Saturday, October 5, 2013

lima beans

by harold p sternhagen

illustrated by danny delacroix

a man named alfredo grew lima beans.

they were good lima beans.

they were as green as the earth seen from heaven.

and as curvaceous as the smile of a beautiful woman.

alfredo grew them in his own ground.

which his ancestors had owned for generations.

he grew them carefully.

and was careful not to grow too many.

he brought them to town every two weeks in season, to sell them in the market.

people from the united states were his best customers.

his best customer of all was a certain mr walter taggart, from richmond virginia.

mr taggart extolled the virtues of alfredo's lima beans to his friends.

and he had a lot of friends.

as he was very rich and his family had been involved in politics in both the united states and south america for many generations.

things proceeded in this way.

the lima beans were good and life was good.

then gonzalo came to town.

gonzalo had a wife and nine children and had difficulty providing for them.

he set up as a cab driver but business was not good.

the people from the united states had their own cars and chauffeurs.

most of the townspeople laughed at the idea of paying someone to drive them from one place to another.

gonzalo had a lot of idle time on his hands, and he spent some of it at the market.

he took note of the success of some of the vendors.

such as maria who sold pomegranates, and bonifacio who sold a peculiar kind of small green banana.

but he took particular note of the thriving business of alfredo with his lima beans.

how hard could it be to grow lima beans?

gonzalo purchased some of alfredo's beans and began to grow his own.

two of gonzalo's young daughters tended the lima beans as best they could in addition to their other chores during the day.

gonzalo and the two little girls grew as many beans as they could at once, and gonzalo and his wife and eldest daughter began selling them at the market at much lower prices than alfredo's.

such townspeople as had purchased alfredo's beans were quick to purchase gonzalo's instead.

so did most of the cooks and housekeepers who did the shopping for the americans.

after all, a lima bean was a lima bean.

even though most of gonzalo's beans were a pale greenish white and as flat as tire rims, instead of round and lushly green like alfredo's.

gonzalo quickly took away most of alfredo's business.

one day mr walter taggart himself came to the market to purchase some of alfred's superior beans.

alfredo told mr taggart his sad story.

mr taggart was quite upset.

he was determined that this intrusion of mass production methods, at the expense of old world craftsmanship - and in a place he regarded as a personal refuge from the crass modern world - should not go unchallenged.

he made no promises, but told alfredo he would do what he could for him.

mr taggart made his views clear to his friends.

the friends were happy to oblige him in this - to them - utterly trivial matter. they instructed the cooks and housekeepers to go back to buying alfredo's beans.

the cooks and housekeepers shrugged and obeyed.

alfredo got most - not all - of his business back.

some of the townspeople sympathized with gonzalo and thought he had been badly used by alfredo and his rich american friend.

after a while gonzalo and his family, unable to make ends meet, moved away, no one knew where.

life went on.

for what is life, but a series of crushing defeats for some, and small victories for others?

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