Saturday, July 4, 2009
When I arrived I found Brandon sitting at a table. The party had moved on to the bar, leaving Brandon to his thoughts. He was fixated on the television, suspended from the ceiling near the pub’s fireplace. He had his Imperials on the table. The Golden Ticket was off to one side. It was obvious he’d just gotten off work judging by his appearance. His hat was still attached to his head with bobby pins. His apron and T-shirt were bloody, giving the impression he had been recently shot in the chest.
“He looks that way all the time when he comes in here,” the Publican said as he sat my Diet Coke with lime down on the table. “First stop he makes when he gets off work. Comes in, orders a pack of Wonka Imperials and a pint, sits and stares at the TV. It don’t matter what’s on. He stares like that all the time. Right unnerving it is. I’ve asked him to wash up before coming in but he won’t hear of it. I Iet it go. We’re all use to it. Besides, he cuts the best steaks in town and sees to it that my orders are filled first.”
“Is that so?” I asked Brandon. He looked at me with a sense of curiosity then took another cigarette out of the package, lit up and inhaled - long and deliberate. He held the smoke for a second or two then exhaled a stream of white smoke toward the tele.
“What do you think about your Golden Ticket? You’re the first in the world to win.” I asked. He looked down at the ticket.
“Found it in my smokes,” he said. “Hell of a thing to find in your smokes.”
“Yes, I’m sure it was. What are you feeling?” I returned to my unanswered question. By then a few of the regulars had returned to the table to listen in on the interview.
“I’m feeling the need.” He slurred as he struggled to his feet. “Gotta Crap.” A path suddenly appeared through the crowd leading to the Pub’s toilets. He stumbled in their general direction. Half way across the room he cleared his throat with such a sound one thought he’d dislodged his windpipe. He stopped and looked around. He had something in his mouth, something rather large. The Publican quickly produced a spittoon. but too late. Brandon reached down, gathered the bottom of his apron into his hands, pulled his apron up to his mouth and made a large deposit.’ Dropping his apron, he continue toward the toilets.
I waited. I examined the Golden Ticket. I was glad the first was found in Coverdale. It seemed only fitting considering the Wonka Tobacco Works was located right outside of town.
Brandon didn’t return. The Publican found him passed out in one of the stalls. A few of the locals carried him home to his Mrs. I took the Ticket for safe keeping and left it with his wife. She wasn’t please and seemed prepared to rip the ticket in half. Apparently his smoking is a concern of hers. Anything that encouraged him to continue was seen by her to be a challenge to her nagging, threats and ultimatums. Just as she attempted to destroy the ticket someone wearing a black coat, black hat and cane stepped from the shadows and stopped her.
“Excuse me,” he said apologetically for stepping in front of me on the doorstep. “May we speak,” he asked Mrs. Cattell politely. “It is urgent.”
She stepped back with surprise, then consented. The door closed abruptly leaving me to my imaginings.
As of this writing I don’t know who that was or whether or not the ticket was destroyed or kept.
The sun rises and sets on our village of Cloverdale. Our people continue as they have done for hundreds of years. We work, we play, we pray and we dream of better days with lighter loads.
Thursday, July 2, 2009
The Pinewood Forrest descends down from the Black Mountains like a colossal evergreen ribbon whose ends touch the outer roads ringing the village of Cloverdale in the Confederacy of Dunces. Deep in the Forrest, and out of sight from prying eyes, rises the buildings of the Wonka Tobacco Works. It’s proprietor, Winston Wonka, is the brother of Willy Wonka - the world renown confectioner. Willy grew up with an ambition to create fine candies and chocolates. Winston, on the other hand, took great delight in tobacco, which led to his ambition to create exquisite tobacco products from the finest tobacco gown in the world.
Winston rarely leaves his factory and, like his brother, finds solace in the company of his employees. He regards them as his kinsman. This close knit community is a village unto itself with its own stores, church, theater and parks. All Wonken (as the employees are referred to in official Wonka company documents) are allocated small apartments complete with gardens. This community becomes their world. It is where they live, are educated, grow up, marry, work, retire and die. The Wonken understand they are free to leave anytime. Winston Wonka reminds all who work in his Tobacco works that the factory gates will always open out but rarely open in. If a Wonken leaves, he leaves for life. Winston places great importance to a Wonken’s faithfulness to him, and the secrets of his unique tobacco blends used in his cigars, cigarettes and snuff.
Wonka Tobacco is imported to the Confederacy from all parts of the world by ship. A special rail line and train called Wonka Rail carries the precious commodity from Tamworth on Tide to the Wonka Works daily. The train is emptied and reloaded with finished tobacco products to be taken by Wonka Rail back to the Port for export. Tobacco for local consumption is carried by another Wonka train to Cloverdale and then on to Capital City for nationwide distribution.
Wonka Rail is also used by brother Willy to ship his confections from his factory in Capital City to Tamworth on Tide for export. The brothers share the expenses of running their own rail service. They would have it no other way.
There are rumors spoken in the pubs frequented by Wonka Rail Employees that Willy’s famous Golden Ticket scheme may be duplicated by brother Winston in an attempt to provide some transparency to the closed hermit like world which exists at the Wonka Tobacco Works. According to a not to be mention Wonka source, golden tickets will soon be placed in six Wonka Imperials Cigarette packages entitling the lucky winners to a vip tour of the Wonka Tobacco Works and lunch with Winston Wonka himself.
Our readers may sleep well knowing that news of such a scheme will be announced first over the Dunce News Service. Tobacco shops carrying the Wonka brand are already clearing extra shelf space as they anticipate an imminent announcement from Cloverdale.
Francis Fickle, Minister of Health and Asylums urges all parents within the Confederacy to talk to their children about the dangers of smoking. It is feared this possible Wonka scheme may encourage the weak minded and young to take up smoking.
“We most strongly urge parents to warn their children that smoking is hazardous to their health and may cause cancer and other deadly diseases.” Minister Francis Fickle stated in a recent interview for Coverdale Weekend Television. “Accordingly I’ve requested an audience with Winston Wonka to discuss this possible Golden Ticket scheme and to urge him, with great persuasion if necessary, to drop this promotion in favor of placing stronger warning labels on all Wonka products. Our calls have not been returned but we are hopeful.”
The Wonka Tobacco Works has scheduled a special announcement to be carried live by WonkaVision Tuesday next. It is anticipated the Golden Ticket Scheme will commence at that time.
Stay tuned for upcoming reports.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Loren Luther is a student of the world. He currently resides in Cloverdale in the Confederacy of Dunces. He is the absolute master of the toys in his cedar chest. His ambition is to start there and slowly, almost imperceptibly take over the world. This was all discovered recently when I babysat for his mother. She arranged for two hours of my time so she could make a quick trip to the Piggly Wiggly and then a stop to have her hair styled for a dinner party she was having that evening.
“How are you today Loren?” I asked the boy after seeing his mother to the front door and finding him in his bedroom.
“I’m OK,” he answered. He sat in a cartoonish red plastic chair at a small, child sized desk in his bedroom. He held a globe in his hands studying what I thought was the Arctic.
“Looking for the land of the Eskimo and polar bear?” I asked leaning over his shoulder while looking at the globe from above. He glanced up and looked at me in the eyes. He lowered his brow to emphasise what he was about to say.
“Why would I care about Eskimos and polar bears?” He turned back to his globe. “Tell me how boats can sail way up here. Its covered in ice.”
“Well, boats don’t usually sail up there except in summer when the ice melts. They also have ships called ice breakers that can cut through the ice as long as it isn’t too thick.” He nodded his head and then started tracing a line from Alaska to Russia. His finger stopped at a city on the Arctic Ocean called Murmansk.
“The Russians have a navy base there. I saw it on the tele. Most of their boats are all rusty. I think some of them are sinking. Dad says they don’t have the money to repair them.” He looked up again and waited for an answer. I was astonished at the question. Why would Loren Luther of Cloverdale, a student at Confederacy Elementary School, care about old Russian ships?
“Perhaps the Russians need their money for something else?” I answered.
“I saw on the tele the Russians have lots of money from selling oil and gas so if they have lots of money then they should be taking care of their ships.” He squirmed in his red plastic chair. It wobbled slightly. He was outgrowing it.
“Luther, may I ask why you are interested in the Russian Navy?”
”I’m going to take over the world when I grow up. I have to know these things.” His statement was matter of fact. It didn’t open the door for rebuttal or comment.
“Oh,” I said. My amazement was doubling with every sentence he spoke.
“May I ask your strategy?”
“What’s stragee?” He asked not understanding the word I used or how it was pronounced.
“The word is strategy. It means, what is your plan to take over the world?”
“I saw some people on the tele in a place called Tibet way up in the mountains and they were walking thousands of miles on their knees and they’d stop all the time and lay down on the ground and then get up again and keep going. One of them said the trip was long and hard but they did it one step at a time. I’m going to do it one step at a time too.”
“OK, where are you going to start?”
“Right here with my toys.” He stood up and took my hand. He led me to the other side of his bed. There on the floor were scores of plastic army men and tanks and jets. Half of them were green plastic. The other half seemed to have painted red using a permanent marker.
“You’re taking over the world with your toy army?” I asked. It was an attempt at humor. He wasn’t amused.
“These are my soldiers,” he said pointed to the standard green plastic men. “Those are the Chinese. She how I painted them red?” I nodded. “I’m figuring out how to defeat them.
“That’s your plan, take over the world with your plastic army one step at a time?”
“No, I control them.” he said pointing to his army. “It’s my first step. I also control this,” he said holding up a GI Joe.
“You control your toys?”
“What’s the next step?”
“I’m working on that. I want to have control over my room. Right now my mom tells me where to put the furniture and when to make my bed and when to put my toys away. You know - stuff like that.” I nodded again. “I don’t want her to do that any more so I’m thinking of ways to keep her out of my room.”
“And then?” I asked. He stopped to think.
“My friends. I need to decided what to play. No more voting.”
“Do you think they’re going to stay friends with you if you tell them what to do all the time?” He hadn’t thought about that. He jumped up on his bed and sat thinking. He looked up at a poster on the wall. It was half a Star Wars poster. The poster had Darth Vader on one side. The other side was cut away. From the hand holding a light saber I could tell it must have been Luke Skywalker.
“I guess you have to be lonely to take over the world.” he said, never taking his eyes off the Sith Lord. “After my room I’m going to take over my school. I got elected class president at school.” he said proudly. He jumped off the bed, fell to the floor and pulled a shopping bag out from underneath. He held it up. I opened it. It was partially full of candy. ‘”That got most of the kids to vote for me. The rest had to promise to vote for me or my friends and I wouldn’t let them play on the school’s big toy. We sort of took it over at recess.”
“Dont’ you think that’s wrong?” I asked, wondering if Loren had any morals whatsoever.
“Yes, but I saw someone on tele say that the ends justify the means. I didn’t know what it meant so I asked my dad and he explained it.”
“So you’ve got this all thought out?”
“Yep, and that’s only the start. I can’t tell you the rest because you’re a grown up and you’ll tell other grown ups.”
He went back to his desk, picked up the globe and started looking again at the Arctic Ocean.
“Call me if you need me,” I said as I walked to the bedroom door. I was going out to the living room to watch the tele.
“I won’t need you but I’ll call you if I want you.” he replied as I shut the door.
For a moment I wondered if the young Hitler or Napoleon started out this way? Should I warn the parents? Should I recommend psychiatric help?
There was a sign on the outside of Loren’s door I noticed when I entered but only understood as I left. It was written in red crayon on white lined paper. It read:
Turning the world upside down.
Turning the world upside down.