John Steward of Jesus
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The Bum

(Written in 1959, based on my dad's memory)

It happened one night about thirty years ago, when there were still vagrants wandering through the country.

Even though I was only about seven years old, I slept alone in my room at the west end of our L-shaped upstairs hail. My sisters Alice and Gert slept in the room at the south end, and Dena and Hattie slept in the middle room. My parents slept downstairs.

We had been in bed about ten minutes when we heard someone trying to get a key into the back door. My mother immediately took the flashlight from her dresser drawer and went to have a look. My sister Gert looked from the window in her room and Alice came to look from the window at my end of the hall. The light from the flashlight shimmered through the hall when she passed the door of my room, and I was sure she was the bum.

I darted down the hall the other direction, into Dena and Hattie’s room, and made one headlong dive under their bed. Hattie, who thought I was the bum, rolled over and lay on Dena, who was then sure she had the bum above her. Meanwhile, Gert and Alice were each standing motionless, thinking the bum had darted through the hall.

Mother, hearing all the commotion, came to the staircase door and asked, “What’s going on up there?” Not a sound was heard.

Finally I mustered up enough courage and timidly asked, “Wh-wh-who’s there?  Hattie immediately asked, “Is that you under there?” “Is that you on top of me,” asked Dena.

Then father came to the door and added, “If there was a bum by the door, he’d be a mile gone by now, as much noise as you made up there’.”