Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Epilogue

Wailing Shabba's picture

Just remember what happened to the boy who suddenly got everything he ever wanted...

"Mr. Bucket?" came a timid voice from the doorway. Fulchester. Charlie had hated the man immediately, the timid way he spoke and the balding patch across his head and the way he only ever brought bad news. Still, he was one of the best defense attorneys on the planet, so Charlie suffered him in indignant silence. In the business world, this is called a necessary liability.
"What is it, Fulchester?" was Charlie's tired reply. He had hardly noticed the lawyer enter his office, so immersed was he in today's headlines.
"Sir, we've come up with a settlement in the Gloop case. We just need your signature," said the lawyer, producing a stack of papers marked here and there with Post-It notes. Charlie had seen this stack many times. Every year, with every new appeal and settlement hearing, it grew larger.
Charlie sighed.
The settlement would push back the roll-out of his new line of never-break hard candies for years, but it was worth it. With one signature, he'd dig himself further in the hole, but he'd finally be done with this Gloop business.
Augustus had fired the first shot after Charlie took over. Inspired by the lawsuits against successful fast food chains, Augustus filed suit against Wonka Holdings, claiming that his post-tour prize of a lifetime of non-stop candy had exacerbated his childhood obesity and eventually made him a diabetic. In a perfect world, the case would have been thrown out. The judge, however, was country club friends with the Salt family, who had their own stake in the factory's misfortune. The case had dragged on for seventeen years.
Without another word, Charlie snatched the papers from Fulchester's hand and scribbled a sharp, illegible signature. C. Bucket.
"And there, sir."
Charlie flipped forward to the next Post-It, dashed off a signature, then to the next, working through the pile until he'd signed his name to no less than thirty different documents filled with impenetrable legal mumbo jumbo. He was reminded of the great wall they'd all signed at the beginning of the tour. Wonka was a fool. The wording on the wall had been pretty protective, covering all angles and securing Wonka's factory against any liability. Fulchester had written most of it.
In the end, however, no judge would admit it as evidence. Gloop's lawyers saw to that. They claimed the boy, as a minor, could not be held accountable for signing anything. Besides, they claimed, he couldn't read a word of English (which was bullshit, but it worked for them). Their final lie was that Wonka had not claimed it as a signature at all, he had merely given the children a chance to draw on the walls, a task every child enjoys immensely.
A wall, the courts finally decided, could not be construed as a legally binding document.
Finally, with every last papers signed, Charlie shoved the stack back to Fulchester and returned to his headlines.
"Is that all, Fulchester?" Charlie sighed. He still did not look the lawyer in the eye. He refused to. He despised having to surround himself by lawyers.
"Yes, sir. Don't forget, we're due back in court for preliminary hearings in the TeeVee case." Fulchester reminded his boss, stuttering somewhat on his words.
"I remember. I'll be there."
Mike TeeVee's family came after him next. This one, at least, Charlie could understand. Within weeks of his visit to the factory, Mike had developed acute radiation poisoning, a souvenir of his trip through the airwaves. Charlie was almost thankful the boy had become sick; if they had begun shipment of Wonka vision, without any knowledge of the immense radiation the objects it transmitted were subjected to, it wouldn't have been just one lawsuit. It would have been a million.
Shortly after the first suit was filed, Mike died of sudden and terminal heart failure. His cardio-vascular system, stretched to immense proportions after being run through the taffy puller, proved too much for his feeble heart. His family was devastated.
Charlie could at least empathize. He knew what it was like to lose family. Shortly after they moved in to the factory, his own had been picked off one by one, just like the children so many years ago. Grampa Joe tried some more fizzy lifting drink, unaware of a slight ulcer in his stomach. The bubbles went straight to his circulatory system, triggering a massive embolism. Grampa George was attacked by the shelling squirrels and torn to pieces. Gramma Josephine went for a ride on the chocolate river and drowned when the giant gummi boat capsized. And Gramma Georgine. Well, Charlie didn't even like to think about it. Suffice it to say, conspicuously absent from her obituary was the phrase "sex-fueled oompa loompa romp."
Haunted by the sudden deaths of their parents, Charlie's mom and dad left the factory. Charlie wanted to go with them, but this was shortly after Wonka disappeared one day, and the factory was falling apart without his guidance.
That was about the time Violet started in with the papers. She had moved on with her life, after the tour, blue skin and all. She studied journalism at Brown. Making waves with her scandalous columns exposing various problems with Wonka Holdings.
Charlie had gotten awful drunk one night off a new form of licorice-flavored whiskey he'd invented and was stumbling back to the elevator when he tripped on an Oompa Loompa digging for gold chocolate nuggets. In a fit of drunken rage, Charlie had laid into the poor bastard, first with his Nerds-filled cane, then with bare fists, until he saw the Oompa Loompas blood dripping into the chocolate. Realizing he'd tainted his own river, Charlie had continued walking, leaving the little Oompa Loompa in agony.
Naturally, word spread and the Oompa Loompas staged a massive walkout. They went straight to Violet, who splashed the tragedy across fourteen weekly columns. This brought the ACLU knocking, and before too long the Oompa Loompas were unionized. Profits sank like a stone fired from a cannon.
Charlie broke Willy's long-standing ban on public appearances, staging a press conference to address the issue of Oompa Loompa welfare. He tried to reassure people that Oompland was a desolate place, full of Snozzwangler and Horndoodles and Vermicious Knids, but the press didn't buy it. Charlie was painted as an imperialist, depriving the Oompa Loompas of their own chance to rule their destiny. There were vicious editorials comparing the factory to the American South before the Civil War.
As much as the factory's newly-formed PR department tried to spin it, Wonka Holdings' public image was ruined. Candy sales continued to nosedive.
Now, sitting in his office, Charlie continued reading the paper, his heart breaking silently. He'd accepted Wonka's offer; the chance to run his own candy factory. What Wonka never told him, the sneaky underhanded lie that was slowly killing Charlie, was that Wonka was never looking for an heir. He knew what was coming; he could smell the change in the air. He was looking for a scapegoat. Just as he'd escaped all of life's problems by locking himself in that factory for so many years, so had he escaped the factory's problems by pawning them off on a dirt poor impressionable kid and simply taking off.
Charlie decided if he ever saw Wonka again, he was going to kill him dead on the spot. Let the police come; the end was near for him anyway.
Just then, as Charlie was about to reach for the Whiskey, there was another knock at the door.
"How's business, Charlie?" came a voice. Charlie recognized it instantly, and a sneer spread across his face. That tinkling, condescending, shrill siren song could only belong to Veruca Salt. Charlie had tried keeping her off his back for years, contracting out all peanut, cashew and almond production to her father's company. When Mr. Salt died and Veruca took over, she convinced him to give her the hazelnut production as well.
"Go away." Charlie barked at the door, turning to see that Veruca had already let herself in.
"Now Charlie, that's no way to speak to your business partner." Veruca smiled smugly. She glided across the office, taking a seat on the edge of Charlie's desk. As Charlie feverishly threw today's paper in his top drawer, she let out a little humorless laugh.
"Oh my dear Violet. What won't that little mud-slinger print?" Veruca said, deftly grabbing the paper from Charlie's drawer before he could close it.
"What do you want?" Charlie growled, his teeth bared in frustration.
"Actually, Charlie, I'm here to talk about what you want." She said, her inflection carrying a tone like a pitbull going in for the kill. Her mannerisms remained delicate, still every bit the spoiled little rich girl. Her well-mannered upbringing was evident in everything she said and did, and she made sure people knew it.
"I want you to fucking die already." Charlie snapped, turning away from her.
"Now now, Charlie. No need." Veruca said, softly extending one well-manicured hand to Charlie's shoulder, turning him back to her. "Let's face facts, Charlie. The factory is going under. The Oompa Loompas are leaving in droves, the lawyers are all over you for what happened to Mike and Augustus. No one wants to buy your candy and support institutionalized slavery."
"They're not slaves!" Charlie shouted, rising to his feet. Veruca remained unflappable.
"Try telling them that." She smirked, casually laying the newspaper on Charlie's desk with the headline "OOMPA LOOMPAS: BUCKET IS EVIL" face up.
Veruca casually reached into the designer label messenger bag slung across her shoulder and produced a stack of very legal-looking documents.
"You must be so tired of all this, Charlie. Oh, you poor thing. You know nothing about running a business, and suddenly you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. That awful Wonka, hare-brained lunatic that he was, saddles you with all this and leaves. I knew that he would do this to you. Oh Charlie, if only I'd been there when he offered you the factory. I could have warned you." Veruca cooed, her sympathy as artificial as everything about her, from her collagen lips to her saline tits.
"I'm doing just fine. I'll find a way." Charlie said, trying valiantly to hide the defeat that was crippling him.
"Let me show you a way." Veruca said, looking deep into Charlies eyes and placing the documents gently in his hands.
Charlie looked down at the thick stack of papers. His knowledge of legalese had broadened immensely during his wars with the lawyers, and right away he knew what he was looking at.
"You want to buy me out?" He said incredulously.
"It all makes sense, Charlie. Under my direction, Salt's Nuts has gone global, shilling peanuts from Honolulu to Hong Kong."
"There's nothing but ocean between Honolulu and Hong Kong."
"In the other direction, dear. Try to keep up. At any rate, I've shown what I can do with a business. Sell me the factory, and Wonka Holdings will reach heights it hasn't seen since Wonka's heyday." Veruca said, her voice seductive.
Charlie felt like he wanted to cry. He wanted someone to help; he wanted Grampa Joe to say something wise. He wished for once that Willy was there to say something absurd and steer the conversation towards gummi bears. But they were gone. Grampa Joe dead, Wonka God knows where. It was just Charlie, all alone.
The line burned black against the dull white paper, a neon pink Post-It indicating where to sign. C. Bucket. Seven letters, and it all goes away. The problems with the Oompa Loompas, the haunting memories of his family tied to every passageway in the sprawling dead factory, the feeling that he'd traded in his childhood for a lifetime of misery. All gone with one swift stroke.
He tried to conjure up some resistance, some reason not to sign. He thought of what the factory had meant to him as a child, a wonderland of delights and surprises. All that did was remind him of what it really was: a twisted maze of failed experiments, indentured servitude and in the end, nothing but a monument to Wonka's madness.
The offer was fair. Veruca assumed all assets and liabilities, all trademarks and patents, everything Wonka had generated since opening the factory, good and bad. And Charlie walked away with several zeroes tucked in his pocket, a paycheck for all the worries, all the heartbreak he'd endured since that day.
With a quick, sharp intake of determined breath, Charlie signed. The pen, scratching on paper, echoed throughout the office. It was over. He handed pen and paper to Veruca and turned away, without saying a word.
"You're doing the right thing, Charlie." Veruca assured him.
"Get the fuck out of my office." Charlie shouted. The glib smile fixed on her face only made it worse.
"Very well, Charlie. But know that by week's end, it won't be your office anymore." She said, quickly gathering up her papers and making her way to the door. "Good night, Charlie."
Charlie sat in stone silence. It was all Wonka's fault. He'd been set up. That son of a bitch had created a house of cards, and just before it fell he put Charlie in charge.
With a sudden burst of determination, Charlie sprung from his chair and bolted from his office. He traversed a hallway paved with bricks of chocolate, down gumdrop stairs with licorice railings. At the bottom of the stairs was the great glass elevator. Pressing the button, Charlie was reminded of how the EPA had sent him a notice one day stating he was not allowed to take the elevator off the property anymore. The jets which had once sent him sailing over the town did not meet emissions standards. Then the FAA came with a hefty fine for flying an elevator without a license. That's ok, Charlie thought, let Veruca worry about any fines.
The elevator zoomed across the top of Fudge Mountain, where Oompa Loompas mined for fudge under a dusting of confectioner's sugar snow. In days gone by, they used to look up from their work and give Wonka a friendly wave. Now, as Charlie sailed over their heads, they looked at him with contempt. One of them flipped him the bird. With a giddy smile, he simply waved back.
"Your work is almost finished, my friends." He called out, hearing his shrill voice echo back at him against the elevator walls.
The smile still on his face, he pressed a button on the wall marked "Boiler Room."
The elevator whisked through the chocolate room, where delicate candy trees grew in a gross perversion of the natural order of things. We cut down trees to build factories and then use the factories to make artificial trees, Charlie thought to himself. The irony forced an almost mechanical giggle from his throat.
Finally, the elevator stopped in the boiler room. True to form, the boiler was made of candy. Without thought, Charlie stepped out of the elevator and began throwing switches at random. He had no idea what most of them did, but the growing clang from within the boiler told him he was doing something wrong.
All his life, he'd tried to do the right thing. Of the children that came into the factory that day, he was the only one who didn't eat too much, wasn't a brat, wasn't a know-it-all and was respectful to Mr. Wonka. Look where doing the right thing had gotten him.
The boiler emitted a shrill hiss, as steam began bulging from overburdened pipes. Something cracked, and a bolt went flying across the room, zinging off the far wall.
Charlie returned to the elevator. Calm as can be, he pressed the button marked "Up and Out."
The elevator lurched, making its way back up the factory floor. His mind a blur of rampant thoughts that made no sense, Charlie watched in dull satisfaction as Willy Wonka's life work flew by the glass. The Oompa Loompas below fixed him with a confused look. Already, the clanging of the boiler was getting louder, they could hear it. A handful of them dropped what they were doing and made for the exit. Charlie sincerely hoped they made it.
Up to the main smokestack the elevator skittered, firing upward for freedom. As the exit grew larger above him, Charlie looked down to see flames shooting up the stack. He smiled, knowing that those same flames were now ripping through the factory, melting giant chocolate sculptures, turning gumdrops into bright blue flaming gobs. He tilted his head back, the sunlight growing through the top of the stack. It was warm. The air was sweet. Sweeter than any candy Wonka could conceive.
As he shot from the smokestack, Charlie looked down at the factory in flames, fire licking at every corridor, every building. Wonka's words echoed in his head as the elevator reached its apex at two thousand feet and began to quickly descend towards earth:
"Just remember what happened to the boy who suddenly got everything he wanted."

The papers the next day were ablaze with the news. The Times read CHOCOLATE FACTORY IN FLAMES: BUCKET MISSING. The Financial Papers read SALT HOLDINGS FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY AFTER WONKA DEAL. Violet, well known for her anti-Wonka stance, was moved to the front page where her headline called forth, HOT CHOCOLATE! WHO'S GOT MARSHMELLOWS?

This, for Charlie, for the Oompa Loomps and for the memory of a madman who had started an empire only to leave it in the hands of a child, was the happy ending.