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The Lawnmower Man

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"The Lawnmower Man" is a short story by Stephen King, first published in the May 1975 issue of Cavalier and later collected in King's 1978 collection Night Shift.

One summer, Harold Parkette is in need of a new lawn mowing service. The summer before, a neighbor's cat was accidentally killed when another neighbor's dog chased it under the mower. Harold has been putting off hiring new help for the summer, but when he sees an ad for a mowing service he calls. A van reading "Pastoral Greenery" soon pulls up to Parkette's home. The man working for the service, a hairy, pot-bellied fellow, is shown the overgrown back lawn and is hired. Harold is enjoying a rest as he reads the paper, wondering about the lawnmower man mentioning Circe, when he hears the lawnmower outside. Startled, he races to the back porch and sees the lawnmower running by itself and the naked lawnmower man following it on all fours and eating the grass. The lawnmower seemingly deliberately chases and kills a mole and Harold faints.

When Harold revives, the lawnmower man explains that this new method, introduced by his boss, grants substantial benefits, and that he makes sacrificial victims of customers who cannot appreciate the process. Parkette, though unnerved, allows the lawnmower man to return to work. As soon as the man is out of sight, Harold desperately calls the police, but is interrupted by the lawnmower man, who reveals his boss's name: Pan. The lawnmower briefly chases Harold through his living room before brutally slaughtering him.

When the police arrive, they conclude that Parkette was murdered and dismembered by a schizophrenic sex maniac. As they leave, the scent of freshly cut grass hangs strongly in the air.

Published January 1, 1975

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About the author

Stephen King

2,074 books814k followers
Stephen Edwin King was born the second son of Donald and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury King. After his father left them when Stephen was two, he and his older brother, David, were raised by his mother. Parts of his childhood were spent in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where his father's family was at the time, and in Stratford, Connecticut. When Stephen was eleven, his mother brought her children back to Durham, Maine, for good. Her parents, Guy and Nellie Pillsbury, had become incapacitated with old age, and Ruth King was persuaded by her sisters to take over the physical care of them. Other family members provided a small house in Durham and financial support. After Stephen's grandparents passed away, Mrs. King found work in the kitchens of Pineland, a nearby residential facility for the mentally challenged.

Stephen attended the grammar school in Durham and Lisbon Falls High School, graduating in 1966. From his sophomore year at the University of Maine at Orono, he wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper, THE MAINE CAMPUS. He was also active in student politics, serving as a member of the Student Senate. He came to support the anti-war movement on the Orono campus, arriving at his stance from a conservative view that the war in Vietnam was unconstitutional. He graduated in 1970, with a B.A. in English and qualified to teach on the high school level. A draft board examination immediately post-graduation found him 4-F on grounds of high blood pressure, limited vision, flat feet, and punctured eardrums.

He met Tabitha Spruce in the stacks of the Fogler Library at the University, where they both worked as students; they married in January of 1971. As Stephen was unable to find placement as a teacher immediately, the Kings lived on his earnings as a laborer at an industrial laundry, and her student loan and savings, with an occasional boost from a short story sale to men's magazines.

Stephen made his first professional short story sale ("The Glass Floor") to Startling Mystery Stories in 1967. Throughout the early years of his marriage, he continued to sell stories to men's magazines. Many were gathered into the Night Shift collection or appeared in other anthologies.

In the fall of 1971, Stephen began teaching English at Hampden Academy, the public high school in Hampden, Maine. Writing in the evenings and on the weekends, he continued to produce short stories and to work on novels.

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5 stars
36 (9%)
4 stars
85 (22%)
3 stars
142 (37%)
2 stars
78 (20%)
1 star
35 (9%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews
Profile Image for Karla.
1,023 reviews221 followers
August 21, 2022
Story 3 stars**
Audio 4 stars**
Narrator John Glover
Profile Image for Ben.
251 reviews7 followers
October 10, 2021
What the hell.

But I kind of liked it.
Profile Image for Josh Olds.
842 reviews74 followers
January 13, 2021
Just when you think King couldn’t possibly be more bizarre, he writes something like The Lawnmower Man. A man is in need of a lawn service. He hires someone. How could this be of the macabre? Well, the lawnmower mows by itself. And the titular lawnmower man? He’s fully naked, pendulous belly swaying as he eats the grass clippings.

It’s a profoundly bizarre premise that is absolutely unforgettable, though I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I’ll spare you the ending, but let me say that if you hire someone to mow your grass and they end up naked on all fours, just let them be. It’s safer that way. What in the world, Stephen? Are you all right?

As an aside, a movie was made called Stephen King’s Lawnmower Man and cited him as inspiration in the credits…but the movie was something completely different. King sued the filmmakers and won.
Profile Image for skylar lokota.
580 reviews96 followers
December 1, 2019

This one wasn't for me! I didn't think it was scary or creepy, at all. I didn't care about Harold Parkette . I definitely think that . I heard that this story is well-liked from some nonreaders in my life, so my expectations were too high for sure. A big no from me.
Profile Image for Gillyz.
95 reviews14 followers
June 3, 2019
King throws up in your mind a fat naked man on fours eating grass. A green juice runs down his chin and drips on to his pendulous belly. Ew :D

The scene described above is what makes the story worth reading. However, even after consulting some Greek mythologies references, the major part of the story comes out of the blue without any explanation to what is happening.
Profile Image for Mo Majid.
50 reviews1 follower
January 2, 2022
A not-for-vegans WTH just happened kind of story featuring a fat, naked lawnmower man that eats his greens but wipes out animals. I’m not surprised King sued successfully and won $2.5 million from the movie directors as this book is nothing like the film adaptation.
Profile Image for Nick Katenkamp.
1,032 reviews
September 1, 2022
This story is absolutely nuts. It's so crazy I was laughing and had to tell my wife what was happening in the story, and she looked at me like I was crazy. Let's just summarize this by saying it involves someone with green pubic hair that eats grass.
Profile Image for James.
1,507 reviews15 followers
July 24, 2018
Not one of King's best short stories. Kind of bizarre really.
Profile Image for Kaitlyn (ktxx22) Walker.
1,097 reviews16 followers
December 26, 2018
Not a fan of this one. Too much mystery and tongue in cheek. You really needed to know some mythological facts to understand this story fully.
Profile Image for Simon.
1,102 reviews23 followers
January 13, 2019
Clever use of Greek mythology into modern (?) day horror, or at least horror at a time when the publication was modern, this was published back in 1975, which to today's day and age is a long time ago.

Honestly the whole trouble could have been avoided if he had just not called the Police, but in doing so made him become the sacrifice to Pan, Pan the Man.
Profile Image for Rigoberto Vega.
21 reviews16 followers
December 3, 2020
Since I am a fan of the movie that has no connection to this other than sharing the same title, I thought that maybe this would be a far superior story. Unfortunately, this story has nothing to do with the film, and I do not know why they even gave it the same name. For being as short as it is, this is just ok. I am sure without a doubt that King has written much better short stories than this.
Profile Image for Es the Book Hoarder.
154 reviews11 followers
February 2, 2021
I can't even. Honestly. I thought this was so bizarre. I just had images of this fat naked guy who look a bit like Phil from Hercules but a lot freakier eating grass. It was so weird. I have no idea if it was Satanic, or what it was but it was very odd. I was left quite discombobulated.

2 of 5
Profile Image for Myk Little.
73 reviews2 followers
August 19, 2020
This isn’t great but I read it when I was a kid and the unusual story really sparked my imagination.
Profile Image for Benjamin Stahl.
1,799 reviews41 followers
October 3, 2020
To be honest, this is a pretty stupid story; probably the weakest of an otherwise nearly stellar collection in Night Shift.
Profile Image for Mark Alexander.
290 reviews5 followers
June 18, 2021
Why does this short story have such a low rating? Sure, it's not scary but it's a hoot! I really enjoyed it. It was fun and original.
Profile Image for Anthony.
38 reviews
October 27, 2021
Worth reading if you're a big fan, it's only ten pages long. Not a deep or compelling story at all, just very strange.
Profile Image for Scott Lamica.
2 reviews1 follower
January 3, 2022
grassy pubes is a very scary image
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
47 reviews
March 19, 2022
Takes cutting the lawn from a summertime chore to a whole schizo, weird, awkward situation. Creative short story but definitely stranger than most SK.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 43 reviews

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