Author's Note: I needed a break from another story I've been working on a little too intensely, so this is just a light story about Willy Wonka finding love. Feedback welcome, though I'm not overly concerned about continuity details; it's fanfiction, so just pretend that I changed little things deliberately.
GOLDEN TICKETS STRIKE AGAIN! ECCENTRIC CANDYMAKER SEEKS AIDE
In a surprise announcement yesterday afternoon, Wonka Industries announced the launch of a new hiring campaign seeking a personal assistant for company founder and confectionery miracle worker Mr. Willy Wonka. But don't submit your resumes just yet, ladies; there's only one way to get an interview for what is sure to be a highly sought-after position: find one of the five golden tickets hidden inside a Wonka Bar.
Readers will likely recall the debacle of Wonka Industries' last golden ticket contest a few years ago. Chocolate bars became a rare commodity almost overnight as citizens around the world began purchasing candy by the truckload. Trash bins and dumpsters overflowed with melting, discarded Wonka Bars as children unwrapped more bars than they could ever possibly eat and abandoned them as soon as they found no trace of coveted gold paper.
Given the alarmingly wasteful results of the first contest, it seems especially irresponsible of Wonka Industries to repeat this maneuver. Mr. Arthur Slugworth, president of Slugworth Chocolates Incorporated, expressed disdain over Wonka's methods.
"Mr. Wonka may know how to sell chocolate, but that says little as to whether or not the product is actually worth buying. I do wonder about the future operation of Wonka's factory, if he continues with this theory that the only necessary skill for his workers is the ability to walk into a store and spend money frivolously."
Mr. Charlie Bucket, one of the winners of the last golden ticket contest and the heir to Wonka Industries, had only this to say in response to Mr. Slugworth's comments: "It worked well enough with me, didn't it?"
Though only rarely seen in public, Mr. Wonka and Mr. Bucket have been known to exhibit the more intimate traits of a father and son rather than that of a purely work-based relationship. Though Mr. Wonka was unavailable for comment and Mr. Bucket refused to elaborate, one has to speculate; if Mr. Bucket is more to Mr. Wonka than an heir, is this future aide to be more than an assistant?
Perhaps instead of golden tickets packaged inside his chocolate bars, Mr. Wonka should have opted for diamond rings.
In his office, Willy Wonka set the newspaper with its startling headline down on his half-desk and leaned back in his half-chair.
"Oh, my dear boy," he murmured, running a hand through his hair, "what have you done?"
Charlie Bucket had a mop of unruly blonde hair that refused to be tamed and he seemed to be constantly outgrowing his clothing. He fidgeted as his mother clucked over his exposed wrists and ankles and tried in vain to comb his hair into something more suitable. He dutifully kissed his grandparents goodbye, all four of them, before escaping from the neat little cottage they shared into the bright sunlight of another wonderful day. He took a deep breath, inhaling the crisp morning air, and smiled.
Most thirteen-year-old boys would not be so pleased to be heading off for another day at school, but Charlie did not go to an ordinary school for ordinary children. He went to a special school created just for him by Mr. Willy Wonka, and anything produced by Mr. Wonka could not help but be delightful.
Charlie walked through the gate of the little white fence that ran around his family's cottage and shut it carefully behind him. There was a slight chill in the air, so he took a moment to button his coat and put on his hat.
Then he crossed the wide courtyard and entered the back door of Wonka Industries. He removed his hat and coat and hung them by the door.
It had been very nice of Mr. Wonka to build the little cottage in the factory's back courtyard. It made Charlie's walk to work so short that he barely had time to get cold. It also kept his family safe from prying eyes, after his overnight rise to fame as Mr. Wonka's heir. Even better, it kept Mr. Wonka safe from prying eyes when Mrs. Bucket invited him over for dinner, which she did frequently.
It hadn't taken the Buckets long to realize that, despite having the entire population of Loompaland living with him in his factory, Willy Wonka was a lonely man. Charlie and his family were such sensible, good-natured people that they quickly began to break through the skepticism and bitterness that the chocolatier had carried with him ever since being betrayed by his own workers so many years ago. Mrs. Bucket, though being near to Mr. Wonka's age herself, treated the man as she saw him: a good friend to her son. She showered him with so much affection that Mr. Wonka was known to call her 'Mother' from time to time, and she did not mind one bit.
It was late one evening in which Mr. Wonka had joined them dinner that The Idea first occurred to Charlie. His family had been gathered around the table after the meal preparing for a friendly game of cards. Grandpa Joe was already shuffling the deck while Grandma Georgina and Grandma Josephine's bickering about what they should play had the rest of them in stitches. Charlie had been helping his mother clear the dishes from the table when he'd happened to look at Mr. Wonka and noticed the peculiar expression on his face. He had his elbows propped up on the table casually, his pose speaking of lazy contentment, but something about his face was a little sad and too intense as he watched Charlie's family.
"Charlie," Mrs. Bucket called to him softly. "Don't stare." Charlie accepted the towel she offered him and began to quickly dry the dishes she was scrubbing. "The poor man has been alone without a family for a long time. It must be so hard for him."
Charlie thought about that as he dried another plate. "But he has us now. We're his family!"
Mrs. Bucket looked at Charlie as she wiped her hands on her apron. "So we are," she told him with a smile, enveloping him in a hug that was all warmth and the smell of soap. "So we are."
She let him go and he was alarmed to see her eyes looked a little damp. "I'm so proud of you, Charlie," she said, making him grin in awkward pleasure. She tousled his hair a little. "Now go join your grandpa and make sure he doesn't cheat!"
When Charlie took his seat at the table, Mr. Wonka's strange expression was gone.
Charlie didn't think about The Idea for several days after that, but then suddenly in the middle of studying some paperwork that Mr. Wonka was working on, it reared its head again with a vengeance.
A lot of Charlie's time in the factory was spent following Mr. Wonka around, learning what he did and what went into running Wonka Industries. Mr. Wonka also employed a man by the name of Mr. Wilkinson, who took care of any business matters that happened outside the factory. Mr. Wilkinson tutored Charlie in the more ordinary subjects such as math and literature, and had such a serious demeanor that Charlie could easily understand how he had been able to play the sinister Slugworth during the golden ticket contest. He much preferred school with Mr. Wonka to school with Mr. Wilkinson.
This particular day, school meant reviewing paperwork with Mr. Wonka, which was not nearly as exciting as most things Mr. Wonka did but still easily beat math and literature. Mr. Wonka's office now held two half-chairs and two half-desks, though the halves did not match and Charlie wondered if somewhere there was another room where all the leftover halves were kept.
Mr. Wonka had begun by explaining each piece of documentation to Charlie as they went, but the stack of papers to address was very large and as the hours wore on Charlie became overwhelmingly confused by the wealth of information. Mr. Wonka was clearly becoming frustrated and Charlie wasn't sure if it was with his lack of understanding or with the tedium of handling so much paperwork.
He jumped when Mr. Wonka slammed a piece of paper down onto his desk, adding it to the woefully small pile of completed work. "There!" Mr. Wonka declared, rising to his feet. "I think that's enough of that." He stretched his arms above his head before smiling. "Why don't we go to the Inventing Room, Charlie?"
Charlie wriggled in his seat. The Inventing Room was one of his favorite places in the whole factory. "But," he asked worriedly, "what about the papers?"
Mr. Wonka swept his top hat off his desk and placed it firmly on his head as he frowned at the remaining stack of unfinished business. "Well, it will just have to wait for another day," he said mildly, "A day when new ideas aren't dancing in my head, just waiting to be discovered!"
He held out his hand with a grin. "Shall we, Charlie?"
Charlie couldn't help but grin back. "Yes, let's!" he said, taking the outstretched hand, and they fairly skipped out of the room and down the hall.
Perhaps it was the Inventing Room's fault, being that its purpose was to take tidbits of possibility and ideas and explode them into reality, or perhaps it was that Charlie's idea, TheIdea, had been at the forefront of his mind in Mr. Wonka's office, but at any rate Charlie did not find himself thinking about wonderful new kinds of chocolates and candies that could be created.
Charlie found himself thinking about Mr. Wonka. Mr. Wonka, who had no family. Mr. Wonka, who was lonely. Mr. Wonka, who hated paperwork. Mr. Wonka, who needed help.
It really was a shame, Charlie found himself thinking, that Mr. Wonka couldn't hire more people to help run the factory. Not hundreds of workers like in the past, he had the Oompa Loompas for that, but a few more people like Charlie and Mr. Wilkinson who could help with the more important matters. Like paperwork. But how would one even go about finding and hiring such a person?
The solution hit Charlie so suddenly that he froze in place and gasped. He'd often seen Mr. Wonka momentarily shocked into stillness when struck by such a marvelous idea, as if the slightest movement might scare it away or make it become too wonderful to bear. He had always wondered what it would feel like, and now he knew.
And he knew exactly how to find the perfect person for Mr. Wonka. After all, Charlie thought, it worked well enough for me.