With a nod to--and some direct quotes from--James Thurber’s “The Night the Bed Fell”
I suppose we should be used to such goings-on by now, since a few years ago our smoke alarms began going off in the middle of the night quite frequently, though only beeping for a few seconds before resuming their normal quiet blinking, whilst leaving the house in a stir of adrenaline. Thankfully the malfunction ceased as mysteriously as it had begun. Until last week, that is, when the whole thing started all over again.
This particular story makes a better recitation than it does a piece of writing, for it is almost necessary to leap from your chair, throw open doors, and yell as loudly as you can, to lend the proper atmosphere and verisimilitude to what is admittedly a somewhat absurd tale. Still, it did take place.
By midnight we were all in bed. The layout of the rooms is important to an understanding of what later occurred. Mom and Dad’s large room is on the far end of the house. Directly across the hall, and with part of our rooms sharing a wall, is my own room, with my bed against the outside wall. My sister's room is down the hall from mine, with our closets separating them, lending a slight sound barrier.
At about 2:30 AM, the fire alarm issued six ear-splitting beeps. Mom leapt instantly from her bed… and somehow ended up on the floor. Later she surmised that her blood pressure, which had been particularly low lately, had dropped as she’d jumped from bed, and somehow in the chaos her legs had been unable to perform properly.
Dad, who normally pays little mind to the brief beeping of the alarm, heard Mom jump up and then cry out, and assumed she was scared. He got up and peered out the bedroom door, murmuring assurances that everything was fine, completely unaware, in the darkness, that she was laying flat on the floor rather than panicking about a fire.
In the other room, I had scrambled from bed at the start of the alarm and then heard Mom cry out. In my still-more-asleep-than-not stage, I was convinced that Mom thought I was hurt or in danger (in my sleepiness, being rather self-absorbed) and began yelling, “I’m fine, Mom! There’s no fire in here! I’m okay! It’s okay, Mom!!” I felt the door to ensure that it wasn’t hot from a fire, and rushed into the hall.
Meanwhile, Sis was in the other room hearing muffled noises much more alarming than the initial alarm had been. Before the beeping had begun, she’d been lying awake feeling rather uneasy. Later she admitted that was probably due to her late-night TV show choice, but at the time she was sure the alarm was confirmation of her disquiet. She heard the alarm, then a loud thump, then lots of hollering. Sis was therefore convinced that this was no mere electrical malfunction, but a real and actual fire, and perhaps an intruder, as well! This being no ordinary alarm, she quickly found her shoes and joined the melee in the hall, demanding to know what was going on.
The situation was finally put together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Mom’s shoulder was rather sore from the fall, but there were no other bad results. “I’m glad,” said I, being one who always looks on the bright side of things, “that you didn’t hit your head on the bedside table on the way down.”
"The Night the Bed Fell" by James Thurber can be read at http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1933/07/08/1933_07_08_011_TNY_CARDS_000228579?currentPage=all
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