The Night the Bed Fell

by James Thurber

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What do Aunt Sarah Shoaf and Aunt Gracie Shoaf do before bed in "The Night the Bed Fell"?

Quick answer:

In "The Night the Bed Fell," before going to bed, Aunt Sarah Shoaf piles all her valuables outside her bedroom door with a message for any potential burglars. When Aunt Gracie Shoaf goes to bed, she piles all the shoes in the house about her so she can easily throw them down the hall at any burglar who might be lurking around the house.

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Briggs has some very eccentric relatives, to say the least. There's Old Aunt Clarissa Beall, who has this weird premonition that, as she was born on South High Street and married on South High Street, she's going to die there too.

But in the overall scheme of things, she's a paragon of normality by comparison with Aunt Sarah Shoaf and Aunt Gracie Shoaf. Both of these ladies have an extreme phobia of burglars, although they deal with it in completely different ways.

For her part, Aunt Sarah takes an extremely passive and unusual approach. Each night, before she goes to bed, she puts all her money, silverware, and other valuables outside the bedroom door. Attached to these items is a note addressed to any burglar who might be in the vicinity:

This is all I have. Please take it and do not use your chloroform, as this is all I have.

The chloroform reference comes from Aunt Sarah's fear that a burglar will break into the house and blow chloroform under her door with a tube. She'd much rather that any burglar just took her stuff and then left without putting her to sleep.

Aunt Gracie is much more defiant when it comes to her burglar phobia. This is despite the fact that she thinks that burglars have been prowling around her house every night for the last forty years.

Her way of dealing with intruders is to pile up every shoe in the house before she goes to bed. This way, if she hears what she thinks is a burglar—and Aunt Gracie always thinks that she hears burglars—then she can easily reach for a shoe and throw it down the hallway. Apparently, this is supposed to scare off any burglar.

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