Plunking a sack of potatoes on a hardwood floor may startle a sleeping parrot. Though waking a parrot may seem regretful, what if the parrot is a master potato peeler? If so, the loud plunk turns two tricks: it relieves your back of the sack’s burden, and alerts the parrot that work has arrived.

Peeling allows this particular parrot to clear his mind. Distant memories surface. He recalls his youth, when he arrived at a port in Lisbon in a wooden crate with three siblings. A burly merchant heaved the crate on the quay, seeking a buyer for its contents. Three days later the parrot—let’s name him already; not a “p” name, as that would be just too much for one day; how about Rodrigo? at least it’s close to “p”—had a new owner. Rodrigo perched on a carriage bouncing along a gravelled road through Portugal’s countryside, heading to his new home. Rodrigo that day took shelter in one-room wooden cottage with his lonely master Pablo. The soil surrounding the cottage was perfect for growing potatoes (but not parsley; such a crop wouldn’t suit this story so well, since parsley isn’t peelable, depriving the parrot of his main occupation). He couldn’t recall how he discovered his talent for peeling potatoes, but what a talent it was. The parrot’s adroitness with tubers drew villagers from afar, providing Pablo with steady cash: more than a few visitors was willing to part with some coins to witness the spectacle of a bird fervently engaged in culinary pursuits.

Ricardo’s daydream ended as he handled the last potato. Dinnertime approached.

On a cool spring morning 43 years hence, the parrot plunked Pablo into a shallow grave in the potato patch. (It was shallow since parrots aren’t by nature good hole diggers.)