Published in Overland Issue 248 Spring 2022 · Fiction Fiction | Senhor Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Bruna Gomes my daughter steals the papers every morning like she stole english. she chopped the language up and put it in her pocket. she’s a smart girl like that. knows how to survive like that. up in the trees, eating lagartas, she reads the papers aloud and slow, piecing together all the chopped-up sounds and vomiting them back out through her teeth. ‘HOW DOES POVERTY TASTE? CHOCOLATEY.’1 down the river, big metal machines moan. the land down there is kept in the pockets of a man with a top-hat. they say he’s got deep pockets that crackle with candy wrappers and tinkle with cacau beans. his pockets have buttons. he fastens them tight. ‘CADBURY’S NEW DAIRY MILK FLAVOURS ARE HERE.’2 ‘stay in the trees,’ i tell my daughter. ‘STRESSED COCOA TREES PRODUCE MORE FLAVOURFUL CHOCOLATE: STUDY.’3 Our houses are stitched into the sky. no way the gringos are coming here to take and take and take. my daughter says she stole english because you can’t bring a knife to a gun fight. she’s armed. she’s thirteen. ‘THERE ARE 8,000 CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS WORKING IN COCOA FIELDS IN BRAZIL.’4 my daughter’s tongue wrestles with the translation. she clutches the paper tight; it crinkles beneath her fingers. # ‘SENHOR WONKA IS LOOKING FOR EXOTIC NEW FLAVOURS FOR HIS CHOCOLATE BARS THAT WILL TANTALISE THE TONGUE.’ ‘tell me more,’ i say. ‘this search brings him to loompa land, which, like he promises in the papers, is a real place: you’ll know all about it and know what a terrible country it is.’5 idiota. it is thick infested jungle near the equator. it is colonised plantation and sun-burnt meninos. it is how terra nullius is an invitation to invade. loompa land. it rolls off his tongue. ‘in loompa land, senhor wonka eats bugs and lagartas and vomits them back up. it makes his lips green. in loompa land, he finds oompa loompas, suspended in the trees.’ Us Locals don’t have height-related disabilities; we’re just brown and sun-burnt. oompa loompas. it rolls off his tongue. ‘lucky for senhor wonka, We oompa loompas know all about cacao, so he says come live in my factory i’ll even pay you in cocoa beans (as in the beans he stole from Our plantation) and We oompa loompas say we don’t want beans we want money and senhor wonka says why are you up in the trees anyway? and We oompa loompas say to protect ourselves from the predator below so senhor wonka says if you come to my factory you will be safe from the predator and We Locals say you are the predator, gringo.’ ‘it says all this in the paper?’ i ask. ‘no. i’m just summarising it.’ ‘ai, that gringo.’ ‘senhor wonka ignores Us oompa loompas and imports Us to his big metal factory like We are some sort of machinery and puts Us to work on his big metal machines. We oompa loompas got hair black and thick enough for senhor wonka to use Us for animal testing. i’ve tried it on like twenty oompa loompas, says senhor wonka, and each one ended up as a blueberry … it’s just weird!6 # days after my daughter read of senhor wonka, he comes to Our trees. from above, We see the black circle of his top-hat like a cavity in the ground. he tilts his head up, milky teeth glinting through the foliage, oily lips slick with the blood of a lagarta. his american accent as he sings ‘oowmpar loowmpars!’ makes ferns wilt. my daughter thinks she’ll have a go at paying him with the english she stole. she calls it ‘payback’. ‘hello, senhor?’ she says into the trees. senhor wonka’s face goes purple. ‘you, with milk in your mouth! i’m talking to you!’ my daughter’s english twists out of her mouth. it is like a vine, silently weaving through the trees until it strangles wonka. frozen man, purple man. ‘your milky mouth will rot! rot!’ a thousand flashbacks zoom through his glass eyes. oompa loompas. roll into the river. oompa loompas. imported on a cargo ship with cacao, in between sacks of cane sugar and cocaine. my daughter has no papers to steal so We make up our own article. FATHER AND DAUGHTER KEEP THEIR CACAU HOME FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES. but We know it will always be a fiction. # in the factory, late in the metallic night, my daughter sneaks out of Our bunker to find remnants of the day’s paper. she brings them back like contraband, stuffed into her jumpsuit, making her look round and rolling. ‘TROUBLE BREWING: MARS AND HERSHEY’S ACCUSED OF NOT PAYING FAIR BONUS TO COCOA FARMERS.’7 ‘there are farmers actually getting paid?’ i ask, surprised. my daughter flicks me. ‘let me summarise the headline a little more, papai. trouble brewing: mars and hershey’s accused of not paying cacau farmers, not feeding cacau farmers, overworking cacau farmers, child-labouring cacau farmers, killing cacau farmers, and killing the ground, and killing the air, and killing the entire earth. you like that better, papai?’ ‘this is good journalism, yes. write me another headline.’ ‘HOW MAKING CHOCOLATE IS ADDING UP TO DEFORESTATION, EMISSIONS, AND CLIMATE CHANGE.’8 ‘with a headline like that, you could pay your way out of here.’ my daughter laughs. she looks tired and shrunken. she often has to scoop the bodies of her people out of a chocolate river. overworked, it is easy to fall in. almost impossible to swim out. # ‘WONKA OPENS FACTORY: CHOCOLATE FACTORY TO OPEN FOR FIVE TICKET WINNERS,’9 my daughter reads. ‘senhor wonka invites five white capitalists to his factory and he murders them to teach them a lesson about greed and rotten deeds (which rolls off his tongue). it must be fun to gate-keep when you are gatekeeping something you stole. he’s afraid, he says, of those parasitic copycat candy-making cads.’10 someone needs to remind him that cacau is not candy. candy is a sickly sweetness that offers instant and short-lived satisfaction. ‘senhor wonka gets confused about what he makes and what he eats and what he steals. even i am edible! he says in his confusion. but that is called cannibalism and is in fact frowned upon in most societies.11 when he says this, he looks at Us oompa loompas in disgust. ‘i am surprised he hasn’t eaten one of Us yet,’ i say. ‘i bet he’s curious about what We taste like. imagine: oompa-loompa-blueberry-explosion chocolate bar.’ ‘that’s sick, papai.’ ‘keep summarising.’ ‘he murders the owner of a peanut-shelling factory and the endorser of competitive gum-chewing and a woman of gluttonous greed and a worker who lost everything but still values plastic-gold tickets and a man who enjoys shooting anything that moves (he might have even shot senhor wonka, but the master gaslighter senhor wonka says the best kind of prize is a sur-prize!12 and murders him before he gets the chance.)’ ‘i remember the peanut man. he had a rotten daughter.’ ‘the one with the ponies?’ ‘i pity those ponies. keep summarising, filha.’ ‘when each capitalist dies We oompa loompas sing samba songs in celebration, which angers senhor wonka so he makes whipped cream against Our backs, because for your information, little girl, says senhor wonka, tongue rolling, whipped cream isn’t whipped cream at all unless it’s been whipped with whips. everybody knows that.’13 my daughter winces. she puts her hand to her back and frowns. she lets herself cry while she summarises the final column. ‘senhor wonka listens to the jingle of beans in his pocket and grins at the success of his factory’s slave labour that he doesn’t have to share with anyone. and while he murders the copycat capitalists and calculates his profits from Our plantation and tips his stupid top-hat, senhor wonka thinks about his daddy issues, and his daddy-dentist trauma, and he visualises pushing chocolate through metal bars, rolling it all down his tongue, all the way to his rotten, rotten teeth.’ 1 ‘How Does Poverty Taste? Chocolatey’, Solidaridad, www.solidaridadnetwork.org, 30 November 2020. 2 Anna Lewis, ‘Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Flavours for the Inventor Competition are Here’, Delish, www.delish.com, 22 June 2021. 3 IANS, ‘Stressed Cocoa Trees Produce More Flavourful Chocolate: Study’, The Economic Times, www.economictimes.indiatimes.com, 7 Dec 2017. 4 André Picolotto, Daniel Giovanaz, Julieta Casara, Luara Wandelli Loth, Lúcio Lambranho, Marques Casara, Poliana Dallabrida, Raquel Sabrina and Tulio Kruse, Cocoa Supply Chain, International Labour Organization, 2018. 5 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, dir. Tim Burton, Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. 6 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, dir. Tim Burton,Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. 7 ‘Trouble Brewing: Mars and Hershey’s Accused of Not Paying Fair Bonus to Cocoa Farmers’, The Economic Times, www.economictimes.indiatimes.com, 01 December 2020. 8 Urmi A Goswami. ‘How Making Chocolate Is Adding Up to Deforestation, Emissions and Climate Change’, The Economic Times, www.economictimes.indiatimes.com, 22 August 2015. 9 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, dir. Tim Burton,Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. 10 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, dir. Tim Burton,Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. 11 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, dir. Tim Burton,Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. 12 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, dir. Tim Burton,Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. 13 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, dir. Tim Burton,Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. Bruna Gomes Bruna Gomes is an Australian-Brazilian novelist and poet. She is the author of the novel How to Disappear and the poetry collection Triple Citizenship. Bruna's work is featured and forthcoming in various journals including the Cordite Poetry Review, Paper Crane journal and the Columbia Review. In June 2022, she was a writer in residence at the Museum of Loss and Renewal in Italy. More by Bruna Gomes › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 8 December 2023 · Fiction Fiction | The Victims Emma Jayne Willson Every morning I checked the Director’s calendar to ensure there were no meeting clashes, no opportunity for her polished façade to slip. Once I’d made the mistake of booking two meetings without leaving ten minutes between them, thus forcing her to run across the sprawling campus. 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