Wonky (by Les Green, December 2017)

The story was big news. The biggest news of the day. I guess if you have a 24-hour news channel then you have to fill it with something. And if there’s no war or no royal wedding, and nobody televisually significant has died, then celebrity shocks will do.

It was bad news of course in its way, and bad news travels quickly. As Terry Pratchett used to say – bad news can get up and travel round the world while good news is still putting its boots on. Which is how everybody, more or less, got to hear it at the same time.

The news came from one of his representatives. Some PR schmuck reading from a prepared statement on the steps of the famous R&D building at a secret location. Most of the announcement was just filling and waffle, but the main point, as everybody knows, was that Willy Wonka had developed type 2 diabetes.

The news divided opinion. Some were sympathetic and others not so much. By the end of the first week after the announcement, there was a growing group of outspoken people that thought he was reaping what he had sown. Some of the more radical objectors were calling it payback after the group of children that were lost and maimed during the Golden Ticket competition disaster. Whatever the opinion of the people, there was definitely something happening behind the golden gates.

At the end of the first month, we had the first announcement. All products will be re-branded to inform the consumer of the sugar and fat content in every Wonka product. Sugar was being reduced, and in some instances taken out completely. And in an effort to reduce the Wonka brand carbon footprint some of the exotic high fructose ingredients were being replaced with locally sourced alternatives.

After 2 months, stories started appearing on the 24-hour news channels, running like ticker-tape along the bottom of the screen. There were wall-to-wall reports of failing local economies that were previously dependent on the Wonka dollar. Snozberries lay on the ground, rotting where they fell, as growers felt the financial impact of losing their previously lucrative contracts. Back home however, there was better news as the Wonka brand invested heavily in using only products from the countries in which the manufacturing plants are based. In Italy, for example, you could have a reduced sugar, tiramisu mousse bar or an amoretti and coffee ice cream. In France you could enjoy a cherry and praline truffle or a crème brule ice cream.

Sales dropped of course. Using standard, every day ingredients meant that everything tasted like the products from other confectioners. And in the meantime, even though the original Wonka recipes remained secret, rivals still tried to emulate the once great candy man. As the months rolled on the Wonka portfolio grew smaller and unstable, until eventually he sold the whole enterprise – secret recipes included – to a conglomerate that included Cadbury and Nestle.

Now of course the great man himself – Mr. Willy Wonka; the famed sugar daddy, inventor, creator, purveyor of the stickiest calories and sweetest treats; portrayed by both Johnny Depp and Gene Wilder in movie versions of the Golden Ticket massacre – has now become a real recluse. This time beyond the walls, fences and security cameras of the Wonka world. There are tales of him living on a mountain range in Asia, in a temple he built, where he contemplates his part in the obesity pandemic that now affects the richer parts of the world. There are also reports that he has changed his name and appearance, and now runs a chain of health food shops. A third suggestion is that he went into a diabetic coma and subsequently died after binge eating the entire stock of Wonka chocolate – over a ton – that he had in his mansion, Wonka Land. I guess that’s another Wonka secret we’ll never know the answer to.

*This was inspired by, and based (loosely!) on, an exercise provided by Debbie Mitchell (This is the exercise awaiting you in the 8th January 2018 meeting);

Take a favourite literary character and flip their personality. So, for example, hard-drinking, maverick DI Rebus becomes a fitness fanatic who does everything by the book, Count Dracula is squeamish and faints at the sight of blood, Romeo and Juliet loathe each other. Then write a scene which features your character with his/her new traits.

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