Short Story #239: The Night the Bed Fell by James Thurber

Title:  The Night the Bed Fell

Author:  James Thurber


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The narrate relates an incident of his youth when a bed fell on his father.  The father occasionally slept in the attic where he would think and eventually sleep on an old wooden bed.  The house is filled with an eclectic range of family members including a nervous cousin who is afraid of falling asleep and stopping breathing.  He shares a room with the narrator who promises the cousin that he will keep an ear open for breathing.  One of his aunts fears the day when someone will chloroform her bedroom to get her belongs.  By midnight of the particular night, everyone was in bed.  At two in the morning, the narrator's own bed (an army cot) tipped over, which he all but slept through.  The noise awoke his mother who thought that the wobbly headboard on the bed in the attic had fallen on the father.  His cousin awoke during the shouting from the mother believing that he was not breathing and he poured a glass of camphor over his head and begins to chock.  It's at this point, the narrator awoke believing people were trying to awake him to get him out of perilous situation.  The mother rushed to open the attic door but it was stuck.  The battering on the attic door awoke the father who thought the house was on fire.  He yells that he's coming but they all believe it is him dying.  The narrator and the brother finally emerge from the room and the dog alarmed by all the noise leaps at the cousin believing him an intruder.  Finally, the father opens the attic door to ask what's happening at which point they piece together all the things that happened.  


The style of this definitely reminds me of Twain.  There's a "big yarn" element to it that always brings me back to The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.  A joke that's told with no real sense. But Thurber does add elements of the absurd that one could easily imagine informing and influencing modern comedy like Mel Brooks.

Short Story #239 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/23/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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