Willy Wonka was hopping from foot to foot.
"Everybody ready? Taffy-pulling people? Chocolate mixing and making people? Shelvers and custodians? Gum people? Cashiers? Everybody else?" Wonka chirped. All five of his employees nodded. They lounged in various poses against the counter, amusing themselves by watching Willy scurry around, checking, rechecking, and re-rechecking everything. Forty-five minutes remained before seven o'clock and they'd all been at the shop since five that morning. Joe almost let loose a yawn. Doug, who was sitting on the counter beside him, noticed and grinned at his friend.
"Tired?" he asked in a whisper. Joe smiled lethargically.
"You?" Joe asked.
"Yeah. Hey, Willy! How can you be so hyper in the morning?" Doug called to his boss, who was examining the window display of chocolate, then sweeping the linoleum, then checking the change in the registers, all in the space of about thirty seconds. Wonka looked up from the streamers leading to the back rooms.
"Huh? Oh, are you guys sleepy? Take a nap, by all means! I'll wake you when it's quarter til. Or you can have some of our delectable really really sour tart candies. Those'll wake you right up!" His light-skinned hand dropped a few vibrantly-colored balls into all of his workers' palms. Courtney, Joyce, Katherine, Doug, and Joe inspected them carefully. Simultaneously, they looked at Wonka (who was now in the midst of an investigation into the state of the bell on the door), then at each other. Joyce was the first to find her courage and pop it in her mouth. She squeaked, lips puckered and eyes wide. Doug, who'd tried his just a little after Joyce, had the same reaction, as did the other three. Willy glanced back at them and swallowed a giggle, then went back to scrubbing the windowpane.
The five scowled at him, though it only took the softest little chuckle from Joyce to send them all into fits of laughter. Fourteen and a half seconds later they all stopped. A solemn exchange of glances took place. Six seconds later they were guffawing harder than before. Doug slid off the counter and stumbled into a rack of gummy worms. Katherine was tittering away happily, rocking back and forth on a stool. Joyce, who had climbed to the top of a pyramid of chocolate bars, chortled as she slid down, blond pigtails flying. Courtney's dark chocolate colored face had turned almost cherry-red, and cheerful tears abounded. Joe was sitting on the floor, cackling maniacally. Willy himself cracked up and started singing and dancing on the countertop. A fair sized multitude had gathered outside the window, peering in curiously. All at the exact same moment, the six noticed the crowd. The laughter abruptly stopped. Wonka glanced at his watch and emitted a squeak.
"Ten ten ten ten minutes ten just ten ten ten only ten left hurry hurry ten minutes left!" The shop, left close to ruin by the exuberant cheeriness, could never be ready for a grand opening in such little time. Fortunately, Wonka had never been one to cater to the implications of a word like 'never,' and by 6:59 and 38 seconds, it was as spic-and-span as ever. The six candymakers huddled behind the Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights.
"Kay. Everybody ready?" Willy whispered. They nodded and reverently adjusted their red-and-white striped caps. Each received a quick-dissolving sweet, and, brandishing his scissors, Wonka led the way to the door. He turned the knob, pulled, and displayed a perfect set of teeth in the biggest smile ever seen on Cherry Street. Without a word or bit of hesitation, he snipped the licorice ribbon and dashed to the back room to make more candy.
For the next twelve hours, Wonka's tiny shop was more than filled to the brim with customers. Lots of people returned after buying and sampling one candy to get a few dozen more of the delectable concoctions of sugary delight. Quite a number of children skipped school, spending their day at the new candy store. Of course, the teacher didn't mind—he was one of the most regular customers, stepping up to the counter (after wading through a fifteen-minute line) often enough to be on first-name basis with all five cashiers. There had to be five cashiers almost constantly—even with that number, the lines extended out the door and along the sidewalk, even spilling onto the road. Lunch got skipped, though every now and then Willy would hand random pieces of candy to his employees.
Eventually 7 pm rolled around, and Wonka's shop was reluctantly left in peace and quiet. Doug sprawled out on the counter and closed his eyes. The three females and Joe took up the stools in front of the check-outs. Willy did a cartwheel in a stretch of open floor. Eyes shining in purple splendor, he giggled.
"Wasn't that fun? Now, there's a bunch we have to do tonight. We're out of… um…everything, so there's a lot of candy-making to do. And I guess we should do something about all that money. And all that other stuff that goes along with a business…" Willy trailed off. His hand suddenly had a notebook in it, and he was scribbling away with a dark purple pen.
"We're not all as obsessed as you are, Willy," Doug groaned. "Some of us actually have lives." Willy frowned and kept writing. Joyce glared at Doug.
"He didn't mean it. We do have to get home sometime, though. Katherine and Courtney and I share an apartment with another girl, and we don't want to disrupt her sleep or anything." Willy cocked his head to the left, then grinned and somersaulted over to them.
"Oh. I'll see you all tomorrow, then! Can you come early again? Maybe at six?" Once this had been affirmed by all employees, Willy skipped through the streamers to the manufacturing portion of the store. The others shared a glance, except for Doug, who was snoring on the counter.
"What do you say to helping him out a little? We could surprise him by having the money dealt with," Joyce suggested.
"Are we allowed to?" Katherine asked.
"Why not? He certainly can't fire us, with such a small staff. The absolute worst he can do is give us exploding candies," Courtney said. The three girls looked to Joe. He shrugged and made his way to the first cash register.
"Exploding candies aren't so bad."
At eight o'clock, Doug was still napping, Wonka was still making chocolate, and Joyce, Katherine, Courtney, and Joe were sill counting coins. Already, night had come upon them, and the doors and windows of the little store had been locked. The window display candies had been sold, so a view of a dark street and a closed shop bearing the title, "Slugworth's Chocolates, Inc" met the eyes of any Wonka workers who happened to glance up. They never did, however, being too busy sorting money in astonishment. Even after just two registers, there was enough to pay all the bills and lease for the shop, as well as everyone's salary.
By the fifth register, Katherine's freckled hands had become deft at separating currency by value. Joyce had said even more numbers with decimal points than she had as an algebra tutor. Joe was getting very skilled at recording numerals in columns. Courtney ended up being the one to put the proper quantities in envelopes and label them "Lease," "Water," "Katherine's Salary," and so on. Perhaps not the most businesslike approach, but considering how businesslike and advanced the store and its owner were, it was more than sufficient. Doug, meanwhile, had become very experienced in the art of sleeping through anything (like attempts to shove him off the counter). The moon had risen above Slugworth's shop by the time the work was finished. According to the peppermint clock hanging above the window, it was 9:30.
"Wow," Joyce sighed. She twirled one of her long blond pigtails, gazing at the bulging manila folders.
"Indeed," agreed Courtney. Her brown hands straightened the stack of envelopes and lined up the accounting papers beside them. Joe wiggled his own fingers and tried to rub away the familiar inkiness that comes of writing in ballpoint pen. Doug stretched and slid off the counter.
"Ouch. I just missed two and half hours of accounting, didn't I? Oh rats." Joyce whacked him with a conveniently located candycane.
"What do you think Willy will say?" murmured Katherine. She finally removed the hat from her frizzy red hair and collected the other five, hanging them on lollipop-shaped knobs. The employees all grinned at the thought of possible Wonkish reactions to the financial work. Hoping to witness one, they waited another thirty minutes, discussing random topics to pass the time. Willy remained in the back room, from which creaks and bubbling and splashes and taps sounded incessantly.
"I need to go home to my family," Joe said eventually. He donned hat and coat with an apologetic smile. "I'll see you all at six tomorrow." The others left soon after, though noised continued to emit from the back workshop.