It was one of the first lessons many children learned: "don't take candy from strange men." And yet no one heeded the old saying here, where it might be most important.
That could prove to be a mistake, Violet Beauregarde thought—because Willy Wonka was most definitely a strange man.
She should have known something was wrong when that big machine came down and ejected a stick of miracle three-course dinner chewing gum right in front of her. It was too awesome not to try, the temptation too much to resist—and the sights, sounds and smells of Willy Wonka's legendary chocolate factory had her spellbound.
But at that moment fate intervened. As Violet reached out for the treat, her mother—who loved gum almost as much as she did—snatched it instead, and happily began chewing away.
"Just testing it for you, champ," she winked. "Have to make sure it's safe."
Wonka made a weak attempt at telling her that, in fact, it was not quite safe yet—but much too late to make any difference. As Violet looked on in terror, her mother's face turned blue. Her body began to swell. She spit out the gum then, but it was no use; she grew and grew, turning bluer and rounder, until she was no longer the woman Violet recognized but a helpless giant blueberry.
"Hmm. Oh, my. How unexpected," Wonka said then, as if remarking on a broken nail. He turned to the nearest Oompa-Loompa. "Would you roll Miss Beauregarde's mother onto the boat and take her to the Juicing room immediately, please? Miss Beauregarde, you really should join her."
"The…the juicing room?" Violet repeated slowly. She was almost numb with shock.
"Yes. They're going to squeeze her. They have to get all that juice out of her immediately, you know," he chirped. Violet looked into his eyes and saw nothing—no sympathy, no remorse. There was only the eerie, fixed grin on his face and the lightness of his voice to indicate amusement.
Violet turned and walked slowly, like a robot, to follow the grim procession. The Oompa-Loompas merrily rolled her mother along the corridor onto the pink seahorse, and she climbed in to join them, shaking all over. "M-mom?"
"It doesn't hurt, sweetheart," Ms. Beauregarde murmured. "It just feels…very strange. I'll be fine. Don't worry about me."
"But Mom, you're…"
"Violet, listen to me. Eyes on the prize," her mother's face was hidden from view, but Violet could imagine her fierce expression. "Don't throw the game because of me. I was nothing, kiddo. I won a few lousy baton shows. You are my little champion. Now go back to them. Go back and do what you always do. Win."
Win. That word meant everything to a Beauregarde. Even now, it snapped her out of her stupor and fired hot blood back into her veins.
"Congratulations, Violet. You win!" Her preschool teacher said when she drew the neatest alphabet in class. It was an amazing feeling, the first victory she remembered out of hundreds. It was everything to her. Her eleven-year-old heart beat for that feeling.
Voted Most Likely to Succeed. Fourth grade.
As she stepped out of the boat and her senses returned, she heard the Oompa-Loompas nearby singing. It was an elaborate pop-style number with lyrics mocking her mother's plight.
Violet quivered with rage. She thought of strangling them all with her bare hands. But there was only one man responsible for this. He was the one she had to deal with, and she vowed to do just that.
"Okay, Mom," she whispered. "I love you."
"Show me. Beat them. Then we'll sue their pants off later."
Violet smiled in spite of herself. She wiped her eyes, hugged her blueberry mother (as well as she could), and took off for the Inventing Room. Oompa-Loompas scattered before her as she sprinted through, scarcely able to jump out of her way in time.
Junior Track Champion, four years running.
She only wished she were fast enough to kick up a fire and burn this place to the ground.