Night Shift Short Story Round-Up 4

A corn crop

Source: Wikipedia. Copyright 2011 by Christian Fischer.

I have been busy with quite a few school assignments and editing projects. Keeping up with reading has been difficult. But I know you aren’t here to read about my busy schedule. You are here to read my experience of reading Stephen King stories. So I continue with Night Shift.

  1. The Lawnmower Man
    Night Shift
    What’s It About: Despite what you may have seen in a certain movie, this story has nothing whatsoever to do with virtual reality. Instead, we have the story of a man who lets his yard get out of control, so he hires a lawn service to restore order. Much to the man’s dismay, the lawnmower man’s method is to strip off all his clothes and eat the grass clippings as the mower moves unattended around the yard.
    First Line: “In previous years, Harold Parkette had always taken pride in his lawn.”

    I think taking a break from reading Mr. King’s works has put me in a favorable disposition. Perhaps I had burned out. This story was just wonderfully absurd, and I enjoyed it. It isn’t a favorite, but it was a fun, if twisted, read.

  2. Quitters, Inc.
    Night Shift
    What’s It About: A cigarette addict is recommended to a nonprofit called Quitters, Inc. They have a 98% guaranteed success rate. But no one will tell him their methods . . . .
    First Line: “Morrison was waiting for someone who was hung up in the air traffic jam over Kennedy International when he saw a familiar face at the end of the bar and walked down.”

    Often, the short stories in this collection rely on a single concept. The entire point is to reveal an escalating dread as the inevitable, horrifying conclusion is reached. A few stories, however, take their time to unfold and give us a good look at characters along the way. Quitters, Inc. falls about halfway between the two. We get a good character sketch with Mr. Morrison, but we also get the horror of the pragmatic methods of the Quitters, Inc. organization. But what I enjoyed most about this story is the balance between addiction and threats of violence, the question “how much would it take for you to give this up?” Morrison faces this dilemma as threats against his wife and son escalate depending on how often he falls off the wagon. It is an interesting concept, a dark concept, and thankfully King doesn’t take it too far. But he leaves us with the hint that not all people have the strength of will that Morrison did. This story relies more on psychological horror than the shock and gore present in other stories.

  3. I Know What You Need
    Night Shift
    What’s It About: Elizabeth meets the very unlikely Edward Jackson Hamner, Jr, who seems to know her every desire. Perhaps it was inevitable that she would fall for him. But how is it that he knows her wants and needs before she realizes them. Can he truly be the perfect man?
    First Line: “I know what you need.”

    I think this is an odd story. On the surface, I enjoy it, but the more I think about it, the less effective I find it. First, Edward has gone to great lengths to woo Elizabeth: with voodoo, dark magic, and interior design. It’s this last bit that throws me. Edward has completely outfitted his apartment to an aesthetic that Elizabeth would enjoy. So, why does he not do the same with his physical appearance and dress? He appears shabby and ill kempt. You would think he would change how he looked as well.

    The other problem is that this story has the potential to be a critique of our society’s view of love. When people date, do they not try to give the impression of meeting the other’s every desire? Is Edward not playing the same game, only with dark magic to aid his attempts? Does not this illusion of love have every look and feel of real love? Granted, it is safe to assume that Edward would kill Elizabeth if he ever grew weary of her. He did so with his parents. But don’t many people pretend to be someone they are not in order to find a mate? Wouldn’t they use a so-called guaranteed method to win a man or a woman? Isn’t that the basis of many dating books and articles: a magic formula?

  4. Children of the Corn
    Night Shift
    What’s It About: Burt and Vicky Robeson are on a trip to try to save their bitter marriage. When they run down a child outside of Gatlin, NE, they discover a town full of children who worship “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” What happened to the adults, how did this unusual cult begin, and why is the corn crop in such perfect condition?
    First Line: “Burt turned the radio on too loud and didn’t turn it down because they were on the verge of another argument and he didn’t want it to happen.”

    If H.P. Lovecraft focused more on character, he probably would have written stories like this. Children of the Corn has a vague Lovecraftian feel, from the cult worshipping a dark entity, to an abominable monster that we never really see. In fact, I was very happy to see the story shift away from the fanatic Christian trope and become something darker. This is an effectively eerie story, and I enjoyed it in the end.

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