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  • Pru Warren

Straight-Up O.G. Humor


I just sent out my author newsletter about the long, four-foot section of wrapping paper I have taped up in my downstairs bathroom. I spent a very pleasurable afternoon with a set of rubber stamps copying out an abridged section from James Thurber's 1933 masterwork. "The Night The Bed Fell" from "My Life and Hard Times."


It gives me a giggle every single time I visit the potty. Now, THIS guy could tell a tale! Here's the passage:


My bed was an army cot, one of those affairs which are made wide enough to sleep on comfortably only by putting up, flat with the middle section, the two sides which ordinarily hang down like the sideboards of a drop-leaf table. When these sides are up, it is perilous to roll too far toward the edge, for then the cot is likely to tip completely over, bringing the whole bed down on top of one with a tremendous, banging crash. This, in fact, is precisely what happened about two o’clock in the morning. (It was my mother who, in recalling the scene later, first referred to it as “the night the bed fell on your father.”)


Always a deep sleeper, slow to rouse (I had lied to [my visiting cousin] Briggs), I was at first unconscious of what had happened when the iron cot rolled me onto the floor and toppled over on me. It left me still warmly bundled up and unhurt, for the bed rested above me like a canopy. Hence I did not wake up, only reached the edge of consciousness and went back. The racket, however, instantly awakened my mother, in the next room, who came to the immediate conclusion that her worst dread was realized: The big wooden bed upstairs had fallen on father. She therefore screamed, “Let’s go to your poor father!” It was this shout, rather than the noise of my cot falling, that awakened Herman, in the same room with her. He thought that mother had become, for no apparent reason, hysterical. “You’re all right, Mama!” he shouted, trying to calm her. They exchanged shout for shout for perhaps ten seconds. “Let’s go to your poor father!” and “You’re all right!” That woke up Briggs. By this time I was conscious of what was going on in a vague way, but did not yet realize that I was under my bed instead of on it. Briggs, awakening in the midst of loud shouts of fear and apprehension, came to the quick conclusion that he was suffocating and that we were all trying to “bring him out.” With a low moan, he grasped the glass of camphor at the head of his bed and instead of sniffing it, poured it over himself. The room reeked of camphor. “Ugh ahfg,” choked Briggs like a drowning man, for had almost succeeded in stopping his breath under the deluge of pungent spirits. He leaped out of bed and groped toward the open window but he came up against one that was closed. With his hand, he beat out the glass, and I could hear it crash and tinkle on the alleyway below. It was at this juncture that I, in trying to get up, had the uncanny sensation of feeling my bed above me. Foggy with sleep, I now suspected, in my turn, that the whole uproar was being made in a frantic endeavor to extricate me from what must be an unheard of and perilous situation. “Get me out of this!” I bawled. “Get me out!” I think I had the nightmarish belief that I was entombed in a mine. “Gugh,” gasped Briggs, floundering in his camphor.


By this time my mother, still shouting, pursued by Herman, still shouting, was trying to open the door to the attic, in order to go up and get my father’s body out of the wreckage. The door was stuck, however, and wouldn’t yield. Her frantic pulls on it only added to the general banging and confusion. Roy and the dog were now up, the one shouting, the other barking.


Father, farther away and soundest sleeper of all, had by this time been awakened by the battering on the attic door. He decided that the house was on fire. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” he wailed in a slow, sleepy voice—it took him many minutes to regain full consciousness. My mother, still believing he was caught under the bed, detected in his “I’m coming!” the mournful resigned tone of one who is preparing to meet his Maker. “He’s dying!” she shouted.


“I’m all right!” Briggs shouted to reassure her. “I’m all right!” He still believed that it was his own closeness to death that was worrying mother. I found at last the light switch, unlocked the door, and Briggs and I joined the others at the attic door. The dog, who never did like Briggs, jumped at him—assuming that he was the culprit in whatever was going on, and Roy had to throw Rex and hold him. We could hear father crawling out of bed upstairs. Roy pulled the attic door open with a mighty jerk and father came down the stairs, sleepy and irritable but safe and sound. My mother began to weep when she saw him. Rex began to howl. “What in the name of God is going on here?” asked father.


The situation was finally put together like a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Father caught a cold from prowling around in his bare feet but there were no other bad results. “I’m glad,” said mother, who always looked on the bright side of things, “that your grandfather wasn’t here.”


Reprinted without permission, which is naughty of me, so go buy the book to prove to the estate of James Thurber that I wasn’t trying to profit on ol’ grandad’s genius. (And pre-order Dash & the Moonglow Mystic while you’re there!)

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