by Carolyn Cohagan


Dearest Chumbudu,


I hope this letter finds you well.  Indeed, I hope it is able to find you at all. Since you returned to the island, we have heard not a peep from you, and we can only pray to the Gods for your safety. Mother cannot sleep, she is so distraught with the idea of you falling prey to a Whangdoodle or Vermicious Knid, so please write to her as soon as possible, and put her mind at ease.

Although I did not understand your decision to return to our homeland last year, I must confess that now your departure seems like a wise and prescient move. The chocolate factory has not been the same since the retirement of Mr. Wonka. Our benevolent employer did his best to leave us in good hands, but I am sad to report that chaos reigns in our candy kingdom.

“The boy wonder,” as Mr. Wonka called him (although downstairs we prefer “boy blunder”) made his first order of business to cut our daily teatime, and suggested that room and board at the factory did not mean “all you can eat.” He then proceeded to initiate a ration system. Well, I thought there would be a riot! But you know us, Chumbudu. There was a lot of passionate singing and fervent rhyming, but not a fist was thrown.

Next thing you know the boy removed all the nuts from the factory. That’s right! All of them! Pistachios, almonds, coconuts . . . Just because he doesn’t like them. In one misguided decree he has removed all texture and nuance from our art. I’m glad you left the country before you had to see a brittle without a peanut. You would have wept.

And then came the worst offense.  He slashed our pension plans! Just like that. This time I wasn’t having it. No amount of dancing could placate me. And so I marched into his office and demanded justice. And you just won’t believe what the insipid little urchin said. He told me in no uncertain terms that Mr. Wonka had smuggled us into the EU illegally, that we were undocumented workers with no rights, and that we were getting an excellent deal that we should be very happy with. He said if I wanted to leave I was happy to go out and join the unemployed Jamaicans hanging out by the hardware shop!

I tell you, it’s a dreadful time to be orange in Britain. There are no jobs, and people are losing their homes, and this is when society looks to blame anyone who is different. There has been a bout of depression among the workers. Last month sweet Hulanadee drowned himself in a vat of marshmallow.

Not only was it tragic, but it was a hard, hard funeral. No one could think of anything that rhymed with marshmallow. Of course since that day, it’s all I can think of: harsh & shallow, dark gallows, face so sallow, oh I could go on for days . . .

But enough of my complaining! Things aren’t all bad.  Sidaaraha had her baby, a gorgeous little girl, called Neepee. And Tondaroo and Shaylandoo finally got married (between you and me, I heard Shaylandoo is already licking someone else’s gobstopper, but that’s another story). And soon it will be time to celebrate Hodidake, my favorite holiday, but it won’t be the same drinking pig fat from our shoes without you, my dear cousin.

All I ask is this, if you should ever decide to return to this cold land of fog and tall man odour, please bring with you some sort of weapon. We did not have the foresight to arm ourselves when we embarked upon our long journey so many years ago. We were blinded by the charm and kindness of Mr. Wonka, but now the veil has been lifted, we have plummeted from our sugar high, and we could greatly use any sort of axe, hatchet, or machete that you are able to smuggle in on your person. Just one should do.


With deepest affection,


Jupudah Loompa


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