virus that swept over Scotland passed over, the Red Squirrels in South Scotland Project made a stand to bring back up the Red Squirrel population that had so drastically declined. One of their efforts had been placing squirrel feeders in every backyard, which sent the squirrel feeder making industry (as incredulous as it sounds) soaring in profits.

But, with the biggest nut business in England temporarily shut down, the squirrel feeder business in Scotland, which had grown twice its size over the time, was left sadly nut-less without its major provider, causing its bankruptcy.

This sudden drop in squirrel feeders led to the failure of the squirrel feeder depending wood industry in England,

Which led to the closest paper making industry going out of business,

Which led to the business that sent out school supplies going down without any paper,

Which happened to be the same business that the school of Mrs. Bucket's son got their supplies from,

Which was why she had needed to wrap him in five extra layers of clothing near the end of winter. Without supplies, the school had nothing to sell to the children, so had no extra income to pay for heating. It was certainly fortunate that spring had begun.

Mrs. Bucket flipped off of the news and sighed.

"Well that one hasn't changed much," grumbled Grandpa George from bed. His daughter shrugged a bit and dusted the top of the television set.

"Her parents have had a change of mind, though . . . I suppose . . ." Suddenly the cottage door creaked open and Mr. Bucket came walking through. His wife set down her dusting cloth and brushed her hands as she came up to him. "Oh, hello dear," she said as she pecked him on the cheek. "Why might you be home so early?" Mr. Bucket raised his eyebrows and hung up his coat.

"I . . . thought it best to walk Charlie home today . . . so he knew to go through the side entrance from now on . . ." He hung up his hat and raised his eyebrows to her. "Things are beginning to 'clear up'." Mrs. Bucket dropped her shoulders and sighed with soft dismay, but her son scrambled through the door before she could say another word.

"Hi mum!" Charlie called as he dropped his bag by the coat rack. "Is Mr. Wonka here yet?" Mrs. Bucket smiled and went back to dusting.

"Not yet, darling."

"Good," Charlie said breathlessly, all smiles. His mother looked over to him, still polishing the table top.

"And why is that good, Charlie?" she laughed curiously. Charlie turned his bright olive eyes up to her excitedly.

"Mum," he began as he shut the door, "We need to bake a cake."

Willy Wonka was whistling softly as he strolled down the dark green hallway and to the elevator. He turned a corner to the lift's doors and tapped the call button, but the button blinked red and nothing happened. Wonka frowned, but after a moment rolled his eyes, remembering he'd sent the elevator into maintenance check the night before after it made quite a few growling noises at him during his last ride. He took a step back and pulled out his pocket watch.

It was three thirteen.

He made a face and snapped it shut again. Charlie was probably already at his house by now anyway, so there was no point in Wonka trying to meet him as he'd gotten used to doing, but it would take a while to get to the Chocolate Room without the elevator. The chocolatier let out a breath then looked up to the wall, to a big white button. He pressed the button down and spoke softly into the monitor next to it.

"Eh . . . . . . Charlie?" He could hear his voice echoing down the hall from the different rooms it was being projected into. ". . . Chaaaaarlie . . . Charlie Charlie . . ." He waited for a moment, then leaned forward again, taking in a breath. "Hey, CHARLIE--"

"---Hi Mr. Wonka!--"

Wonka bounced away from the wall at the sudden response, hearing the echo of the other rooms cut off. He opened his mouth and rubbed his ear, then leaned forward and held down the button again.

"Oh there you are!" He said with a grin, and cleared his throat. "I . . . just thought I'd tell you . . . that the elevator's down!" He let go.

"--- Okay," Charlie replied breathlessly through the voice box.

Wonka leaned forward again and held the button.

"Soooo . . . it's gonna take me a little longer to get to the Chocolate Room today . . ." He paused, glancing up as he waited for a response. "Alright?" There was hardly a hesitation on the other end.

"--- Okay, Mr. Wonka, that's alright! I have a lot of homework today anyway. - Take your time!-" Wonka frowned then held down the button.

" . . . Yah sure?" The scratchy voice responded enthusiastically.

"---Yah!" Wonka fiddled with his cane then held down the button once more.

"Mkay . . . then I'll see ya in a bit." He let go. No answer. " . . . Bye . . ."

"--- Bye!-" There was a little clunk as Charlie obviously let go of the button and ran off to whatever he seemed to be in the middle of doing. Wonka waved his fingers above the button for a minute, not quite sure what to do with himself now, then squeezed his hand into a squeaky fist and pulled it down next to him. He turned around in the hallway, letting out a breath.

"Oookay," he said to himself and as he dropped both hands gently on the top of his cane. "Now . . ." There were several different hallways leading out from the little dead end to the elevator. They all looked exactly the same. Blowing out some air, he began down the equally green corridor in front of him. . .

Wonka approached the little Bucket house in the Chocolate Room and checked the time, giving his watch a look when he did, because Willy Wonka always liked to make good time, and the time he made was never as good as the time he would have wanted it to be. Snapping his watch back shut and dropping it into his inside pocket, he twirled his cane around and approached the door to the Bucket house. He knocked on the door and began fussing with his jacket. He glanced back up when no one answered after a moment, knocked again, then went back to straightening up his collar to more comfort. He popped it up correctly and sighed approvingly to himself, then glanced back at the door. Wonka paused, then curiously rapped on the door once more. Still without any answer, he looked down, casting a spell over the doorknob with his fingertips, then took hold of it. With a slow turn, he gave the door a push, letting it gently swing open as he stayed in the doorway.

" . . . Heeello?" he sang softly. No answer. He frowned, then hesitantly stepped inside, leaving the door open, and carefully leaning around the corner to see where everyone was. After a moment he felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned around, stumbling back and catching his hat to see Mrs. Bucket right in front of him. After straightening it back to the proper position on his head, he looked forward again and blinked. Mr. Bucket had just gotten behind his wife, who was holding a cake. Charlie was grinning suspiciously next to her. Before anyone could speak, Mrs. Bucket pulled up a finger into the air and wagged it at the chocolatier.

"Willy Wonka!" she scolded. "Shame on you for not telling us it was your birthday!" Wonka blinked again.

"Birth . . . day?" he repeated, looking down curiously at the rather sloppy chocolate cake and the half dozen candles it housed as Mrs. Bucket continued.

"Lucky for us Charlie found out from your father his last visit it was today, or we'd have never known," she said, looking down at Charlie, who looked up, then smiled guiltily over to Wonka. The chocolatier looked back, then from the grinning Charlie to the rest of the three. He quickly opened his eyes a little wider.

"Oh! Ya," he began, knitting his brows and glancing to the left. "Must have slipped my mind . . ." He looked back up and giggled uncertainly. The cheerful three just smiled.

"Well go on!" Mrs. Bucket insisted. "Make a wish!"

Wonka blinked once more, slowly tilting his head down to Charlie, who just looked up at him with his big eyes. Wonka tilted his head back up again.

" . . . Why?" he asked, squinting at the demand. The three stared blankly at him.

"For your candles, of course!" Mrs. Bucket laughed, raising up the cake. Wonka looked down at it then quickly opened his mouth.

"Oh!" he realized, hesitating then nodding crookedly. "Yah . . ." He giggled nervously, paused, then carefully leaned down and blew out his candles.

"Where are we going?" Charlie asked as the Great Glass Elevator, having survived maintenance, slid closed its doors. Wonka took in a concentrated breath to start his sentence, glancing upwards. Charlie looked through the doors at the house they had just left.

"Well, the thingies need to be sorted, there's a huge order of grape nuggets due for Brazil next Tuesday . . . the incinerator blew a fuse and has been spitting out garbage since 11:30 last night . . . all the belching bon bons have the hiccups, and twelve of the workers in the Golden Finger Licking Dept. can't find their spoons." He stopped and paused blankly for a moment, then waved a hand as he turned to face the button panel. "But let's not do any of that. Let's . . ." Suddenly he shot upright again and spun to face Charlie, giving his arm a little wack. "Let's go show you my room! Oh, yah . . ." he turned back to the buttons no sooner had he said it, and punched the one that read "Residence". The elevator gave a jolt and began off. Charlie looked back up to Wonka, who continued.

"Just a little stop, then we can do all the boring stuff and/or dump that for fun-ner stuff . . . I did say I'd show you where my quarters of the factory were, anyway," he said nodding to himself. "We can stop by my office too, ya know . . . I mean, it is just a button away . . ." He grinned down to Charlie. "Kinda get ya ta," he wriggled his fingers in the air, "know the factory a little better. . . Besides, there's pro'lly something I need to get from there . . . papers . . . 'r something . . ." He made a face, looking like the idea of paperwork was the equivalent of getting a shot. They swerved to the right and the lift stopped. Wonka grinned as the doors opened, leaving the elevator and its occupants face to face with a door. "Here we are!"

The door had two knobs, was the first thing Charlie noticed. The first was small and knee level, or just below. The second was at the usual height and size a doorknob should be. Wonka reached for that knob and swung the door open. Behind the first door was a short hallway, no longer than 3 ½ steps long, with a bright red carpet down the center. At the end of the carpet was another door. This second door was nearly exactly the same as the first; smooth shiny wood, shaped with swirls in the corners, and a large W in the middle of it. Only, this door had just one knob, the right height, as well as a key hole beneath it. Also this door was, it seemed, just a bit larger than the first. The hallway expanded a little as well. Wonka stepped down the little hallway and up to the door, turning the knob and pushing it open in one fluent motion. Charlie came up behind the chocolatier and the open door as the man stepped in.

Wonka's room certainly did fit his character. The room was round, walls a dark red, and a fluffy white carpet covered the floor. A huge bed against the far wall was a kind of twisted antique style, and populated by hundreds of embroidered pillows as well as a deep purple quilt. There was a circular window that took up nearly the entire right wall. To the left was what must have been a built in closet, as well as a little doorway that lead into another room. To the left of the entrance Charlie stood in was a large bookshelf. It was a beautiful room.

Wonka strode in with his cane twirling and stopped near that bookshelf, pulling one of the shelves out longer, picking up a few papers, stacking them, then dropping them back to a messy pile and pushing the shelf back in. He pulled out another and flipped through a book. Charlie stepped just into the doorway, looking at the room's whole. Wonka was still shuffling aimlessly through books and papers but glanced over at the little boy.

"Well come on, Charlie. The room's in here, not out there," he giggled softly. Charlie smiled meekly and stepped out of the doorway. When he looked up, he could see the ceiling was much higher than he thought. He glanced back down and over to the window, then walked up in front of it. It was an amazing window, more twice as big all around than him.

" . . . You really have a window in your room, Mr. Wonka?" he asked after a moment. The chocolatier didn't look up but shrugged.

"Yah why not?" he said, frowning at the book in his hands and snapping it shut with a little dust cloud, sticking it back on the shelf. Charlie paused, still looking out.

"How come no one has ever noticed it from outside?" Wonka glanced up and grinned as he pulled out another book.

"One-way," he clarified. Charlie turned around.

"So people can't see it?" Wonka looked back down into his book but held up a gloved finger and thumb and wagged it toward the window.

"I could make faces out that thing all day and no one would ever know." Charlie smiled and turned to look out again. The view was fantastic.

He could see all the street shops and roads . . . he thought he could even see the corner of his school. And just down the center road, at the very other end of town, he could see an empty little patch of land, with a broken fence along side and the remains of what once must have been a garden. The small figure of a person getting out of their truck and walking over to the house, then, began hammering into the ground a sign, too small to decipher.

There were times when Charlie missed his old home.

But Charlie knew he was happier in the factory than he had ever been there. Besides, he still had everything that meant home to him. His same bedroom, his same house, his same family: in fact, as long as Charlie had that last bit, he was always at home. There was only one thing about his old home that he couldn't have back: the view from his bedroom window of the factory. And he missed that.

Charlie let out a quiet breath, gazing out to the quiet town. Wonka frowned again, giving the impression of utter boredom from any member of his small library, snapped his book shut and looked up. He looked over to a door, then gave a little whistle. Charlie turned around, and Wonka nodded to the doorway next to his closet and he began to towards it. "Comm'ere, I'll show ya over here . . ." Charlie looked out the window then back once more and quickly began to follow.

There was a long curved sofa in the center, and a fireplace in front of that in the room they entered. Wonka swayed to a little stop, and Charlie came in behind him. The chocolatier laid both hands on his cane, switching to "tour guide mode".

"This is like a sitting room," he informed. "This is where you could . . . sit. . ." Charlie stepped a little more into the room as there was a knock on the door back in the last. Wonka twirled around and leaned a little to peek through the door, then went into the bedroom. Charlie turned around and went to the doorway to see if he should follow. Wonka swung open the door to face a little worker, who beckoned him closer. The chocolatier squatted down and listened, occasionally giving a responding little, "Uh huh. . ."

After a moment, Charlie turned back to face the room he was in. He walked over to the sofa, paused, and carefully sat down. He noticed a round, white little remote on the cushion next to him, and picked it up curiously. Fiddling with it for a second, he pressed a button, causing a number of different speakers to come out of the different walls and sound full blast of the radio. Charlie jumped and quickly pushed the button again, sending the speakers quietly back into the wall. He looked back down at the remote and read the buttons. One said "Television", but there wasn't a television set in the room. He carefully pushed it, and the painting above the fireplace turned around into a big television screen. Charlie smiled and pushed it again, turning it back to the picture of a little bridge over a flower-covered pond. He looked down again. There were a lot of buttons on it for such a small remote. There were the two that read "Stereo" and "Television", then there was "Telephone", "White Wash", "Window", "Efexit", "Roomba", "Room Service" . . .

Charlie set the remote back down on the sofa and stood up, wandering towards the far wall, towards the fire. The fireplace was enormous, not to mention very warm. The little boy was looking at the different pictures and things as he walked along the wall when he stumbled over the end of the rug, bumping into something. He bent down to fix the curled rug, then stood up to see what he had bumped. It was a dresser, but hadn't felt like he had expected. Charlie walked to the front and knocked on its side. Sure enough, it didn't sound like there was anything at all in it. He held up one the drawer's handles with a old squeak and decided the dresser must have not been used for much else than a table top. There was a vase, a little box, and a few papers on it. Thinking this, he noticed something at the base of the dresser. He bent down and saw that the bottom drawer wasn't shut all the way, just a crack open.

Charlie tilted his head curiously, seeing something through the crack. Despite his inner instincts, he hesitantly pulled the drawer out, just a little. Inside was a paper, and Charlie took it out. Actually, it was a photograph. Charlie sat down so he didn't need to be on his knees anymore and looked the picture over. It had fold lines on it, and a small tear in the top. It must have been old. There were two people, one whom Charlie recognized as a younger Dr. Wonka, still wearing his white dentist's coat. The second was a little boy, probably around Charlie's age, wearing what must have been a school uniform. He had something around his head; it looked like a big set of braces, and Charlie tried not to smile. They were standing in front of a row of townhouses, in front of one in particular, that looked a lot like Dr. Wonka's house . . . But it couldn't be, because there were others beside it. . .

Charlie looked at the picture, then slipped it back into the drawer and slid it closed. He stood up and brushed off his knees, turning around just as Willy Wonka and his walking stick clicked up into the doorway. Wonka looked up and grinned.

"Hey Charlie! Sorry 'bout that, I was just informed that the big boiler in the boiler and girler room is acting up, so I thought we could stop by my office and then check that out! They said it was about fifteen minutes till it blows up," he said, perfectly carefree. Charlie just stood there for a moment while the chocolatier smiled.

"Well shouldn't we go there now, then . . .?" he asked. Wonka twirled around and waved a hand off to it as he started towards the main door. Charlie followed.

"I need to grab the blueprints for the machine from my desk, anyway. Besides, they always overestimate time . . ." he said as he opened up the door, allowing a second for Charlie to scurry out, then closed it and locked it with a little gold key. He set down towards the second door and opened that up.

"Don't you mean underestimate?" asked Charlie from behind him. Wonka tapped the button to the elevator and stepped in.

". . . No . . . ?" he answered with a little smile, like he didn't know what the point of the question was. The elevator doors slid shut again.

When they reopened, Charlie was somewhat happy to see a regularly sized hallway again. This one had white walls and a blue carpet, with lots of space in between. Wonka stepped out gracefully, cane in front of him, and began his way down the corridor to the left, Charlie at his heels.

"Ya know," he began, probably more to himself, tilting his head a little with a regular, eerie smile, "The Great Glass Elevator is really just down the hall from my office . . . I never seem to remember that when I'm in a hurry . . . which doesn't make any sense at all . . ." After turning a corner or two, they stopped in front of a large wooden door, which Wonka pushed open without effort or a key.

Wonka's office was that of any other average business man's. The walls were a dark shade of blue, and the one to the right had an enormous circular window in it. There were bright white curtains hanging from the window, each fitted with an elegant dark red "W" in the center, like in his room, and there was an embroidered carpet across the floor. He had an armchair in the left corner of the room, with a little bowl of candy on the table next to it. There were papers all over the desk that sat in front of the window, and the far wall was completely file drawers and cabinets. The left wall was covered entirely by map. There were lots of pins marking different places on the map, and right in front of that wall was a globe.

It may have been a bit different that the average business man's office. But not much. Charlie smiled. Wonka walked over to his desk and picked up a paper. He looked at it for a moment, then casually tossed it over his shoulder and picked up another. The paper went fluttering to the floor. Charlie was looking at the paper when he heard a noise from the corner of the room. He looked over and gave a little squeak when a little round thing came sliding across the carpet and up to the paper. Wonka looked up at Charlie, then down to what he was looking at and grinned, looking back to the papers on his desk.

"Oh don't worry about that, that's just Rita," he said, bending down and opening up a drawer. Charlie didn't say a word, but watched warily as the little thing on the ground buzzed over to the paper, paused for a moment, then sucked it up like a vacuum. Charlie blinked, then looked up, where the same paper came sliding out of a little slit in the ceiling and fluttered back onto Wonka's desk neatly. Wonka didn't seem to notice it. Charlie watched the machine flurry its way back to the wall, where a little hole slid open, letting the thing back in, then shut again. Charlie hesitantly walked a curved path around "Rita's" hole, and up to Wonka's desk, where the chocolatier was currently behind his desk, rummaging through drawers.

Wonka popped back up after a minute with a frustrated pout. He looked to the far wall, then maneuvered around his desk and over to the file cabinets, pulling one open and shuffling through it with quick fingers. Charlie looked over to the window and noticed a telescope. He walked around the desk and up to it. After a moment, he carefully peered through, aiming it at the buildings below.

He could see everything. He could see all the street shops and which one each was. He could read the street signs. He could see the flower pots on each house's window sill. When he turned the telescope up, he could see all the rooftops of all the buildings in town. At the end of the road, he could see a sunken patch of land, and a "For Sale" in front of it. When he turned the telescope higher, he thought he could even see the edge of the next town. And when he moved the telescope back down a little, he could see . . . nothing.

Charlie tilted his head and moved the telescope away, seeing he'd been aiming at something too close to see: a person. A number of people, actually. A small, but gradually growing, crowd in front of the factory. Charlie pushed the telescope back down and watched out the window. The few scattered people were looking up, talking, having little conversations they looked very interested in. A few would point at the factory then lean over to the person next to them and say something.

Charlie sighed just as Wonka popped up from the file drawers, holding a rolled up paper in his hand with a magnificent grin of achievement.

"Ahah!" he exclaimed, turning towards Charlie. "Got it." Charlie didn't turn around.

"Looks like they found me," he sighed quietly. Wonka's smile faded and was replaced with a curious frown. He crept up a few feet behind the little boy to look out the window. He cocked his head to the side, rather blankly, upon seeing the people, but after a minute turned back around and began to his desk.

"They can't get in," he assured. Charlie smiled.

"Well I know that," he said, turning around. Wonka kept facing his desk, shuffling through papers, and Charlie looked back out the window. After a moment of silence, Wonka spoke up again.

"And even if they could, you could just do the same thing you do with sharks." Charlie smiled faintly again and turned his head.

"So are people a lot like sharks?" Charlie asked.

"Most of 'em," Wonka confirmed quietly. Charlie's smile faded away, but he stayed watching the chocolatier's back.

" . . . What do you do with sharks then?" he asked after a moment, and Wonka suddenly twirled around.

"Ya poke 'em in the eyes!" he declared with a grin, ending at Charlie's eye level and poking the air in front of him with two fingers. Charlie leaned back and grinned.

"Does that really work?" he asked curiously. Wonka paused, then stood straight upright again, glancing up.

"I don't know," he said lightly, then turned back around to get the last of the papers. "But if I ever come face to face with a shark, I'll try it out and tell you if it works." Wonka picked up the blueprints for the boiler, and Charlie came away from the window as they reached the door.

"What if it doesn't?" Wonka straightened his hat with two graceful fingers before opening the door.

"I'll have the shark tell you."

". . . So if we know that 3 ¼ plus 9 ¼ is equal to 12 2/4, which we simplify to 12 ½ . . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

". . . We can say that 12 ½ is more than 3 ¼ and 9 ¼, because we added something to both these values to get 12 ½. So we put that statement using our value sign to say 12 ½ is more than 3 ¼ . . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

". . . and 12 ½ is more than 9 ¼. . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

". . . We could also switch the equations around to make the same statements . . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

". . . But making sure to switch thesigns in the middle as well, so not to say 3 ¼is more than 12 ½. . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

". . . Which we know is a false statement . . ."

scratch scratch . . .

". . . Now, if we were not sure whether or not 3 ¼ was less than 12 ½, we could check it with a simple number line . . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

". . . Placing 3 ¼ right about here . . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

". . . And 12 ½ about here . . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

"Now being able to tell that 3 ¼ is closer to zero, we can confirm it is less than 12 ½ . . ."

scratch scratch scratch . . .

"Labeling the statement as true."

. . . scratch scratch.

Mr. Lawler dropped his chalk into the tray below and brushed off his hands as he turned around. "Any question?"

None of his class was watching the board. They were all turned in their seats, silent attention on a small boy in the back row, who sat at his desk quietly, taking notes. Mr. Lawler sighed silently, then banged his palm against his desk a couple of times. The class quickly turned back around in their chairs, and the teacher stood giving a blankly frustrated look, then glanced at the boy in the back (who was carefully looking up, now that it was safe to), probably having the same discrete thoughts as the rest of the children. Suddenly the bell rang, and as everyone packed up their books and grabbed their bags, Mr. Lawler vaguely called out the homework and dismissed them.

Charlie shuffled out of the school building along with the rest of the excited kids, and as they all ran their separate ways with their friends, mostly towards the candy shop, Charlie went down his own usual way to home. He adjusted the backpack strap on his shoulder and was on the sidewalk from the school, when he heard his name called from behind. He turned around and saw another boy running up to meet him.

". . . Hi Charlie . . ." the boy panted lightly when he reached him. After he caught a little breath, he shifted the weight of his backpack to his other shoulder, seeming hesitant. ". . . What's new?"

This was Taylor McAvery. Charlie knew him from most of his classes and had talked to him a few times before. He was a nice kid. He was a little pudgy, but not much, and had a ruffle of black hair that went well with brown eyes. Charlie began walking again.

"Nothing." The other boy waited a moment before following him, and looked down to the sidewalk, like was thinking of something to say.

Charlie knew that any other kid from school walking with him would have made him uneasy. Firstly knowing there was no way they walk with him all the way to his 'house', secondly because of all the stories that were being passed around on the subject lately, and he doubted Taylor was wondering about them any less than anyone else. But Taylor was a good, honest kid, not to mention a bit like Charlie, without any particular group of friends. Charlie didn't mind him.

"I 'eard your father got a promotion," Taylor said after a moment, looking up from the sidewalk. Charlie looked up as well.

"Where'd you hear about that?" he asked. Taylor pulled out a little cake from his bag and broke off a piece.

"My uncle works a' the toothpaste factory. He says he's seen your da' around," he said though a full mouth. "Whan's some?" He offered, holding the sweet up to Charlie. Charlie shook his head politely. Taylor shrugged and broke off another little piece as the two turned the corner ontoMaple Street. Taylor swallowed, then hesitated before putting another piece in his mouth. He casually picked at the top of it. "So . . . ya hear abou' the golden ticket winners for the tour of the chocolate factory back in February?" Charlie nodded. Taylor looked back down at his pie, taking another piece as he continued. "Like tha' world record gal ate some'in and turned blue." Charlie didn't look up.


"And the other girl fell into a giant garbage shute, and the boy was stretched real high . . ."

"And the other was sucked up a pipe," Charlie said, looking up. Taylor was still looking at his cake, finishing the last of it. He chewed for a moment.

" . . . What'd you hear about the last ticket winner?" he asked. Charlie hesitated a second.

". . . I heard they never knew who he was," he said. Taylor gave a slow chew and swallowed, looking slightly disappointed.

"That's wha' I heard." The two reached the center ofMaple street, and Taylor started across the street to his house on the corner. He turned around and waved.

"I'll see you tomorrow, then, Charlie?" he called. Charlie nodded and waved back.

"Bye Taylor," he called, and watched Taylor scuttle up to his house, up the front steps and though the door. Charlie waited a moment, then turned and kept walking, down to the corner of Main Street, and up to his own home.

Author's Notes

I am soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorry it took.

Red Squirrels in South Scotland Project: Oooooohhh noh. Not just a crazy. h t t p / w w w . r e d – s q u i r r e l s . o r g . u k /

"The door had two knobs, was the first thing Charlie noticed. . .": Mkay, I, like, wanna give myself a cookie. Kay, well, it just occurred to me, hey! Those poor Oompa Loompas can't reach the regular doorknobs! They need things like that to be their size! So I did that. But theeen . . . I found some pictures from behind the scenes, and whaddya know! They showed a picture in the Television Room, where there was a telephone, and on the telephone were two receivers, one normal sized, and one loompa sized! How. Cool.

"Efexit": Yah, on the remote in Wonka's room? Well, firstly I thought of the buttons on the remote kinda like the buttons on the elevator, but secondly, Efexit is short for "Emergency Fire Exit." :snigger: Oh I know, I'm so cool.

"Oh don't worry about that, that's just Rita. . .": :gleamy eyes: WE HAVE A RIIITA! Aahahahahahahah . . . :cough: Okay, well, I dunno if you've heard of 'em, but there are these robot vacuum things called Roombas. (just go to h t t p / w w w . i r o b o t . c o m / if you wanna see 'em) And . . . my family being my family named ours Rita. So . . . yah, that's also on the remote. And, I seriously gave it a lot of thought, and I really think Wonka is the kind of person who would have one of these. Especially since I doubt they were very populous in that town.

I've been sick lately, so the next chapter should be up in a couple weeks or so. . .

(omg ps today i had off school and was sick but was dragged by my family for a tour of the white house which really only re-enforces myplans of becoming a terrorist when i grow up ((im kidding please no one sue me)) and i was so bored i wanted to gouge my eyes out but tomorrow im staying home from school sick and ill be home alone for like four hours and o.m.g. CatCF mara-flippin-thon, baby)