Tags: willy wonka, childrens fantasy, short story, flash fiction, conversations with wonka series, humor
|Publication Date||Oct. 06, 2013|
|Series||Conversations With Wonka, Part 2|
|BCRS ratings?Learn more|
Conversations With Wonka, Part Two.
We had reached the back end of the year, all of us muddling along, me with bits of sticky notes, to do lists, new diaries, even more bits of paper and quite honestly the tablets beckoned. I was so far out of my comfort zone I had opted for pink hair.
‘Don’t come anywhere near me!’ shrieked Wonka as I slid through the front door, squeezing in with the usual multiple baglets of shopping, cat litter, keys and handbags. (one). Baba sat motionless about one foot in from said door and I just managed not to fall flat. It meant doing a series of hops and runs which only frightened Wonka further. He peered at me from my bedroom door at the top of the stairs. ‘Well I like it’ I justified the new look and then spent half an hour in the bathroom twitching and preening at it in a tiny magnified mirror. It had been a gift from daughter and even though it was now in two parts, one let you see everything in horrid close up and the other half, well I could make out bits of myself in a good light.
‘We’re starving me and Baba!’ commanded Wonka from the side. I forced myself away from the mirror and perused the vast array of cat food. Selected the most expensive and watched them both sniff it, scrape the floor and wander off.
Signs of stress and anxiety were numerous and you will recall the most popular as the locking myself out of places dear to my heart namely home and car. There were other lesser signs jostling for a top ten position. Snipping my hair particularly following a visit to the hairdresser, was one such sign.
Sessions in the bathroom peering at my hair from all angles and then making the decision to just adjust it here and maybe there. Luckily my hairdresser was not informed of this DIY attitude. Wonka did know about it and warned me I’d be sorry. Baba, who had taken to sitting in the bathroom just where I needed to stand, was not helping by default.
The bathroom was in size modelled on the kitchen and the kitchen was modelled on a postage stamp. As long as I didn’t turn suddenly, dance to a bit of music I liked or step on Baba, nothing would fall down including me. I made myself put the nail scissors back and return to the troubled world I now lived in.
‘Soon be Christmas!’ chirped Wonka ‘ Soon be the New Year!’
I wasn’t looking forward to either. In keeping with my befuddled state, decisions were just beyond my reach and I was taking the view that if I didn’t sort something out, it would by magic, get sorted out without me. Not so. I now had extra bits of family to bring good cheer to whilst feeling rather scrooge like. Ah yes, Wonka would be Tiny Tim and Baba? Was there a simple dreamy character or was that the giant turkey purchased on Christmas morn? I nearly trod on Baba’s inert tail and this brought me back round. Yes Christmas, it was coming and it was coming fast.
I had managed to find a hairdresser though brave enough to take me on. Wonka had lectured accordingly. ‘keep young and beautiful’ he yodelled at me ‘ and try and get someone with a few bob!’ believe me I was trying, but you will remember my failed attempts with the online dating thingy? As I gazed at the reflection confidence levels were at an all-time low. Who, yes who, would be man enough to take me on. The hair was still vaguely pink and daughter had remarked on it. Said I looked like a pop star. Far from bolstering me, I had instead lingered on the ghastly time all those celebrities had when it came to love and bordering on love. Then the pink faded.
‘I told you it was a waste of money!’ sneered Wonka at me before he hid under the bed, and ‘ me and Baba are starving!’.
All the same, it was comforting to know that as long as I put on the ‘product’ and blow dried a certain way, my hair would survive a tsunami. I would be dead, but my hair would look the business.
It was only a matter of time before I developed a new and cross-the-line crush, as the GP, although still very supportive and desperate to prescribe tablets (don’t take them! warned Wonka) hadn’t really acknowledged how attractive I looked despite feeling god awful. He had remarked on how well protected I looked against the weather though. At the back end of the year, with a long woolly cardigan, woolly scarf, woolly gloves, and charity shop earmuffs, he had for a moment been lost for words. Ready to burst into tears, I let him off.
Creeping back through the front door laden with sick notes, shopping notes, and to-do notes, I pondered on my fate. Baba was being ill somewhere in the house and Wonka looked smug about it. Christmas anyone?
Aged parent was being very demanding by being not very demanding. Nietzsche (whatshisname) had all this off pat, starting with his brilliant observation that ‘god is dead’ and moving onto things like we will be the opposite of what we are. If not that, something really close to it. More than once this year I had cause to question all the essential things we cling onto and I blamed it entirely on said parent as it wasn’t me. Wonka had urged me to take up Life Coaching rather than fuss about with therapy and counselling. ‘ it’s all claptrap!’ and now strongly agreed with the nice GP that a few tablets here and there wouldn’t harm. But I wasn’t listening to the nice GP and had decided he wasn’t worth a crush after all, and this was before he said he couldn’t help me with my appeal. You don’t want to know.
Again, Wonka warned me not to take things personally even if they were. ‘He’s a professional!’ and ‘He knows the system and you don’t’. Worn out with ghastly letters in brown envelopes or the white one with horrid green dashes round it, I spent longer and longer staring at varieties of cat food in the supermarket debating on the likelihood of Baba eating them. And when he didn’t, Wonka helped me out by devouring the lot.
Standing on one of those white plastic tops in bare feet will soon focus the mind, and I hurled it at the good front door. Wonka flew up the hallway and played with it for two seconds. Baba was inert by the bad back door and had been asking to go out, silently for an hour or so. Deciding it was too cold for anyone to be out, except our friend Ruggles the stray, I forced myself to consider Christmas. Tree or no tree?
There was another tree that was taking precedence and rather taking me over. This was the family tree. Since taking on the extra bits of family and juggling my life, their life, Wonka et al’s life, daughter etc, the richness of the past always seemed more inviting than right now.
‘We’re starving’ would come the battle cry, as I leafed through yellow newspaper cuttings and marvelled at the rigid poses of great great Uncles in uniform. It turned out that aged parent remaining, was in line for some loot. All I had to do was provide two tons of evidence to support her tenuous claim. ‘We’ll all be dead before you get it!’ comforted Wonka. That being said, the dusty albums and family portraits were a pleasant break from the stress ridden pre-Christmas fest. Mother was slightly interested in the ancestral links and would after much prodding and probing recall a fact or two. ‘try open questioning!’ chided Wonka, ‘be more challenging!’. This brought back ghastly training where you really were taught to suck eggs or boil a kettle or whatever it is. Heaven knows I do know how to ask a question! Though all these techniques often deserted me on the cusp of finding out something important, I had been known to get rather impatient and resort to curt abrupt closed questions or even just statements like: ’you must be able to remember!’ or ‘but it’s not that long ago!’ (only 60 or 70 years).
However many times I answered the questions the piece of paper capturing the important information would then lose itself. And worse still, the dead relatives were confronting me with the sorts of issues that our friend Nietzsche found the time to debate. Coping with living, never mind Christmas was my debate.
Heaven is never that far away in fact it could be just in the next room. With one aged parent definitely here and the other definitely not, I often felt betwixt and between. Wonka knew all about it of course and enjoyed sniffing round the suitcase stuffed with photos and letters, all from the ancestors and said parent. The trunk, now doubling as a coffee table come office desk, had been shoved into the living room and seemed to instantly belong. As if it had moved in, rather than me bringing it in. Again, Wonka had sniffed it round, laid on it and jumped on it. It had been the keeper of family history and held, in its innards secrets and more besides. I liked to relate how cathartic it was for me, to have this heirloom, in the heart of my home.
‘Sentimental nonsense!’ said Wonka if he thought I was getting overly emotional (most of the time) and cautioned me on spending too much time raking through the past. Especially photos of me when I really did look attractive.
‘Get off!’ shouted Wonka, as I tried to read a letter from the 1940s only to have him lash out from the nest he’d made on every available piece of paper. The smell of old newspapers, of the photos and cards transported us to another land, and I drifted in and out of the twentieth century reaching back to the turn of the nineteenth. Peering at old cards with robins and snow on from people who weren’t here anymore crisscrossed with the ones who were. I still hadn’t sorted out Christmas present. The chains of the past would have to let me go.
Juggling my new found lifestyle, (don’t mention the hairstyle) tending to restored members of family, and just coping with being me was going alright as long as I didn’t plan too far ahead, like tomorrow.
Baba, apart from coughing up a day’s worth of eating and drinking, usually in the deep of the night, was sneezing up every wall in the house. Embarking on some cleaning to fend off anxiety and stress would have me follow a trail of freckles up the stairs and beyond. ‘Pack it up Baba!’ shouting relieved stress too but I mustn’t go overboard. Wonka is firm about shouting and says I am a total hypocrite. Lecturing on the harm of raised voices when I do it myself. Well.
To a small degree I had followed the advice about life coaching and goodness knows and strangely once again, I had hit on something that I seemed to need far more than the solid line up of clients I envisaged begging to be life coached. Or should I say had a vision about? This was the main message, that if you could just picture yourself in this successful state, actually doing what you had been sitting around dreaming for years on end, well, it could come true! The revelation of this alone had me motivated and completing assignments to deadline.
Wonka was extremely proud and only warned me a couple of times that we still needed feeding and couldn’t exist on visions alone. For now it staved off thoughts of Christmas gatherings and recalling dreadful meals of yore. ‘there’s no such thing as yore! Scoffed Wonka, ‘do you mean the one where you got drunk and fell asleep on the settee and missed it altogether?’ No that one was rather entertaining. It was the pressure on us all to be kind and loving and giving that was giving me the shivers. Could I keep it up?
The cupboard under the stairs doubled as a massive warehouse for storing all those household items that wouldn’t go in the household. For some years now, it had been a dark cavern without the help of a light. Taking out the old light bulb and this before the invention of the new very expensive everlasting and unfathomable light savers we have now, to replace it with one of the everlasting ones, well the light fitting cracked. No doubt this was under the duress of finally having a change of bulb, but now, now, it would accept nothing.
Baba liked to hide in here, sometimes in the cat carrier sometimes high up on the shelves laden with all the household items, including the Christmas box. With him being black, and with the warehouse cum under the stair cupboard being lightless, he could have gone missing for days. It was our Narnia.
‘Mind your head!’ warned Wonka as I delved around looking for a, yes, a light bulb. Whilst in there though, I contemplated getting the Christmas box down. Still a month to go but would a few fairy lights cheer us up? I knew what was in there. Cards I couldn’t manage to recycle, baubles that were very last century, a string of lights I prayed would light up, and the pound Christmas tree. Some homes would boast real trees with the latest designer lighting or one of those new (ghastly) pretend trees turning all colours of the rainbow, but we, we would have none of that.
The pound tree unfurled to about three foot high and could take a couple of decorations before it looked overdone. I had bought it one Christmas when I was walking the poverty line like a trapeze. It had a lot going for it really, as neither Wonka nor Baba would want to play with it, it had no needles to shed, and it could stand in the corner nicely.
I squashed back out of the cupboard just missing Baba, and catching one of Wonka’s glittery balls. It kicked under the table to join the collection of mice, corks and plastic tops. More toys anyone?
I had been admiring the packed stockings in the supermarket, for cats. It had several toys, treats and could easily be purchased on the credit card. I had so far resisted it. Trouble was, spending money on stuff I didn’t need and as far as I knew Wonka and Baba didn’t, was another stress indicator. This I had learnt when Dad popped off to wood carving heaven much too early for my liking, and I had gone on a short period of buying weird items unfit for any purpose. One of the best things was a shapeless, oversized jumper that in reality I would have argued against wearing in my coffin.
Suffice to say, as I entered the Christmas zone, stress was but a heartbeat away. Swinging from being scrooge like to the generous jolly Uncle would have done Mr Dickens proud. On the one hand I had no money but on the other the credit card wanted to help. At my most morose and emotional moments buying something I could not afford usually moved things on a notch. Why no one had noted this, along with the box sets, as a sure fix to the dark night of the soul I didn’t care. The secret was safe with me, and the waking in the night, in a sweat over the balance on the card? Just go out there and hunt down a few more gifts and maybe a bit of food here and there.
Wonka did warn against this come day go day attitude, and wondered if I was going to watch anything on the spiritual side to balance this alarming materialistic trend out. Baby Jesus was reserved for the day itself really, but I could manage a James Stewart. Trouble was I had a new box set which although violent and racy, calmed me down a treat. And it meant I could hold off with the decision about sending cards or not. To the dwindling pack of friends and family. Like I say I was more likely to buy a stocking for Wonka (Baba wouldn’t notice) than make a silly decision about Christmas cards…..
The run up to the few days that constituted the festive season only turned the screws tighter. There was no way I needed a ceramic Santa that shielded a tea light and went all jolly and red when lit, but I had to have it. It was a reminder of how fun the festive season could be.
‘It was Baba!’ accused Wonka, when I stumbled home with the things we didn’t need and no sign of those we did. My strange dance through the hallway prompted by a . worry that the cement like cat litter would fall on top of one the cats, just meant that I fell over it instead. Life was too hard and too demanding and I wanted to give it all up. Wonka said to press on and get a grip. More than this he advised making a Christmas to do list, after tea.
‘I’ll think about it’ I moaned, and poked about in the fridge and cupboard for inspiration. There was a Christmas carol on the radio which begged to be turned off. The silence worked its magic.
Perhaps, yes perhaps, I could do Christmas after all.