The night the bed fell and the dam broke

Today, for the third straight year, I participated in “Teen Read Month” (formerly “Teen Read Week”) at Cascade Middle School. They bring in guest speakers who read a bit from a favorite book or story to individual middle school classes. This year, they’ve tied the program in with PBS’s “Great American Read” initiative, and earlier in the year teacher Deborah Smith recorded a video of me talking about one of my favorite books, “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea,” by Jules Verne.

I generally go to about three different classes. Two years ago, I read “The Night The Bed Fell,” by James Thurber, which allows me to indulge my hammy community theatre background and which the kids seemed to enjoy.

Last year, I read a selection from “Soapstone,” by an author who isn’t fit to be mentioned in the same sentence with James Thurber.

When I tried to decide what to read this year, “20,000 Leagues” didn’t seem like it would lend itself to reading a short excerpt. I thought I’d go back to “The Night The Bed Fell,” and ran through it last night just to refresh myself.

The first two classes seemed to enjoy it. But there was a class change before I arrived at Deborah Smith’s class, and that meant there were several people in her class who had already heard me read the story in one of the two previous classes.

So I adjusted on the fly and read “The Day The Dam Broke,” from the same Thurber collection, “My Life and Hard Times.” I don’t think it was exactly as successful as “The Night The Bed Fell” — if I’d had the chance to rehearse it last night, I might have dropped a few passages to make it shorter as a reading. But the kids stayed attentive and I hope they enjoyed it.

I still have a dream of doing a public performance, for grownups, of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and maybe a couple of other Thurber pieces.