Another big break there between posts, largely due to being hospitalized for diabetic conditions thanks to too many Willy Wonka posts in a row. Anyway!
On page 88 of a 163-page book, the adventure in space with the Great Glass Elevator comes to a crashing end, literally, as Mr. Wonka sends the Elevator back down to Earth at increasing speeds.
“Mr. Wonka!” he yelled above the noise. “What I don’t understand is why we’ve got to come down at such a terrific speed.”
“My dear boy,” Mr. Wonka answered, “if we don’t come down at a terrific speed, we’ll never burst our way back in through the roof of the factory. It’s not easy to punch a hole in a roof as strong as that.”
“But there’s a hole in it already!” said Charlie. “We made it when we came out.”
“Then we shall make another,” said Mr. Wonka. “Two holes are better than one. Any mouse will tell you that.”
Needless to say, they survive. Once the debris has been swept away and everyone’s gotten a look at the fantastic Chocolate Room that we visited in the first story, Mr. Wonka orders the three old people in bed up and out of bed.
Just as a reminder, the ones in bed are Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George, and Grandma Georgina, who is about to become a major character. In the 2005 film, Grandma Georgina was portrayed as rather addle-pated, but in this book she’s a cantankerous old Scrooge of a woman who is constantly yelling at Mr. Wonka and being selfish when miracles are handed out. And oh yes, miracles are definitely about to be handed out.
Wonka-Vite is a wonder drug invented by Mr. Wonka himself, the raw materials for which resemble a Chinese aphrodesiac recipe; the hoof of a manticore, the tail of a cockatrice, the whites of twelve eggs from a tree-squeak, and a one-ton block of high quality chocolate, just to name a few. Each pill takes 27 days to prepare, and he happens to have a bottle of twelve pills on him at that very moment. That’s a year’s worth of effort, yet he’s just passing them out like– well, like candy!
It should be noted that this segment of the story has more lampshade hangings than just about any other I’ve read.
“I handed him the pill. He looked at it nervously. I couldn’t blame him for being a bit jittery after what had happened to the other one hundred and thirty-one volunteers.”
“What had happened to them?” shouted Grandma Georgina. “Why don’t you answer the question instead of skidding around it on two wheels?”
“Who knows the way out of a rose?” said Mr. Wonka.
“Thus was Wonka-Vite invented,” said Mr. Wonka. “And thus it was made safe for all to use.”
“Why don’t you use it yourself, then?” said Grandma Georgina. “You told Charlie you were getting too old to run the factory, so why don’t you just take a couple of pills and get forty years younger? Tell me that?”
“Anyone can ask questions,” said Mr. Wonka. “It’s the answers that count. Now then, if the three of you in the bed would care to try a dose…”
If Mr. Wonka has a personal flaw, and no one will argue that he doesn’t, it’s that he recognizes that people won’t take good advice when they hear it, yet he is perfectly happy to let them learn things the hard way as long as he gave them fair warning and is technically in the right. He didn’t slap Violet Beauregarde in the back of the head to knock the gum out of her mouth, and he doesn’t stick around as the three old ones in bed divvy up 12 pills among themselves. Grandpa Joe (age 96 1/2) seems content to be the age he is, so the three in bed take the whole bottle, four pills each.
Each pill makes you twenty years younger. You see where this is going, right? Quick refresher:
- Grandpa George: Age 81.
- Grandma Josephine: Age 80 and three months.
- Grandma Georgina: Age 78.
OOPS. The bed full of screaming, incontinent old people is now full of screaming, incontinent babies– and yet quite a bit less full.
“My dear madam,” said Mr. Wonka. “If she was only seventy-eight and she took enough Wonka-Vite to make her eighty years younger, then naturally she’s vanished. She’s bitten off more than she could chew! She’s taken off more years than she had!”
“Explain yourself,” said Mrs. Bucket.
“Simple arithmetic,” said Mr. Wonka. “Subtract eighty from seventy-eight and what do you get?”
“Minus two!” said Charlie.
“Hooray!” said Mr. Bucket. “My mother-in-law’s minus two years old!”
A terrible accident to happen to an old woman, but Mr. Wonka has foreseen this difficulty; this is what happened to those other Oompa-Loompa volunteers, after all. Wonka-Vite has an antidote– it’s called Vita-Wonk, and it has the bizarre temporal effect of moving your birth date backwards in time. Mr. Wonka used it to rescue all his brave workers, but to do that you have to go to Minusland.
Charlie stood at the open door of the Elevator and stared into the swirling vapors. “This, he thought, is what hell must be like. Hell without heat. There was something unholy about it all, something unbelievably diabolical. It was all so deathly quiet, so desolate and empty. At the same time, the constant movement, the twisting and swirling of the misty vapors, gave one the feeling that some very powerful force, evil and malignant, was at work all around.
Minusland is the ‘waiting room’ where people who are not yet born must remain until their time comes; however, most of them never do because the rest of the population of Minusland is made up of Gnoolies, invisible arithmetical vampires that subtract and divide their victims in order to multiply.
Luckily, before any Gnoolies can sneak into the elevator, Charlie sees Grandma Georgina’s shade floating prone across the bow of the elevator, and Mr. Wonka pulls out his “Quick Henry the FLIT” spray gun and pumps her full of Vita-Wonk, which comes in liquid form. Just like that, she’s alive!
…Or is she?
Because it takes so much Vita-Wonk to soak a Minus like Grandma Georgina enough to take an effect, Mr. Wonka has inadvertently made her the oldest woman in the world at age 358, also making her a world record holder in that she has a daughter who’s only 40 or so. Her attitude has considerably mellowed with age– I like the ancient Georgina better than the merely-wrinkly one.
Thankfully, there’s a huge bottle of Wonka-Vite left over to cure her… my god, Willy, how many years did you spend boiling down elephant trunks and stuff to make all this? Mr. Wonka dissolves it all in a tumbler and pours it down the mummy’s throat, and now she has the very peculiar effect of her life flashing before her eyes as it gets shorter and shorter.
Every second now she was growing slightly less and less shriveled, becoming more and more lively. It was a marvelous thing to watch.
“Gettysburg!” she cried. “General Lee is on the run!”
And a few seconds later she let out a great wail of anguish and said, “He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead!”
“Who’s dead?” said Mr. Bucket, craning forward.
“Lincoln!” she wailed. “There goes the train…”
“She must have seen it!” said Charlie. “She must have been there!”
“She is there,” said Mr. Wonka. “At least she was a few seconds ago.”
All that fuss and excitement, and everyone ends up exactly the same age as they ever were. Wasted effort? Not really; it’s important to have an experience like that so you know what’s going to happen as an employee of the Willy Wonka chocolate factory. It’s important to expect the unexpected– a point driven home when the President’s helicopter lands outside!
Remember President Gilligrass from the first half of the book? He’s back, and he wants something from Mr Wonka.
Keep in mind– this is all happening on the same day that Charlie & The Chocolate Factory took place. No one has slept since the initial visit to the Factory or the visit to the Space Hotel or the escapade with Wonka-Vite. And now the President of the United States wants them to come see him.
It’s a good thing Mr. Dahl never got around to the third book in the series… it would probably have ended with Charlie’s underfed heart blowing out from the exhaustion of a single day.