"What came next?"
A little boy was sitting on a dune in the middle of a vast dessert. There was a skin tag on his elbow. He was staring at a lamp, which was being held by an entitled skeleton. Far from him at the bottom of the dune, a man was waiting.
"Nothing. That was the end of the story," said the lamp.
"Was it?" The boy's voice sounded unsure. "Are you pretending to truncate again?"
"No," said the lamp. "It's over. Go away."
"Soon," said the boy. "I have questions. I want closure. The story was confusing."
"It wasn't," said the lamp. "If someone hears a story and is unsatisfied with the conclusion, it is never because of the teller."
"What about bad stories? It isn't your fault if someone tricks you into listening to a bad story."
"It is if you stay until the end. Which you did."
"I didn't say your story was a bad story," said the boy. "It isn't perfect, but I liked it."
The boy nodded. "You sound surprised. Did you not want me to like it?"
"Shut up," said the lamp. "Ask your questions. I will give you your closure."
The boy picked up sand, letting it pass through his fingers.
"What about his name?"
"Before the story started, he changed it."
He drew a small line where the sand had fallen.
"I call him Dad," he said. "Mom calls him Chili. I always thought it was his real name."
"It isn't. It's a nickname. His name is Chawer Hili-Hewon."
"Chawer Hili-Hewon," the boy said. "Why did he change it?"
"He didn't like it."
"Why did he choose Chili Floss as his new name?"
"He was six. At six, people are foolish."
"Tell me about it," said the boy. He was seven. "What about the pickle?"
"The pickle disappeared. No one knows where it went. After Mahuika sublimated it, she sent everyone to the new world, including the minds that had perished. This is our world."
"I thought Mr. Teavee said that it was impossible to recover dead minds."
"Not by the pickle," said the lamp. "When Mahuika took control of the GAG, she found a way."
"Our world isn't the same world Mr. Bucket was trying to travel to, is it?"
"No," said the lamp. "It is not."
"After Mr. Bucket was revived, what happened to him? Did he apologize?"
"Mr. Bucket and Mr. Wonka did not come to the new world. Mahuika did not let them."
"Did she destroy them?"
"No. They were exiled. I don't know where, but it was not where they wanted to go. It is impossible for minds to go where they wanted to go."
"Why was Grandpa Groinfogger mean to my dad when he was little? He is nice to me."
"He smoked WonkaTobacco. It gave him perfect health with a one brain cancer margin of error."
"It's what made him crazy and killed him. I talked about it in the story."
"I don't remember."
"It doesn't matter. You will only hear about it in stories. Any more questions?"
"Who was Mr. Fantasticer Fox?"
"The son of Mr. Fantastic Fox."
"Was Mr. Bucket lying about Wonkanucleons? Did slavery make chocolate taste better?"
"Why did all the winners come back to life at the end?"
"They never died in the first place. Mr. Bucket told the clams to heal them."
"He thought the formula might fail if they died."
"Why did my dad immediately become nicer after he woke up?"
"Banksy II sent him a dream while he was sleeping in the non-citizens hospital."
"Why didn't you mention the dream?"
"I didn't think you would want to hear about it."
"What was Peachtown? What was Happiness Central?"
"A man named James and his friends decided to start a Peach Farm in the sky, but there were already people living in the clouds."
"Oh. Did they fight over the territory?"
"No. They all became best friends and lived together peacefully and sold the best Peach Juice and vape juice in the world, but they disagreed over what the farm's name should be."
"Did they fight about that?"
"Which name was better?"
"Why was my dad mean to everyone?"
"Because he was sad about his life. He missed people. He suffered."
"Was the pickle a bad pickle?"
"It was a complicated pickle. It missed people. It suffered."
"So it wasn't bad?"
"It was complicated. Everyone is complicated."
"Did Mahuika vape?"
"Does Mahuika still vape?"
"No. She does not vape."
"Is everyone else happy? All the other winners and their families? JUROR and Tide and Lim?"
"Why didn't my dad tell me the story himself? Why did he bring me here to have you say it?"
"He was embarrassed. He thought you might think less of him."
The boy frowned.
"The GAG made stories out of the lives of the characters. Do you know them all?"
"Can you tell them to me? I think your story would be nicer if I knew them. It would make more sense."
"I can, but I won't."
"Your dad wants to tell them to you."
"He does. He loves them."
The boy walked to his father, who had a nervous smile on his face. He hugged him. They felt the feeling.
"Did you like the story?" his father asked.
"I did. Can you tell me one yourself before we go back?"
"We need to be home for dinner. Grandma doesn't like it when we make her wait."
"A short story, and we will walk while you tell it. But it has to be good."
His father thought.
"A short one. It's called Poison."
They started walking.
"There were two men who had traveled to a different country. It was the same country where your mother grew up. One of the men went to visit the other in his home. When he saw his friend, he was lying still in his bed and refusing to move."
"Was he sick?"
"No," said the boy's father. "There was a blanket on his stomach, and he said that a snake had slithered under it."
"A krait. They are venomous. He was afraid it would bite him. His friend told him to call a doctor, and he did. The doctor was from the country the men were visiting."
"You can skip the little details."
His father smiled.
"The doctor pumped sleeping gas under the blanket to put the snake to sleep, and gave the man antivenom to help if he was bitten. After they pumped enough gas to put the snake to sleep, they went to pull the blanket off the man. There was no snake."
"What happened to it?"
"They did not know. They searched everywhere and found no snake. The doctor asked the man if he was sure it was a snake, and the man began screaming and calling him racist names. His friend took the doctor out of the room and apologized for him. The doctor told him that the man needed a holiday and left."
"Is that it? Did you truncate?"
"No. That is the end."
The boy thought about the story.
"I don't think there was a snake."
"But the story is called Poison."
"It is. Why do you think the pickle called it that?"
He didn't know. His father told him to think about it.
"Is that your favorite story from the GAG?"
"I like it, but no."
"Which one is?"
"The one about the man who cheated at cards. It's sweet."
"Can you tell it to me?"
"After we eat dinner," he said. "It would go well with desert."