It happened in the very early days - back when everything was new and strange to Charlie, and the media first caught hold of the word heir. It was then that going to school became such an ordeal, and the family gathered in conference.

Wonka, typically, didn't see the problem. If it distressed Charlie to go outside the Factory, he should simply stop going out.

"But I want to go to school," said Charlie.

"Quite right!" said Mr. and Mrs. Bucket, determined as they were that their son should eat regular meals, do his homework, get a good night's sleep, finish his education, and lead a normal life - Factory or no Factory, heir or not.

Everyone agreed - except Wonka.

Then Grandpa Joe suggested helpfully that with all these new-fangled computers and wires and things, wasn't there some way to go to school from inside the Factory?

"Of course!" said Wonka, instantly promising that whatever could be done with the Internet, would be done - it was all Charlie's for the asking, no trouble at all! And the family looked embarrassed, like they always did when Wonka talked as if money neither existed nor mattered.

A stray tendril from the nearest chocolate fudge-vine slid under the door, waving inquiringly; Wonka waved back, and it withdrew.

"I still want to go to school," said Charlie.

He did. It felt good, sometimes, to think about ordinary stuff like fractions and spelling-tests, in contrast to the wonders he was discovering every day in the Factory's depths. And he didn't want to stop seeing other kids - if only they'd quit treating him like a freak... He had friends, who would still be fun to hang out with if they'd stop hassling him about the heir thing. He could ignore the others - the kids who had never noticed him before, but were all over him now. And they all wanted to know about the candy! Just like the reporters! It made him so mad: did everyone suddenly see him as nothing but a door to the Factory? The kind of person who'd spill the Factory's secrets? Why?

"You'll keep going," said Mr. Bucket, "and we'll help any way we can - as long as this mess lasts. It's bound to blow over, isn't it? Sooner or later?"

"It's a waste of time, darn it!" said Wonka. He gave Charlie a deeply pitying look. "You're a chocolatier, not a - a - whatever people go to school to be. You'll learn all you need to know right here!"

"You should wear more teal," said Grandma Georgina. "It suits you so..."

Mrs. Bucket cleared her throat. "Be that as it may - Charlie's still eleven years old, and what he needs now is for us to help him finish his schooling normally - and think about university, and so on. Agreed?"

"Yes," said the family.

"No," said Wonka - but he seemed to accept being outvoted, only looking thoughtful as he took his leave that evening.

It was something Charlie had noticed before: how Wonka would hesitate sometimes, pausing mid-conversation, his expressive face freezing into stillness while he translated some concept from the foreign tongue of Family into English - or perhaps into Wonka, or Candy: the only languages he really understood.

The door closed softly behind him, shimmering for a moment with a new coating of butter-toffee that lent the whole house a wonderful scent. The coating lingered for a slow count of ten, then slithered down to circle Charlie's feet before disappearing through a crack in the floor.

Next afternoon Charlie found Wonka in the Factory's north-east, five levels down, and Wonka didn't mention the school argument at all; he only said that something needed feeding, and led him to a room he hadn't seen before.

The something turned out to be taller than Charlie: a huge yellow rose-crossed-with-a-cauldron, with buttons all over it and a glass door like a washing-machine. Charlie watched Wonka feed it raspberry syrup, very slowly - and still without a word about last night's argument.

"Wonka?"

"Yeah...?" The last of the syrup disappeared. Wonka turned around.

"Are you mad at me? About going to school?"

Several Oompa-Loompas moved in to stir the something and roll it away.

"Am I mad at you about going to school..." Wonka paused to consider this, frowning to himself and tilting his head first one way, then the other. "Hmm... Am I? Am I not? No, I'm not!" His whole face lit up with a grin of delighted discovery. "I'm really not! Cool. - Now, how about we go see the Jelly Snakes?"

Charlie blinked. "Um, okay..."

"Oh, c'mon! It's such fun to watch them hatch!"


Willy Wonka had left the Bucket house the previous evening with no clear idea of where to go or what to do. He crossed the bridge below the waterfall, opened a random door on the left, and walked on, trusting to Chance.

"This is for Charlie," he told the Factory as he went. "Let's roll!"

The Factory hummed busily, catching his mood, while Wonka took stock of the situation.

Charlie wanted to keep going to school. For some incomprehensible reasons of his own, Wonka's heir would leave the Factory five days a week - for years and years - to go and do... whatever they did with books and blackboards and such. Not a speck of chocolate in any of it, nor a swirl of strawberry frosting, nor a sunny dash of marshmallow...

Wonka shrugged. The corridor curved itself obligingly to the right.

"Back the other way, a bit," he muttered absently, reaching into his pocket for a few of those tasty mango drops that had such a stimulating effect on creative planning. The corridor adjusted itself to the left and swooped downhill. He strode on.

Very well. Charlie would go to school! Wonka decided to accept that. It baffled him, but he rather enjoyed being baffled - it was one of his favorite pastimes, right up there with baffling others.

"Concealment," he told the Factory. "He'll need to be hidden, won't he?"

A passing Oompa-Loompa nodded thoughtfully. A rumbling roar began in the Factory's farthest depths.

Wonka took a deep breath.

"Hey!" he called to Chance. "Look after your own!"

Then he closed his eyes before swinging sharply right and walking straight through the corridor's wall.

The floor disappeared beneath his feet. He felt the Factory tense in preparation.

Still trusting to Chance, he fell.

But Chance was an old friend - he was quite certain of that. Chance was someone who cared about beauty, and fun, and wonderful candy: someone, in other words, very much like Wonka himself.

It was Chance who'd once left a little piece of chocolate lying in the ashes, unburned.

Years later, it was Chance who led him to the Oompa-Loompas.

In the latest of many triumphs, Chance had placed a Golden Ticket in the hands of a true chocolatier. Oh, Wonka had profound respect for Chance!

He opened his eyes to darkness and the long fall - but the Factory was right there, with him and all around him. It broke his fall with something soft and crumbly and rose-scented, then swung him around at random and cast him into another dive, even longer than the one before, past a series of chocolate cataracts in a phosphorescent glow.

"Yeah!" he screamed, falling and laughing. "All right!"

A blast of cold air - a great whoosh as he landed on something that jello-bounced him forward in a caramel cloud - and then a slide, a long glorious metal slide past a row of busy ovens with great luminous dials - and then, at last, a stop.

Wonka straightened his hat and drew his coat around himself more tightly; it was chilly down here at the lower levels of the Factory's north-east. He stood on a cliff-ledge, with ice-frosted rock stretching above him and to either side, its darkness enlivened by colorful veins of gelati.

Two Oompa-Loompas in full evening dress, arm in arm, beckoned to him from the parapet ahead, where they'd built a little bonfire to keep themselves warm.

"Hi guys," said Wonka, joining them. "What's cooking?"

In response they pointed outward into the cavern's vastness - and a shower of fireworks burst overhead in a glory of pink and green, illuminating the lake far below. Closer and closer came the flames, as Wonka leaned on the parapet to watch the show - and then they were very close, and very soft, and raining tiny rosettes of deliciously light marzipan. Wonka ate several and beamed his approval.

"Nice one, guys!" he said, giving the pair a thumbs-up. They bowed solemnly in return.

"Higher," he told the Factory, turning back to the cliff-face and starting to climb. "Feels like I should be higher, dontcha think? Pretty close now!" And the Factory heard, and agreed; stairs appeared before him, gliding forward, taking him up and up and up and -

"Stop!" said Wonka. "Here."

He could feel the Factory's curiosity, like a great cat circling the spot where he stood.

"Here," he said again, pressing both purple-gloved palms against a wall. "Oh, here - "

And then there was no wall, but a doorway, and as he walked through it there was a door to close behind him.

"Yes," he told the Factory's newest room, taking form all around him. "Come on! This one's for Charlie! Let's do it, let's rock and roll! Yeah!"

A crash as the ceiling snapped into place - a rolling clatter for the walls...

And then the rush, oh yes, closing his eyes to meet it - the great sweet incredible rush of power as the whole Factory, from highest dome and tower above to lowest tunnel in the labyrinth below, fixed its attention on this one spot and wrought its welcome for the newest room: pounding it forth from Wonka's very being, rushing through hands and feet, head and heart, all his will turned to this, this, this!

It surged through him, vast as the Factory itself - they were one, at this moment, and all the Oompa-Loompas too, he could feel every one of them, their voices raised in song to channel power and purpose.

Wonka's hat flew off. His hair streamed upward in whirling Medusa-locks. He opened his eyes to see a hundred gleaming pipes grow to web the ceiling, announcing their birth in a grating whine. And suddenly there was chocolate in the room - lots of chocolate! - its rich familiar scent all around him.

Wonka stretched out his arms, threw back his head, and let out a "Yeee-ha!" of pure joy.

Afterwards, when all was quiet, he took a long look at his newest chocolate-machine. There was often no telling what things would look like, until they had fully formed.

This one was very yellow.

"Wow," he said, staring at the buttons on its petals. "Wow!"

He reached out and pushed a button.

The machine whirred and beeped at him - in a good way. The Factory purred.

"A couple of days should do it, right?" said Wonka.

Then he rolled up his sleeves and started tinkering. It was a long night.


Next afternoon - a day after the something and the Jelly Snakes - Charlie was surprised to find a gleeful Wonka waiting for him by the bridge in the Chocolate Room.

Charlie had been getting used to his new after-school routine. First, run the gauntlet of journalists between the school and the Factory gates. Next, report to Mum for a welcome-home kiss and a glass of milk. Then he'd race off to the Elevator, where there was always a note from Wonka, telling Charlie where to find him. And for the next couple of hours there would be the Factory - and the candy - and Charlie had never been happier.

"Hey!" said Wonka, almost bouncing. "I've got something new for you. Just for you! And it's great! Come on!"

He strode down the long hallway from the Chocolate Room to the Factory's front doors. Charlie had to run to keep up.

As they entered the courtyard, Wonka's grin grew even wider. "Come on, Charlie! We're going for a walk!"

"Out there..?" Charlie stopped. "But - the reporters! And they're at all the side-gates, too - "

An airy wave was the only response. And Wonka wasn't even wearing his sunglasses.

"Wonka, wait!"

He spun around to face Charlie. "And here's the surprise," he said, holding out a piece of candy in a bright blue-and-yellow wrapper.

Charlie took it, with a questioning look.

"I'm calling it Ordinary Chocolate. Neat name, huh?" Wonka produced another piece. "We'll try it together, okay? And, you know what? Just one piece'll make you seem ordinary for a whole day!"

Charlie stared at the chocolate, bewildered. "But I am ordinary," he said.

"No, you're not!" Wonka's voice turned fierce. His eyes blazed. "You're very special. You're a chocolatier, Charlie!"

"Oh," said Charlie in a small voice.

Then he ate the Ordinary Chocolate, which turned out to have a wonderful raspberry-cream center.

"It's great!"

"'Course it is. I made it."

"...And it really works?"

"'Course it does. I made it!" Wonka came back down from whatever clouds he floated on when savoring chocolate. He smiled at Charlie, pointing at the gates. "Well - shall we?"

Then they left the Factory together, Willy Wonka and his heir, and crossed the street, and... absolutely nothing happened.

"Wow," said Charlie, looking back at all the journalists who weren't looking at them.

Wonka had stopped dead in front of the bicycle shop, gazing intently at the window display.

"Mmm... D'you think we could do those spokes in peppermint rock?"

Charlie thought about it. "Barley sugar?" he suggested.

"Yes! Precisely."

They shared a grin.

Then they went for a walk around the town, and it was perfect. Though a few kids said "Hi" to Charlie in passing, not a single person stopped him to ask questions about candy! And nobody noticed Wonka at all.

"No more trouble with school, right?" said Wonka.

The smug look on his face was totally okay, Charlie thought. This Ordinary Chocolate was brilliant.