Old Aunt Clarissa Beall was born on South High Street and married on South High Street—and because of that, she has had a nagging premonition that she will one day die on South High Street. For good measure, and apropos of nothing, she can also whistle like a man, with two fingers in her mouth.
Aunt Clarissa is just one of many of the narrator's relatives, most of whom seem to have some strange nervous quirk. Another member of the Beall clan, Briggs, is staying with the narrator and his family on the night that the bed fell. His particular idiosyncrasy is the crazy belief that he'll stop breathing when he goes to sleep. If he's not awakened every hour of the night, then he's certain that he'll die of suffocation.