Disclaimer: I am not one of the lucky copyright holders of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in its many forms. I don't own anything at all. But I do hope you find this just for fun, not for profit, perhaps educational, gentle parody, entertaining.
The Interview: A Story in Five Books
Book One: The Tour According to Wonka
Book Two: A Chance Meeting and Charlie's Private Tour
Book Three: Setting the Stage and Clearing the Air
Book Four: Reactions, Retreat, and Recollections
Book Five: Resolution
Adventures? Or drifting? They were one, or the other - the things Terence had spent his life doing - depending on your point of view. Terence liked the first word. But he knew most other people would use the second word. His nomadic lifestyle didn't lend itself to accumulating material possessions, most people's measure of success, so to them, he'd been a drifter. Terence didn't care; he knew there's no telling what's going on below the surface, if you think the surface is all that's there. Terence had lived for the sake of experiences, and they, like a sunrise or sunset, were glorious in the unfolding, but, when over, left nothing behind except a memory.
Rich in memories, Terence didn't regret a day of it. He had been all over the world, tried his hand at all sorts of things, and occasionally, made very good money discovering the things, for interested parties, that are easily discoverable when no one bothers to give you a second glance. Terence wired that money to an investment account he rarely touched. Over the decades, the value of that account had grown, till now, Terence need never work again.
Perhaps it was that unseen accumulated wealth that tipped the scale. One day, Terence woke up, looked around, and decided he'd had enough. He was getting too old to enjoy the easy to get, but physical jobs that had been his passport to the globe, and as for that other endeavor, the lucrative one, the black and white of it, so clear to him in his youth, had turned by now to a murky gray. It had been a wonderful life, but it was time to quit.
Quit and do what? Terence hadn't the slightest notion what he wanted to do instead. He wasn't even sure where he wanted to go. The nomadic life had come to Terence naturally. He had constantly moved from place to place, even as a child. At first, it had been because of his father's profession. His father had made the military his career, and moving was part of the job description.
But when the military had listed his father as Missing-In-Action, it had gotten much worse. Outwardly, his mother had taken the news stoically. The rational part of her understood the situation, and when people tried to help her, she was always ready with the answer they wanted to hear. But her heart wouldn't let her rest. Terence didn't know if his mother was searching for a better life, or for his father. He only knew she couldn't stop herself from making the next move, or taking the next journey. The result? The two of them were always pulling up stakes, almost as soon as they had put them down. For Terence, three months in one place was a treat.
Things had taken another bad turn in the year Terence was twenty. That was the year his mother had given up, quietly slipping away. Pneumonia was the cause of death listed, but Terence knew better. It didn't matter what the doctors wrote, his mother had died of exhaustion, and a broken heart. Finding himself on his own, Terence had continued the pattern. Sometimes he stayed in places longer than his mother had, half a year here, a year there, but it was the same life.
So on that certain morning, Terence was at a loss. At home anywhere in the world, he called no place home. The entire world lay before him, with everywhere in it as equal as the two roads in Robert Frost's poem. He had to narrow it down. What did he want? A complete change. An out-of-the-way, quiet place, would suit. Is quiet the same as dull? No, not necessarily. He'd look for somewhere interesting, too.
Mulling this over, Terence took to the streets. The sky had been overcast and gloomy, threatening rain, but Terence knew that walking about would help him think. With any luck, inspiration would be lurking just around the corner, and so it was. A dark-haired little girl, holding a bright red wrapper pulled down around a chocolate bar, caught his eye. It was a Wonka bar, and it was halfway around the world from the Factory that had made it. Specifically, it was a Nutty Crunch Surprise, and seeing it, Terence remembered the person he'd never been able to entirely forget, the person who had helped him with his reading, Willy Wonka the boy, all those years ago, when they had briefly gone to the same school together.
Terence reviewed his memories of that time. Yes, Willy Wonka was the very definition of quiet, but interesting. It's a place to start, anyway, Terence decided. I'll find something to do there.
It had taken a little more than a month and a half to turn that thought into a deed. There had been no hurry; Terence had worked his way across the globe, as he always had. Deciding to splurge on the last leg of the journey, Terence bought a ticket for the train. As his destination neared, he wondered if it would be hard to find Willy's Factory. The train pulled into the station in the dappled early afternoon sunlight, and as it did, Terence saw the joke with a rueful smile. It would be impossible not to find Willy's Factory. It stood atop the hill in the center of town, like a castle...or a fortress.
Slinging his duffel bag over his shoulder, Terence walked up the hill to take a look. The Factory was both immense and beautiful. Impressive, he thought, and he also thought of still waters, running deep.
High masonry walls surrounded the Factory, with the tempered steel gates at the entrance closed. Aside from the smoke rising languidly from the stacks, Terence didn't see any activity around the Factory. He noticed the people passing by took more of an interest in him than they did in the Factory, and he concluded that the Factory was like this all the time. The place sure smelled good. But it was definitely a fortress. Before he turned away, Terence placed his hands on the bars of the central gate and gave them a gentle tug. As he did, he found himself reminded of the braces.
Making his way to a nearby pub, Terence settled himself down to hear the sad story. He knew that was the only kind of story it could be. Back in the day, it might have been fair to say that Willy preferred his own company, but he hadn't been unfriendly.
Terence had discovered early in life that his affable personality and easy-going nature put people at ease. The balance he struck between getting along without actually having to belong was a rare gift, and a blessing. It was his biggest asset and had made the life he had led possible. It didn't fail him now. In no time at all, the locals had filled him in on the goings on since he had left, all those years ago, vis-à-vis Willy Wonka, his Chocolate Factory, and this town.
It was a happy, sad, strange story. The happy part was the promising beginning on Cherry Street, an exciting new Factory, and a robust economy for the entire town. The sad part was a work force sprinkled with spies and thieves, and the resulting betrayal — the Factory closed, and people put out of work. The strange part was what was going on now. The Factory had re-opened with a mysterious work force, while the Factory's owner had made himself equally mysterious by remaining unseen by the townspeople for over a decade.
Terence thanked the storytellers and retreated to a table by himself with a local newspaper and another pint. Willy unseen for a decade, he thought. I would describe that as Willy, seriously annoyed. He spread the newspaper out on the table in front of him, thinking as he did so that the sad part of the story was sadly, no surprise.
Terence had known Willy Wonka as a voracious reader. The worlds of fantasy and science-fiction had been high on his list. Willy had liked the ideals of the one, and the inventions of the other. Willy had pretty much lived in the places he read about; places like Camelot, and Narnia, and Middle Earth; in galaxies where space travel was commonplace. Terence didn't blame him, aspects of Willy's reality had been pretty bleak. But in those worlds, friendships were true, integrity prized, and loyalty priceless. In this world, without adequate defenses, a person holding dear those ideals would soon be torn apart. Apparently, Willy hadn't had the defenses he'd needed, and nearly had been. A sorry reflection on this world, Terence thought, setting aside his cynicism for a moment.
Terence opened the paper to the classifieds and ran his finger down the 'Businesses for Sale' column. Terence didn't find the strange part of the story all that strange, either. Willy Wonka was nothing if not resilient, and resourceful. You don't have to go any further than surviving those braces to know that, he thought. But while Terence was very happy that Willy had found a way to put himself back in business, and with such success, it couldn't be good that Willy never left the factory.
Terence sat back in his chair, the pint in his hand, unable to get the braces out of his mind. Dr. Wonka had designed what he called 'braces' for his son, Willy, and that's what they were. But most of the metal apparatus had been external and cumbersome, made of thin rods and wires that entirely surrounded the wearer's head. When Terence had seen them for the first time, his immediate thought had been, that kid lives behind bars. Later, Terence saw them as Dr. Wonka's attempt to put his son's mind in a cage. Terence had kept that thought to himself. If it was true now that Willy never left the factory, then really, not much had changed; he was still living behind bars, his mind still in a cage. Is it any better if the cage is of his own making? Terence didn't know the answer to that question.
Frowning, Terence returned the half-finished pint to the table, attending to the column underneath his finger. His luck was holding, and Terence found something that sounded promising, almost immediately. When things fell into place like this, it was usually a sign that you were on the right track, and he found that comforting. The owner of this particular business was retiring, probably to some warmer clime, and evidently wanted a quick sale. The price he had put on his business seemed a perfectly reasonable one. Signaling the waitress, Terence paid his tab, folded the newspaper, picked up his duffel bag, and headed for the address given in the advertisement.
Terence found he didn't have far to go. The address was just a hop, skip, and a jump farther down the hill. It pleased him to see it was so close to the Factory, and, at first glance, it seemed ideal. It was a small shop that sold mostly newspapers and magazines with some sundries thrown in for good measure. He sat down on a bench on the sidewalk and pulled a book out of his duffel. He spent the rest of the afternoon watching the foot traffic into and out of the shop. What he saw was what he had hoped to see. One person could handle the clientele easily. There were plenty of slow times when he would have time to himself, but there was more than enough traffic to keep body and soul together. The icing on top was that the little shop came with its own apartment over it.
At closing time, Terence gathered his belongings, walked into the shop, and offered the owner his asking price. The owner agreed at once, they shook hands, and the shop was his.
Well, not quite his. There remained the pesky details. Things like contracts, title searches, all the things that Terence had spent his life avoiding. These things took time, and this time, they would take until the end of the week. Terence smiled. It was a short time really, made possible by a cash sale, with the papers largely in order from a sale set to close two weeks ago, that had fallen through; more evidence he was on the right track.
Terence found himself with time on his hands. Having spent the night at a hostel, he returned to his shop-to-be the next morning for some on-the-job training. The retiring owner, Bill, was only too happy to oblige. Discovering Terence was new in town, Bill even went so far as to offer him the use of the guest bedroom in the apartment. It took Terence only a moment to move in.
With the situation at the store on track, and living arrangements sorted, Terence decided to fill the remaining time by doing some poking around. He discovered there was no telephone listing for the Chocolate Factory. That didn't surprise him. Willy had always expected people to make an effort. He called the Business Council and wasn't surprised to discover they did have a listing. He called the number, but neither person or machine picked up. Well, if it were easy, everyone would do it. Terence shrugged, and let it slide.
Further investigation revealed that the Factory had a web site, which included an email contact option. Willy might be out of sight, but he wasn't necessarily out of touch. Terence availed himself of the option and sent an email detailing his arrival, his plans, and sending his regards. He hit the send button and sat back, deciding that was enough poking in that direction.
The week passed quickly, with the papers signed on schedule. Bill's wife had gone on ahead with nearly all the furniture to set up their retirement home, so, in no time at all, Bill had his few remaining belongings packed, and was ready to go. With a wave, he set off to join her. Terence answered the wave with one of his own, and watched Bill go. Turning back to the shop, he glanced up at the Chocolate Factory. The smoke curled silently toward the heavens.
On Saturday, curiosity was beginning to get the better of him, and Terence decided to pay a visit to Dr. Wonka. It would be stretching the truth to say Terence was looking forward to the visit. He remembered Dr. Wonka as a very dour fellow, kind of scary, really. But he had been a child then, seeing things through a child's eyes. As an adult, he felt sure his impression of Dr. Wonka wouldn't be the same, and the visit might prove helpful.
The visit was a good thought, but on this particular morning, Dr. Wonka proved as elusive as his son to track down by phone. Terence decided to take a chance, and walk over anyway. He made his way through the brisk fall air, enjoying the bright sunshine, and soon found himself on the old, familiar street. He walked to the center of the block, only to find himself dumbfounded to see a vacant lot where the Wonka house had once stood. Terence froze on the spot. The absent building had torn a hole in the heart of the block.
Taking a few minutes to recover from his initial shock, Terence strolled slowly toward the lot, as if the slowness of his pace would give the building a chance to re-appear in its proper place. It didn't though, and Terence made a tour of the lot. It was very well-kept. Someone had leveled the ground and seeded it with grass. The grass looked healthy and was neatly mowed. An attractive mix of evergreen and flowering bushes dotted the edges, some late Fall blooms still present. Terence decided the houses on either side must consider it a park, or at least a green space. He walked up to one of the houses and knocked on the door. A young woman opened it. When questioned, she told him she had no idea how long the lot had been vacant, as she had moved in only a year ago. It had been vacant then. Terence asked if she knew of anyone who might know more. The woman pointed to one of the houses across the street.
Crossing the street, Terence walked over to the house the woman had pointed out and knocked on that door. An elderly gentleman answered. When he heard Terence was curious about the lot, he invited him in. "Strangest thing it was," the gentleman said when they were both settled with mugs of tea. "There it was, and then, in the blink of an eye, there it wasn't."
"Was there a fire?" asked Terence.
"No, nothing like that at all. It was just gone, as I said. I can't tell you how they did it, I was at work. The house was there in the morning and it was gone in the evening."
Terence didn't know what to say, but it didn't matter because the gentleman kept right on talking.
"It was beastly, really. The house was gone but the boy was left." The old gentleman sounded indignant, as if it had just happened yesterday.
"When did this happen?" Terence asked. The old gentleman told him, and Terence realized it must have been just a few weeks after he and his mother had made the next of their many moves, in late November, all those years ago. Come to think of it, Terence remembered, Willy had discovered candy that Halloween. "What happened to the boy?" he asked.
"I don't know what happened to him then," came the reply. "He disappeared. I don't know where he went or what he did. He was gone for years. But he's back now."
"Sure. He's Willy Wonka. He owns the Factory on the hill."
"He certainly does," nodded Terence. "What about his father? Is he still around?"
The gentleman made a sound of disgust in his throat, nodding his head. "Oh yes, that one never left. He moved the house out into the boondocks and he's still in it, far away from here." That state of affairs seemed to satisfy the old man enormously.
"I'm surprised the lot is still vacant."
The old man tilted his head back, and considered the question. "Me too, now that you mention it. A landscape company came in about ten years ago and made it look the way it does now. They keep it maintained."
"It looks very nice. Who owns it?"
"I have no idea," came the reply.
Terence had an idea. He thanked the gentleman for the information and the tea, and took his leave.
Once outside, Terence found the sunshine as bright and warming as ever, but his heart was cold. There was nothing Dr. Wonka could say now that Terence wanted to hear. The lot and its implications were appalling. For the first time since he had returned to town, Terence began to doubt that he'd hear from Willy Wonka. What was the point of inviting people into your life if they were just going to leave you, or betray you?
The days passed, and Terence satisfied his curiosity about the lot. A check at the Land Registry Office, and a tangle of holding companies later, it came as no surprise to him that Willy Wonka did, in fact, own it. That void wouldn't be filled unless Willy Wonka allowed it.
More days passed, and Terence found that he was right about his doubts. There was no word from the Factory.
Still more days passed, and Terence found that he was also wrong. On the day he had chosen for his 'Grand Opening', Willy Wonka sent a parcel containing a large assortment of chocolate bars, along with a display stand for the counter. Terence had smiled to himself when he saw the display stand. Willy thinks of everything. With the parcel was a short, hand written, congratulatory note, with the explanation that the chocolate bars might be a nice sideline. After reading it, Terence held the note with a feeling of great satisfaction. The chocolate would make a nice sideline, but more importantly, it would make an open line between his shop and the Factory. He sent a short, but chatty, thank you note back by return post.
Life slipped into a routine. Terence had gotten what he'd asked for. Things were quiet, but interesting.
This chapter and the next set the foundation. Please review.