When I was a boy, my Dad would send me to get a fifty pound bag of potatoes from the Stop & Shop grocery store in Union Square. My mom claimed to have thought of that name for a chain of grocery stores, but she got cheated out of the prize when someone else claimed they thought of the name first.
I weighed sixty pounds, so carrying that bag down Hano Street, which was on a hill, wasn’t an easy chore. My Dad had shown me how to use my knees to lift the bag and then hoist it to my shoulder, put the opposite hand on my hip for balance and my other hand on the bag. Carrying it like that made it seem less heavy than it really was.
Fifty pounds of spuds would feed our family of five for a week. Baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, potato pancakes, boiled potatoes, was the variety we had, if and when my Mom decided to cook a meal. When I reached home my muscles ached and I was exhausted, so when I stumbled through the door into the kitchen I dropped the potato sack from my shoulder onto the floor.
“Ouch,” came from the sack and I jumped back. A talking potato sack was something I had never encountered before.
I tore open the twine that held the sack closed and dumped some potatoes on the floor.
“Easy, easy,” I heard, but couldn’t figure out who was talking. I looked into the bag and saw a potato with arms, legs, and a mouth that spoke in a language I could understand.
“How come a potato has arms and legs?” was the first question that came to mind.
“You know we all have eyes, don’t you?” rolled out of the potatoe’s mouth.
“Yes, but arms and legs?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll admit there aren’t many like me, but Mother Nature made me like this so I could plead the case for others like me who grow in the ground.” The potato stood on its spindly two legs and walked out of the potato sack onto the floor where it stretched and took a deep breath. “Oh my God,” Mister Potato said when he saw a pile of potato peelings from the day before when my Mom had cooked mashed potatoes.
“What’s the matter?” I couldn’t believe I carried on a conversation with a potato, but I did.
“What’s the matter, you ask. Look! They’ve been skinned alive.” He pointed to the pile of peels.
“They didn’t feel a thing. Potatoes are only vegetables and they’re grown for us to eat.”
“I thought you were special, but you’re like all the other humans who are too blind to see that plants like me live too.”
“Technically you’re alive, but plants can’t think and feel.” I repeated what I had been told, so I was surprised at his reply.
“Are you an idiot? You’re standing here having a conversation with me and you have the nerve to say I can’t think or feel.” Mister Potato animatedly moved his vine like arms as he spoke.
“Come on, potatoes grow in the ground. Some are small and round, and others are long like a toe, only much bigger. They’re hard to peel, and have a colored skin, sometimes white, sometimes brown. They always have eyes, but you’re the first potato I have ever seen with arms, legs, and speech.”
“So, you’re saying I’m a freak?”
“Perhaps I should call you a mutation?” I had read all about mutants in my comic books and knew they were dangerous characters simply because they were different and sometimes a lot smarter.
“Of course I’m mutating. How do you think Mother Nature improves the breed?” Mister potato flexed his anemic biceps, but I wasn’t impressed.
“That may be, but mutants aren’t allowed. I’m going to have to peel you, boil you, and then mash you to a white pulp. Then you’ll be eaten for dinner and things will be the way they were.”
A look of horror crossed the potatoe’s face. “Wait,” he shouted, “I’m cute.” He posed with a silly look on his face. “My arms and legs come off.” They all fell to the ground and he rolled like a regular potato until he reattached his arms and legs. Don’t you see, if I’m bred, there will be a million like me?”
“Who needs or wants a million like you?” I searched for my potato peeler and the masher while Mister Potato tried to think of what to say. When he spoke I got angry.
“You are an idiot. Can’t you see how idiot children like you would love to take my arms and legs off, and maybe put different parts on my face?”
I didn’t understand what he was getting at. “So what if they do?” I had to say.
“If you were a bit smarter, you’d see that you can sell potatoes like me for a lot more than the pennies a pound you get for regular potatoes.”
I figured he was saying stuff just to save his life. I hit him over the head with the potato masher, tore off his arms and legs, then skinned him alive, boiled him until he got soft. Then I mixed in butter and salt and enjoyed my million dollar dinner. Why do I say million dollar dinner many ask? It’s because every time I see that potato head toy for sale, I know if I would have bred my talking potato instead of having him for dinner, I’d be a millionaire.