I do not own Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in any form.

Charlie Bucket lived at the bottom of a hill in a very small house with a hole in its roof. This wasn't because his family thought it was a good idea to live in a house with a hole in the roof - they didn't like the idea - or the hole - at all. But they wanted to eat more than they wanted to fix the hole and they didn't have the money to do both.

The hole in the roof wasn't right over Charlie's bed, which was up in the loft, but it was very near to it. There was a big heavy sheet of plastic that Charlie could use to cover the hole if he wanted to, but Charlie mostly didn't want to, even in cold weather. If he covered the hole he couldn't see the enormous Chocolate Factory that stood on the top of the hill.

In the morning, when Charlie opened his eyes, the Chocolate Factory was the first thing he saw and it was the last thing he saw before closing his eyes at night. It was his favorite sight and they were his favorite times of the day.

Of course, it wasn't Charlie's Chocolate Factory. He had nothing to do with it. Neither, as far as he knew, did anyone else in the town.

For Charlie, the Factory at the top of the hill was a mysterious place. Mysterious, because once it had employed most of the town and now, as far as Charlie knew, it employed no one from the town; mysterious, because it produced the finest chocolate and candy in the world with workers that were never seen; mysterious, because the candy-making genius who owned and ran it, Mr. Willy Wonka, had himself not been seen for years.

Charlie didn't care about any of that. He just loved the Factory. It soared majestically toward the sky on top of its hill. Its lines conveyed a sense of strength, refinement, and artistry all at the same time. Charlie thought it was beautiful. He drew pictures of it and hung them on his wall. He made models of it using toothpaste caps his father brought home from work.

As beautiful as the Factory was, that wasn't the best thing about it. The best thing about it was the fragrances that poured from its stacks. They were rich, and sweet and very best of all, cost nothing to enjoy. Every day on his way to school, when Charlie reached the main gates, he stopped, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. Then he took another breath and another one after that. Each breath was heaven! The scents on the air were so delightful, so rich and pungent that they very nearly crossed the line, leaving the realm of smell and almost entering the realm of taste.

So the Factory was a large part of Charlie's world but, at the same time, not a part of it at all. Still, every year, for Charlie's birthday, his parents would scrape together enough money to buy Charlie a Wonka chocolate bar. On that day, and for the month or so that Charlie made the bar last, the Factory was a tangible part of Charlie's life. In the end, Charlie didn't often talk about the Factory or how he felt about it.

His parents could see how Charlie felt and they didn't talk about the Factory, either. But Charlie's Grandpa Joe had actually worked at the Factory and Grandpa Joe had actually known Mr. Willy Wonka, years ago. So sometimes, Grandpa Joe couldn't resist talking about the Factory and its owner. These were Charlie's favorite stories and on these occasions Charlie listened intently. The Factory was a bond Grandpa Joe and Charlie shared. The Factory held memories for Grandpa Joe, both happy and sad, but for Charlie, it was a dream.

From his Factory on the top of the hill, Mr. Willy Wonka didn't look at the town, didn't care to, and hadn't for years. Recently, that had changed.

The Chocolate Factory was his dream realized, but there were days, and this was one of them, when Willy couldn't help but shake his head when he considered the tortuous route he had taken to accomplish it. The events involved had been brutal, and even with the favorable outcome, the wounds had yet to heal. On this particular late fall day, Willy found himself standing before a window, high up in his Factory, a gloved hand resting on the pane, contemplating the town he saw spread out before him. He considered the past as he watched the present.

I had no way of knowing, Willy thought, as he watched the people below, that thieves, spies and betrayal would be the ticket to my Factory's future. Strange to think that closing the Factory down was what allowed me to open it up again in an entirely new, creative way. It all just seemed like terrible blows at the time. But without those events, I'd never have found the Oompa-Loompas and without them, nothing would be as it is now. Willy smiled a tight little smile. My previous workers wouldn't recognize the place, if I ever let them back in. The thought made him shudder involuntarily.

Willy continued to watch the people below, noticing how they streamed around the walls of his Factory, no one going in, no one coming out, as it had been for over a decade now. He laughed at that. I'll bet they take that personally, he thought. Yeah, well, I've had better things to do with my time. My Factory is like a rock in a stream, and those townspeople are like drops of water, parted by it. We surround each other but never mix. Another thought tickled him and he laughed again. Actually, if they only knew, my factory is like an iceberg. An iceberg that never melts!

Then Willy saw what he had been waiting to see. The boy had arrived. He was like clockwork Monday through Friday and here he was again, right on time. He was the only person Willy had ever seen stop regularly just to drink in the Factory. Willy found it very appealing and somehow soothing. This town, he thought, didn't do themselves any favors when they forced me to close. But it turned out well for me. Now I'm looking at the next generation. Maybe it's time I forgave them. No. Maybe. I don't know. On that note, he turned and began his day.

By the end of the day, Mr. Willy Wonka, other than being distracted, distracting, and underfoot, had managed to accomplish absolutely nothing. This was so unusual, the Oompa-Loompas sent Eshle, their chief, to investigate.

Eshle found Willy in the Chocolate Room, sitting cross-legged on the top of one of the swudge hills overlooking the chocolate river, his trademark top hat on the ground in front of him, his walking stick beside it. Seeing the situation, Eshle crept up slowly, expecting with every step to hear, "Don't even think about it," or some such remark from the seated figure. It didn't happen though and he soon found himself directly behind Willy, undetected. Whatever is occupying him must really be something, Eshle thought. He carefully extended his arms around Willy's head, crossing his palms in front of Willy's eyes, but not actually touching him. "Guess who!" he cried.

"Yikes," yelped Willy, freezing in place for a moment. Then he carefully turned his head. "Eshle! Whatever do ya think you're doing?"

"Winning a bet that I could sneak up on you," Eshle replied, smiling, "and, as distracted as you are, it was easy!"

"You mean you picked the short straw."

Waving his hand dismissively but otherwise ignoring the last comment, Eshle continued with mock outrage, "and I see I've arrived just in time! This is swudge abuse! 'Pick all you'll eat, eat all you pick'. Here you are pulling up swudge and not eating any!"

Willy looked down at the minty green blades of delectable swudge he had picked and arranged on the top of his hat. "Guilty as charged, I'm afraid."

Eshle looked at the hat. "That's a nice design, by the way. It would look good on the top of a bar of chocolate."

Willy's eyes lit up. "What about in a bar of chocolate? We could put the swudge between two layers, in bas-relief. It'd be a subtle design you'd both see and taste! We could call it Sweet Swudge Surprise!" Willy pulled a notebook from one of his pockets, made a few notes and copied the design.

Returning the notebook to his pocket, he made a sweeping motion with his arm toward the rest of the Chocolate Room, turned to Eshle and asked very seriously, "What will we do with it?"

Eshle looked at the expanse of swudge indicated by Willy's gesture. "We'll sell it, of course, though it might take a while for the name to catch on," Eshle answered slowly, Willy's tone making him suddenly uncertain.

"I could never sell the Factory."

"I'm talking about the swudge bar," Eshle managed to whisper, stunned by the change in subject.

"I'm talking about the Factory."

"Yikes," murmured Eshle softly as he sank down beside Willy.

"Yeah," continued Willy. "I had my semi-annual hair cut the other day."

"That is serious," said Eshle, rolling his eyes at the ceiling, wondering, has the subject been changed again?

"Serious it is," snapped Willy, "I found a gray hair on my shoulder."

"Oh my, that is serious. For Todd, that is. It was probably his hair that fell on your shoulder. For a barber, he has a lot of hair issues, not the least of which is he sheds like a house cat in summer."

Willy sighed. "No, it wasn't his, it was too long. The point is I'm not getting any younger. It's time to think about the next phase for the Factory. We've done pretty well with this one."

Eshle considered the remark. The tribe had certainly accomplished something fantastic in the more than a decade they had lived here. The Factory, transformed by their work and Willy's vision, was a thing of beauty that functioned almost flawlessly and in unique ways. It had become the perfect home for the Oompa-Loompas with everything they could want and more, including an employer who had become a dearly loved friend. Things had started to get much better, the day they had met Mr. Willy Wonka. Willy was right though. They had finished most of the heavy lifting, so to speak. They were just tweaking things now.

"So my thought is, I'll give it to you guys," Willy said, interrupting Eshle's musings. "It's your home and you know as much about running it as I do. I'll re-design the infrastructure so you won't need someone my size to deal with it." Willy grinned delightedly at Eshle, happy with what was, to his thinking, the perfect solution.

Hearing this, Eshle rose slowly to his feet, crossed his arms over his chest and bowed deeply to Willy. "On behalf of all the tribe I am deeply flattered by your generous offer." He paused. "But we cannot accept. There are aspects to running this Factory that can only be handled by someone of your culture and background. I'm sorry."

Willy's face fell and it hurt Eshle to see it. "It really wouldn't work. You need to find someone who shares your dream of invention; machines, candy, everything. We will gladly continue to help whoever you choose, because we trust your judgement. In any case we would need a liaison between ourselves and your culture. You know I'm right," he finished, placing a hand on Willy's shoulder.

Willy gave Eshle's hand a pat and rose to his feet. He began to pace, his gloved hands clasped behind his back. "I was hoping you wouldn't say that but I can't say I didn't expect it. It would have been such an easy solution." He stopped pacing and sighed. "My track record with my sort is less than stellar, as you know. Life is so much less complicated when they stay far away from me." Willy sighed again. "I really don't understand it. People just seem to like to take advantage." He shook his head. "I'm sure Slugworth and those other candy-making cads would be thrilled to take advantage of this! What a nightmare! They are all terrible!" With that he sat down again and closed his eyes.

Eshle sat beside him and said nothing, knowing words would not improve things.

The minutes ticked by in silence. Finally Willy turned back to Eshle, opened his eyes and said, "Well. They weren't all terrible. It's not fair of me to say that. I have fond memories of the people who helped me when I had my shop on Cherry Street. But the ones that were terrible certainly spoiled things."

"Find someone like the Cherry Street people, then. Someone who understands what you're about," said Eshle.

I'll have to 'cherry pick' an heir, thought Willy. As he sat, his thoughts turned to the boy he watched come to the gates on week days. Sometimes the expressions he saw on the child's face gave Willy the idea that the boy treasured the Factory, too. That's just it, he thought. A child will be flexible, imaginative, and willing to learn. I can teach a child all I know! There'd be plenty of time, years in fact, to do it right! Yeah! That could work!

Having found a way forward he turned and grinned happily at Eshle. Seeing this, Eshle sighed inwardly with relief, very glad to see the pensive look on Willy's face disappearing. The mischievous grin replacing it was a welcome sight.

"I'll have a contest open only to children. I'll find a child I can teach," announced Willy, sharing his thoughts. "Everyone loves a contest!" He fell silent for a moment. "Of course, the contest will be grand!" He made a sweeping motion with his arm. "I'll send out tickets...golden tickets...beautiful golden tickets! I'll put them in chocolate bars and let fate decide who finds them." He paused and reflected for a moment. "We'll sell a lot of chocolate bars, I expect. Note to us: We'll need to increase the chocolate bar supply before we announce this thing."

Willy loved to plan things. "How many tickets should I send out?" he mused, his gaze falling on his hat. "Let's let the swudge decide," he said with a giggle, glancing quickly at Eshle. Reaching out with his hand, he swept up some swudge. Opening his fist, he found it held five blades. "I'll send out five. I'll give the finders a tour of the Factory and let the Factory sort them out." He giggled again as he imagined that scenario.

An expression of concern formed on Eshle's face.

"It's alright," said Willy, narrowing his eyes slyly and smiling wickedly, seeing Eshle's reaction, "I won't give it free rein. They'll all come out in the wash."

Eshle gulped but looked mollified.

"We'll see if there's anyone we like," Willy continued. "It'll just be a tour. No need to say anything more than that at this stage." His voice took on a lilting tone. "Yeah. . . a tour. . . sound like a plan?"

"Sounds like a plan," agreed Eshle.

The two beamed at each other, but Willy's enthusiasm soon waned, the sparkle leaving his distinctive eyes. "I'll have a hard time finding some one to give this Factory to, especially because I don't want to do it," he murmured.

"That's how you'll know you have the right person," Eshle replied. "You will want to do it."

Later that evening, as the quiet dusk dissolved into the cold night, Mr. Willy Wonka found himself once again standing before a window, high up in his Factory, a gloved hand resting on the pane. As he looked down the hill, toward the edge of town, he contemplated the contest and the pupil he hoped to find and teach thereby. He tried to imagine the sort of person who could understand him, the Factory, the Oompa-Loompas. Did such a person even exist?

At exactly the same moment, Charlie Bucket, through the hole in his roof, looked up at the Factory, wondering what marvels it contained and if he could ever be the sort of person who could find out.

And so it was on that very night, as the one looked up, and the other looked down, the energy of their gazes meeting on the now dark and silent hill, that fate prepared to lend a hand.