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The Potato King’s Tribe. A short story about being different.

Being autistic in an allistic world can often feel like being a lumpy, brown, potato in a sea of bright oranges.

The Potato King's Tribe

The orange says, “Hey! What’s wrong with you? Oranges aren’t brown and they don’t lie in the dirt. We hang from trees like this. Do you see?” Confused, I look up and see the orange beckon me over. “Come on. Get up here already or you’ll rot! Your skin is already looking worn.” I try to grab onto a branch and after several attempts, I climb up with some assistance. I’m dangling there looking rather unnatural and holding on for dear life. It’s uncomfortable. Awkward. The orange then says, “I don’t understand why you can’t just do what the rest of us are doing? You look silly.” I try to adjust myself to look natural and blend in. “You make everything harder than it is,” the orange says, hanging upside down now, with ease. “You could do yourself a favor and try to blend in.”

Hanging there, looking miserable and frankly, feeling stupid in my brown lumpy skin baking in the sun, I feel sad because I don’t really want to be an orange. I find the ground to be comforting and safe. I don’t particularly like the sun in my many eyes. I like that my lumps mean I won’t just roll off into nowhere. I was happy being a potato until the oranges showed up and suggested I should be more like them.

A potato in a tree is no place to be. A potato cannot thrive in the sunlight like oranges do. It cannot grow. It needs the dark weighted blanket of the earth instead. But there is nothing wrong with being an orange. I regard them as being very beautiful indeed. But the oranges, they don’t think like I do. They see me as round-ish and they think I am one of them. I must know their ways. I must be tribe.

They see the brown skin and that reminds them of their fallen and bruised. They think, maybe I just didn’t do what I was supposed to do or perhaps I even might’ve gone bad. But! They will say, “leave no one behind, even this odd character!”

And so. I do go along, a potato in a sea of oranges, because I do not want to disappoint my hosts. They want me to be tribe. Tribe means you have the same ways. I did not know that tribe meant ‘same.” We appear, at a distanced glance, similar. And that is as good as tribe to the oranges. They do try to guide me and they show me their ways. I learn their ways with practice, as much as I am able to. I try to be rounder, brighter. I try to roll and I try to hang from trees. I try to glow in the sun that is making my eyes hurt and giving me a headache. But something is wrong.

Because, I do not hang very comfortably from trees and my lumps do not allow me to roll smoothly across the ground. Instead, I will only wobble a short distance. As much as I stretch to the gaze of the sun, my eyes do hurt and my color does not change. It does not brighten. My hosts encourage me with “keep with it.”  “You can do it!” they say.  “Watch me. Pay attention. Do you see?”

But, I do not see and even with more encouragement, I fail to master their ways.

I don’t know what to do. They don’t know what to do. I think, this is just a misunderstanding. We just aren’t thinking about this right. So, I try to explain my hypothesis. “Maybe we are not tribe? I do not feel good in the sun. My eyes hurt. My skin does not change. I do not feel safe in the tree and I don’t want to roll away. I wobble.”

This is upsetting to my hosts. How could they be wrong about me? I’m “just stubborn and do not want to learn their ways,” they think. I repeat myself and assert, “how can I be an orange? I am not. You are not looking closely enough. If you hang from a tree and stretch in the sun, you feel good but I do not. I am a potato. I think that means that I feel safe in the ground, shaded from the sun. I do not fall, drop, or roll. that is not me. I am sorry.”

It is hard for them to hear about my ways because they could not imagine not wanting to hang so beautifully in the sunlight bursting with weight to finally drop and roll or be picked by gorgeous giants. They insist that we should be tribe anyway. They say, “Okay, you do you, and I’ll do me.” I think, “Finally, this is a good solution. After all, I do want tribe” So, I wobble a few feet and look back to see my hosts hanging in the tree with that shining sun bouncing off their glowing skin and I think, “We are honorary tribe. We can communicate and understand that our ways are different.” I see them waving goodbye to me and I return the farewell.

But as we grow farther apart, I think “when I go into the dirt, you will not see me any longer. I will not see you either.” That does not feel like tribe. It feels a bit lonely but I know I am taking care of myself and that feels good.

When I return to the dirt, I snuggle in and ready myself for rest. As I lay recalling the events of the past few days, I think about my tribe. I do miss them. I would like to feel good in the trees and warm sunlight but I do not. I feel better here. It is safe and my eyes don’t hurt any longer. I am comfortable again. My skin and my lumps fit perfectly in the ground. It is a very nice feeling. My tribe cannot see me any longer or know that I am happy. But it is good to not hurt. I imagine my long-lost tribe carrying on with their ways and I know they are happy where they are, too.

So, I accept that I am here and they are there before drifting off to sleep.


Fulcrum-All Terrain Therapeutic Services, LLC


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