to say alberto was amazed would be an understatement. in his life he had seen any number of greenhouse type buildings. some small and some very large. growing anything from veggies to row after row of orchids. however, this building was almost in ‘a wonder of the world’ category. something out of a dream or a child’s wild imagination. unable to speak for what seemed to be a few minutes, his mind raced and reeled at the number of adjectives it come up with to describe the greenhouse.
‘holy shit. this is stunning. i’m…i’m…i’m…pretty much speechless.’
‘i’m glad you like it. you’re the first person i’ve let come inside here. what you see is a childhood dream come true. something i spent many a night dreaming about when i was living in those foster homes. over the years i did many drawings. hundreds. i saved them all and when i was able to bring the drawings to life…well, this is what i got. a living dream.’
the man with the metal face was smiling as he looked over his dream. a smile only a metal face could smile. albert, on the other hand, was still thunder stuck with what he was looking at.
‘i take care of all of this by myself. oh, i have a few people helping me but they’re on the outside. you know with buying materials and helping move the product and related other things. it looks like a very big operation but i just ship product to another place for processing. i only supply them with a certain amount of raw material. very special raw material.’
having found his voice again albert almost croaked but managed a few words.
‘i have never ever seen anything like this. when you asked if…’
the man with the metal face let loose a loud and long laugh. something he had not done in a very long time. strangely enough it actually felt good. maybe he would try it again. and more often.
‘yes. yes. yes. i was playing with you, albert. having some fun. you see, most people think exactly that when they hear of it or see the outside. the local sheriff thought the same as well. if it weren’t for my help telling him what was going on here i’m sure he would have tried to serve me with a search warrant long ago.’
‘how did you…i mean, where did this dream of yours get it’s start? it certainly is, i would think, a rather odd thing for a child to want to do.’
‘not really if you think about it. things were different back then. slower and maybe even happier. remember back to your childhood and recall what you loved. particularly loved about summertime. not just the fact you were out of school or long evenings outside or maybe enjoying home made ice cream. but something else. the long time ago dream of just about every young boy.’
‘i see where you’re going. yes, of course. every boy’s dream was to play baseball. willie mays, hank aaron, mickey mantle, duke snider, and stan musial were the kings of our youth.’
‘exactly. i didn’t really want to grow tobacco or make bubble gum. but something else has always been a part of the game. sunflower seeds. i wanted to grow the finest sunflowers in the land. huge sunflowers filled with the tastiest seeds ever. you see, albert, when i was a kid i grew sunflowers outside in the backyard every summer like a lot of people did. well, one summer after i somehow managed a sort of hybrid sunflower with a head larger than i’d ever seen. um, it was huge. i was very excited about it and anxious to see what the seeds would be like.’
‘i can imagine.’
‘yes, but one day while i was inside the house, i saw this hand come over the wall and snip the head off with a large pair of scissors. i was crestfallen. i ran outside screaming and yelling at the hands and sunflower thief but i was too small to see over the wall or climb over it as well. my amazing sunflower was gone. and from that moment on i had this dream. maybe not exactly like this here but, like i said, over the years it evolved into this. no one would ever steal any of my sunflowers again.’
‘god, it’s just amazing. they’re beautiful. and so large. i’ve never seen anything like them. i bet the sunflower seed people pay a handsome price for these beauties.’
‘yes, the do, albert. i’ve managed very well over the years. nothing earth shattering mind you. but ok. come with me, there’s something else i want to show you.’
burnsworth walked down the dirt path and around one of the tractors and trailers. row after row from floor to ceiling filled with magnificent sunflowers. everywhere. an explosion of green, yellow, and black growing in the sun. a sight to behold if there ever was one.
after walking silently for a minute or two, the man with the metal face brought them to a corner in the greenhouse. he stopped and stepped aside so albert could get a good look. what albert saw made his jaw drop. something else for his eyes not to believe and his brain to have trouble processing. it was another wall of green from floor to ceiling. a wall of green interspersed with small patches of deep dark purple.
‘in a month or two they’ll be ready to pick. my other passion. growing a few grapes and making wine.’
‘simply amazing burnsworth. simply amazing. where do you make the wine. in here with all the sunflowers and grapes?’
‘no. i have a small building out behind this one for my wine making. and over the years i’ve almost filled the cellar under the house with my labors. some rather good wine, i think. you see, albert, years ago i was in southern california for a time and i met an old italian gentleman who worked the grape vineyards and made his own wine. when i left he gave me a couple of mission grape cuttings and several marvelous zinfandel grape cuttings. i brought them home and carefully nurtured them into what you see here. you know albert, no one other than myself has ever tasted the wine i make with these grapes. would you like to share a glass or two with me?’
‘ah…yeah. of course. i’d be honored.’
with that the man with the metal face led albert out of the sapphire blue greenhouse and back inside his home. they moved through the large house and into a nice large but dated kitchen. a kitchen right out of a magazine from the late forties. burnsworth gestured for albert to sit at the kitchen table and he then went to a cupboard and brought out a bottle of wine. using a corkscrew from his pocket he opened the wine and poured some of the deep purple liquid into two small wine glasses. old italian wine glasses. they clinked glass on glass and said the required, salute. then tasted the wine. a smile spread across albert’s face. they sat for a bit savoring the wine. then the two men, and now seemingly new friends, began to talk about other things as the byrds, ‘sweetheart of the rodeo’, played softly in the background.
for the odd numbered episodes of, ‘the man with the metal face’,