Trigger warning: This is a story of things that go BUMP in the night. It is a factual account.
Once upon a wild Friday evening, when the clocks were nearing nine, the mother and the father looked at one another and agreed that they should go to bed soon. The baby had been sleeping for an hour at least, and, as you may gather, they kept dissipated hours in this household.
Out of doors it was a clear night, no clouds nor wind to speak of, nor any physical sign that in a few short days, the moon would be eclipsing the sun in broad daylight with an entire nation watching. No, it was an ordinary night, and they intended to sleep soon.
You know as well as I do, however, how way leads on to way, and how good resolutions for bedtime may be brushed aside in favor of wilder pursuits: games of Catan, cups of chamomile tea, or the novels of Thackeray. The minutes crept along, and the clocks, nearing ten, saw the mother and the father still wide awake in their living room, pouring over videos of their progeny at tenderer ages, reminiscing in light of his recent natal day. Nostalgia wove its golden spell round them and held them in thrall.
The night continued calm and clear out of doors. A lizard silently crossed the attic above their heads. The baby slept.
And then. Something went bump. How that bump made them jump!
“Bump” is a poor word to describe the sound, as it was of longer duration and had a more catastrophic quality than “bump” can express.
Startled from their reverie, the mother and the father were immediately on their feet. Had furniture fallen somewhere? Had someone forced an entrance? Had a tree come down upon the house? The baby emitted only one cry, and the mother was solicitous for his corner of the house — perhaps that magnolia tree?
The father was on his way outside, looking for a light, looking for shoes. The mother was on her way to check on the baby, who was — to her great relief — whimpering. But outside his door she cast a glance to her right, through the doorway of the room in which she was meant to be sleeping.
And she saw it. In the dimness, something large and white and broken, where only the wooden floor should have been, and above, where the white ceiling ought to have been, a gaping blackness. She called to the father: “Our ceiling fell down!”
And she gathered the baby out of his crib — though his ceiling was intact — and together the three of them surveyed the carnage.
There had been a crack. They had seen it — stared up at it by lamplight in those moments when it was too much effort to turn off the lamp, and in the rare mornings when they stayed late enough in bed for daylight to penetrate round the curtains. But ceilings often have cracks. Ceilings do not often fall.
The dreamy quality of the night was broken, and they had only shaky laughter, as they picked over the debris to collect the necessities for a night spent out of the bedroom. They slept poorly in the baby’s room and on the couch, and woke to realize that, indeed, the ceiling had fallen down.
The morals of story, which are several, proceed thusly: Firstly, when you see a crack in your ceiling, make haste to repair it! Secondly, if you can avoid an elderly house in which the ceiling boards are second to dubious rafters with insufficient nails, do so. Thirdly, if you are inclined to stay up later than usual, you are wise; you may avoid being interred beneath your bedroom ceiling.
In all seriousness, however, what grace, not to be in bed already. And to have our parents already planning to spend the following day at our house, so that there were willing hands available to begin the clean-up process. And for my husband to have already taken the following week off work, though we didn’t know the ceiling would fall. The house is still more or less enveloped in dust, and the contents of our bedroom have erupted into all the other rooms, but their is a new, better ceiling now in place, and I get to repaint the walls, because the room is empty and it will be easy. And we have this story.
©2017 by Stacy Crouch