Maris tore open the plastic bag and tipped its contents – two dozen potatoes – into the bowl in the sink. She turned on the tap until there was an inch of water in the bowl with them. The radio was playing Mantovani. The sweet and silvery sound of stringed instruments filled the kitchen. Maris hummed along, improvising when she didn’t know the tune. She picked up a rough little brush to give the spuds a good scrub. Most of the bristles were bent and compacted from use but it had been her mother’s brush and Maris was loath to replace it. It would be like letting go of one of the few remaining links to her late mother and her former life.
She picked up a potato and holding it firmly in one hand began to scrub it with the brush. Supermarket potatoes were never as dirty as farm shop potatoes but a good wash and brush up would do no harm. She moved onto a second potato, and a third… She paused, mid-hum and mid-scrub. She listened… Nothing. She got back to her task. There it was again. She flicked off the radio, convinced she had heard laughter… Nothing. She resumed the scrubbing.
“That tickles!” laughed the potato in her hand. Maris squealed and dropped it into the sink.
“Ouch!” the potato cried. “That hurt. You should be more careful.”
Maris bent over the sink, astounded.
“What the hell are you staring at?” the potato. “Never seen a talking spud before?”
“Well, as a matter of fact, no, I haven’t,” Maris whispered. She picked it up and examined it. It was just a normal potato. No face. No mouth. Nothing – apart from its eyes of course, but that was only a name. They couldn’t actually see…Could they?
She reached in the drawer and took out the potato peeler.
“Hey!” the potato cried. “Let’s not be too hasty!”
Maris held the potato in the palm of her hand and began to strip off its peel with rapid strokes of the double blade of the peeler. The potato screamed in indignation.
“How dare you! I’ve never treated so badly in all my life!”
Within a minute, the potato was bare, pale and yellow on the chopping board. Maris approached it with a knife.
“No! No!” the potato screamed. “We can talk about this – we can sort something out!”
There was a cry of agony and the potato fell silent. Maris chopped it into rough cubes and dropped them into a pan of boiling water.
“Now, now, Maris,” said an orderly who had just come in to see what all the screaming was about. “What have we told you about sharp objects?” With the help of a co-worker, the orderly got Maris out of the kitchen and back to her room. He would have to ask the doctor to increase her medication.
“It was nagging me, you see,” Maris explained calmly, although her eyes were wide and rolling. “Just like mother used to. So I had to shut it up. I had to!”