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. ButI 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 spent his life doing—depending on how you looked at it. Terence liked the first word, but he didn't kid himself about the second word: most people labeled him with that one. His nomadic lifestyle didn't lend itself to accumulating material possessions—most people's measure of success—so to them, he'd wasted his life drifting. Terence didn't care. If you think the surface is all there is, that's as far as you'll look. They were wrong of course, but it was an easy mistake to make: Terence lived for the sake of experiences—glorious in themselves—but when they were over they mostly left nothing but memories.
By now, Terence had a million of 'em, and he didn't regret a single day making those memories. He'd been all over the world, tried his hand at whatever struck his fancy, occasionally making very good money discovering—for well-heeled interested parties—the things that are easily discoverable when no one bothers giving you a second glance. That money went to an investment account Terence rarely touched, and experiencing that, the account's experience was to grow and grow, till now, decades later, Terence need never work again.
One day something tipped the scale: it might have been that underused account. 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 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 idea. He wasn't even sure where he wanted to go. Did he want to stay put somewhere? And where would that be? He'd never been one for roots, the nomadic life came to him naturally. Even as a child, Terence had moved from place to place constantly. 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 Missing-In-Action the moving had gotten much worse.
Outwardly, his mother had taken the news stoically. The rational part of her understood the situation well enough. When people tried to help her, she knew what they wanted to hear, and she was always ready with the right answer. 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, taking the next journey. The result? They were always pulling up stakes, almost as soon as they put them down. For Terence, three months in a row in one place was unheard of.
He'd decided himself to continue the pattern the year he'd turned twenty. That was the year his mother had given up— quietly slipping away. Pneumonia was the cause of death listed on the certificate, but Terence knew better. It didn't matter what the doctors wrote, his mother had died of exhaustion— and a broken heart. Terence was grown now and didn't need her, she'd thought, so giving up the struggle, she'd left him.
Terence stayed in places longer than his mother had—half a year here, a year there—but change was what it was all about. So on that certain morning, Terence was at a loss. At home anywhere in the world, Terence thought of no place as home. The entire world lay before him, with everywhere in it as equal as the two roads in Robert Frost's poem. The choices needed narrowing. What did he want? A complete change. An out-of-the-way, quiet place would suit nicely. Is quiet the same as dull? No, not necessarily: interesting counted, too.
Mulling it over, Terence took to the streets. Gloomy and overcast, the sky threatened rain, but Terence knew walking would help him think. With any luck, inspiration would be lurking just around the corner—and so it was—in the odd form of chocolate. A dark-haired little girl, holding a bright, red wrapper pulled down around a candy bar caught Terence's eye. It was a Wonka bar, 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 master reading at a time when too many moves in too short a time had put him hopelessly behind— none other than the boy, Willy Wonka, now Mister Willy Wonka, gone on to master the candy-making world. Terence laughed to think of it. Such a quiet soul, but always interesting. Terence had been lucky to land in that school all those years ago, and get to know Willy, even if it was for just a few months. He'd called Willy friend then, and he liked to think Willy had felt the same.
Long forgotten memories vied for Terence's attention, and he felt energized. Trick-or-treating had been fun: his mother had gone to a lot of trouble over his pirate costume on that occasion, and that was rare. She'd said she felt inspired. They'd worked on it together, and it was one of Terence's happiest memories. Willy's costume had been a sheet, but Willy was lucky his father let him out of the house at all, much less for trick-or-treating. Yes, those had been fun times. Looking ol' Mr. Wonka up after all these years might be just the ticket. Maybe this time Willy could teach Terence how to stay put, while still finding life interesting.
It had taken a little more than a month and a half to turn that thought into a deed. There had been no hurry. It wasn't an appointment, it was just a nebulous thought. Terence worked his way across the globe the way he always had.
Deciding to splurge on the last leg of his journey, Terence bought a ticket for the train. As his destination neared, he wondered idly if it would be hard to find Willy's Factory, before turning his attention once again to the window and the passing countryside. He'd know soon enough.
Soon enough, in the dappled sunlight of early afternoon, the train pulled slowly into the station, its brakes squealing with protest. As it did, Terence saw the joke and laughed softly. 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 breezily up the hill to take a look.
The Factory was as immense as it was beautiful. Very impressive. High masonry walls surrounded it, with the tempered steel gates at the entrance closed. Aside from the smoke rising languidly from the stacks, Terence didn't see any activity. He noticed the people passing by took more of an interest in him than they did in the Factory, and he concluded 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 central gate and gave it a gentle tug. It was solid: solidly closed. The bars made him think 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. That Factory was downright cold.
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. It made the life he had led possible, and 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 Mr. 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, the 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 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 the local newspaper and another pint. Willy— unseen for a decade, he thought. That's Willy— seriously annoyed. Terence 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 those ideals dear would be torn to shreds. Apparently, Willy hadn't had the defenses he'd needed, and nearly had been. A sorry reflection on us, Terence thought, for a moment suspending his cynicism.
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 was nothing if not resilient, and resourceful. Surviving those braces says it all, he thought. But while it pleased Terence Willy had found a way to put himself back in business with such success, it couldn't be good that Willy never left his 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 them especially for Willy, but they were weird. Most of the metal apparatus had been cumbersomely external, made of thin rods and wires that 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 in a cage: his mind at least, but maybe all of him. 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, in a cage. Is it different if Willy made the cage this time? Terence didn't know, but he didn't feel good about it.
Frowning, Terence returned the half-finished pint to the table, attending to the column beneath his finger. His luck was holding. 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'd put on his business seemed a perfectly reasonable one. Signaling the waiter, Terence paid his tab, folded the newspaper, picked up his duffel bag, and headed for the address given in the advert.
Terence 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.
Terence sat down on a bench on the sidewalk and pulled a book from his duffel. He spent the rest of the afternoon ostensibly reading, but really watching the foot traffic in 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 one floor up.
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 those devilish details: 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 good luck, and more evidence he was on the right track.
Terence found himself with time on his hands. Having spent the night at a hostel, next morning he returned to his shop-to-be for some on-the-job training. Bill, The retiring owner, 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 shop on track, and living arrangements sorted, Terence decided to fill the remaining time 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 had a listing. He called the number, but it went unanswered. 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 jaunty wave, he set off to join her. Terence answered with one of his own, and watched Bill go. Turning back to the shop, he glanced up at the Chocolate Factory. Heedless, its smoke curled silently toward the heavens.
By Saturday, with only silence from The Chocolate Factory, curiosity was beginning to get the better of him. Terence decided to pay a visit on Dr. Wonka. It would be stretching the truth to say Terence was looking forward to the visit: he remembered Dr. Wonka as a dour fellow— kind of scary, really. But he had been a child then, seeing things the way a child would. 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.
Enjoying the sunshine and brisk Fall air, Terence soon found himself on the old, familiar street, and remembering some happy times, he almost started whistling. But something was wrong, and the urge evaporated. Moving down the street, Terence could see a vacant lot was all that was left of the Wonka house, and that was disturbing, but that wasn't the worst of it. The worst of it—now that he was standing across from the lot—was that the absent building had torn a hole in the heart of the block. The scars of the tear still showed in the houses that stood on either side. When had this happened? And why?
Taking a few minutes to recover from his shock, Terence strolled slowly toward the lot, to give the building a chance to re-appear, or himself a chance to get used to the change— Terence wasn't sure which. Not unexpectedly, the building stayed gone and Terence toured the hole, uh, lot.
Innocuous looking, the place wasn't welcoming. It had a somber feel, even in bright sunlight. But it was very well-kept. Someone had leveled the ground and seeded it with grass, neatly mown and healthy. Even this late in the season, it looked good enough to eat. An attractive mix of evergreen and flowering bushes dotted the edges, some late Fall blooms still showing. The mowing must have taken place a few days ago, because what had been the garden of the property was awash in leaves, shed by the towering shade trees that graced the back perimeter. Terence didn't remember any trees.
Finishing his tour, Terence decided the houses on either side must consider the place a park, or at least a green space, and be happy to have it. He'd ask them. Walking up to one of the houses, he 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— 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.
Thanking her for her trouble, Terence crossed the street and knocked on the indicated 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 at all like that. 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 come evening, it was gone."
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 happened yesterday.
"When did this happen?" Terence asked. The old gentleman told him, and Terence realized it must have been only a few weeks after he and his mother had made the next of their many moves, all those years ago. Maybe a month or two. Not much longer. Come to think of it, Terence remembered Willy had only discovered what candy tasted like on All Hallows' Day that year. "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, I say, far, far away from here." This 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, though. 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'd returned to town, Terence began to doubt that he'd ever 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, or both?
The days passed, and Terence satisfied his curiosity about the lot. A check at the Land Registry Office—and after untangling a tangle of holding companies—it came as no surprise to him that Willy Wonka was the owner. That lot was one void that wouldn't be filled without Willy Wonka's say so.
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 out 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 smiled when he saw the display stand. Trust Willy to think of the stand, thought Terence. I wouldn't.
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, chatty thank-you note back by return post.
The days passed and life slipped into a routine. Terence had gotten what he'd asked for. Things were quiet, but interesting.
So there's a little background for you, and some setting up. Please let me know what you think with a review. Yes? Wonderful!