It was a horticultural day in the neighbourhood when Mortimer Snert went outside to cut the grass in the front yard. Cutting grass was certainly not one of Mort's favourite pastimes, in fact it would be safe to say that he hated cutting grass worse than anything else, except maybe working on computers.
Part of his dislike for cutting grass was caused by lawnmowers. Now Mort was a firm believer in psycho-cybernetics, and if there were any two devices that proved the theory of psycho-cybernetics, they would be computers and lawnmowers. Lawnmowers were mainly just cantankerous, but if anything had a mind of it's own, that would be computers.
Mort went out and opened the garage. Lurking in the corner with an evil grin on its face was the lawnmower from hell. It was the latest in a long succession of lawnmowers that Mort had owned. Now Mort was not cheap, not by any means, but he could not justify spending several hundred dollars on a piece of equipment that caused him to have to perform a task which he disliked so much. So he usually got lawnmowers that someone had retired, or sold for a dollar at the garage sale.
The problem with old lawnmowers was that they were usually shot by the time he got them, and they would either refuse to start, or emit huge choking clouds of smoke, to the point that he could not see to cut the grass, or the wheels would fall off, or the engine would stop in the middle of cutting the yard and refuse to start for the next week, or any combination or all of the above.
Mort had fought this battle with lawnmowers for years, and as stubborn as he was, the lawnmowers usually won the battle, and Mort would retire them and find another one. It finally occurred to him that given as much trouble as he had with gasoline powered mowers, maybe he should find an electric one. After all, his granny had one, and it was a hundred years old and still worked.
Mort went in search of an electric lawnmower. And found one, he did. Hauling it home, he unloaded it and got out the extension cord. Hooking it up, he pushed the button. Instantly the thing sprang to life, its blades whirring and ready to chop the grass right off. It soon became readily apparent that the cord would not be long enough. So Mort went out and got another.
Carefully stringing it out, he began cutting the grass. Now there are two things about electric lawnmowers that Mort quickly found out. The first is that you don't let the grass get very tall, or else the mower blows the circuit breaker. The other thing is that electric mowers do not cut a very wide path. In fact, this particular one cut less than half as wide a path as the old one.
The upshot of this was that Mort was out cutting grass constantly, and it took 3 times as long. This was counteracted by the fact that he never had to worry about the thing starting, the wheels never fell off, he didn't choke from smoke inhalation, and wasn't deafened by exhaust noise. Mort was almost to not mind cutting the grass.
One fateful day, however, he whipped the mower out and was cutting merrily along when it emitted a whiff of smoke and stopped. Mort was dumbfounded. As he stood there in disgust and amazement, the thing burst into flame. Now Mort was not one to over react to things, and since the thing was already burning, he decided just to unplug it and let it burn itself out.
Yanking the cord, he stood back and let the thing flame. After about 5 minutes of watching the thing burn, and seeing no end in sight, Mort decided he had Better Do Something About It. Grabbing the water hose, he gave it a good dousing with water. Now what he did not realise was that the casting of the lawnmower was an aluminum-magnesium alloy, and that putting water on burning magnesium was worse than pouring petrol on it. The more water he squirted on it, the bigger the flames.
Quickly looking around, he discovered that half the neighbourhood had gathered to see what all the commotion was. Mort retreated to the safety of the house, abandoning the flaming mower and leaving it to its own demise. Just as he got inside, the fire department pulled up with 3 trucks and 50 firemen, and before he could get out the door again, they were busy hosing down the lawnmower with water.
And not just a little water, either. They were squirting it with a 3 inch fire hose. Needless to say, the fire did not go out readily. Finally, a truck with a foam extinguisher showed up, and they squirted it with foam, and the fire was out. By that time, the cops and the newspaper had showed up, and Mort was having his picture taken beside the molten remains of his lawnmower. He could see the headlines now. "Man tries to burn down city with lawnmower, hundreds killed!"
As soon as he could, Mort retreated back to the safety of his house, leaving the cops to sort out the neighbours, and leaving the lawnmower, or rather, what was left of it, as a monument on the front yard. The next day, Mort ventured out to survey the damage. The lawnmower had been reduced to a pile of slag, the only recogniseable part was the handle, and in an area of about 10 feet in any direction from the thing, the grass was charcoaled.
The rest of the yard was trampled, and the whole thing was covered in dried foam, dry chemical extinguisher junk and mud. Mort was bent. He had almost gotten the stupid yard looking decent, which was something he had been trying for years, and now this happens. Oh well, thought Mort. He supposed he could probably resort to growing weeds again. Summer was coming to a close anyhow, so he left the lawnmonument in place, and ignored the weeds and grass for the rest of the year.