Mr Potato was late. He was always late. Even when he tried his best to hurry he would end up late. Sometimes he would get his wife to wake him up at five-thirty in the morning but he would still be late. He worked in an office. Everyone else in the office was a potato too. They all looked like him. That was the good thing about the office. The bad thing was if he was really late all of the other potatoes would get the best jobs. The first to arrive would be boss and the last would be the cleaner. His colleagues recognised him by his mop — if anyone was mopping it was likely to be him. If nobody was mopping it was likely he would soon arrive to mop. But on this spring day Mr Potato was determined to be boss. His wife was having sleepless nights, despairing at his inability to arrive anywhere on time. She’d even threatened to leave him.
“Where would you go to?” he said.
“I’ll find myself another potato — or even an apple.”
Mr Potato knew he had to act. He knew that all Potatoland citizens looked the same, but he would stay bottom of the sack so long as he continued being last to work. So he bought an Alarm Zapper, a device that fixed onto the head with hydraulic clamps. The danger was that if he failed to get up, it would start to peel him. Peeled potatoes were looked down upon by all of the other potatoes in the land — even those who were never on time.
“I simply refuse to be late anymore,” he said to himself. “If I don’t wake up, let me be peeled. It’s what I deserve.”
On the night before he had to get up his wife asked: “What’s that thing on your head?”
He explained what it was and she laughed.
“That thing won’t get you up,” she said. “You have to want to get up yourself.”
“I do darling but I can’t,” he said.
“What are those blades on it for?” she said.
“If I don’t get up they’ll start to peel me.”
“Peel you?” said his wife. “I’m afraid to say you have gone quite potty.”
But Mr Potato was unfazed. He wanted to be first in and he wasn’t taking any chances. In fact he was risking both his marriage and career — no one would want to employ a peeled spud. They lived in a poor quarter of the town where you would rarely see the ones with jackets. They didn’t have much money and were taunted if they ever ventured out. And those who were convicted for a crime would be sliced and sold as French fries.
At five in the morning Mr Potato woke up in a sweat. He had set the alarm for 6.30. This would leave an hour to wash and have breakfast and plenty of time to reach the office by 8.30. No one would be there then. He was worried that the alarm would go and peeling would start. He didn’t want that. The process was irreversible. He looked at his wife, fast asleep wearing a light smile. She looked happy. He looked in the mirror and saw himself, a silhouette of the gadget on his head — it made him look unfortunate. He’d placed it there himself but still managed to be disturbed by it. The clock on the wall ticked. It was projected by the contraption on his head. When his head moved, so did the clock. This made him sweat all the more. Nothing about this device seemed right. Why could he not take it off now? Why was there that catch? But it was too late. He could not turn back the clock and had to wait. Deep down he knew that he would be okay. He knew that he would survive and be boss, but until the alarm sounded he would not allow himself to believe it. He would not allow himself to celebrate. “How could I?” he said to himself. “I’m about to be peeled if I’m not careful.”
It was now ten to six. Figures on the clock blurred as his eyes closed. He tried hard to keep awake. But soon he was asleep and now the clock would decide his fate.
Sure enough at six thirty AM it went off. The blades were poised to peel — he had one minute. The device, despite rattling violently, failed to wake up Mr Potato. But it did his wife — she punched it off the bed. Mr Potato fell with a big crash. He woke up, startled. The countdown had started but he got up in time. The clamps loosened and the razors disappeared.
Mrs Potato rushed to help her husband. She yanked the alarm off his head. She was proud of him. She hugged and kissed him and for the first time in a long time, they made love. Yes, this meant doing mop duty again at the office, but he didn’t care about that now.