Excerpt of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
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Bruno Makes a Discovery
One afternoon, when Bruno came home from school, he was surprised to find Maria, the family’s maid — who always kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet — standing in his bedroom, pulling all his belongings out of the wardrobe and packing them in four large wooden crates, even the things he’d hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else’s business.
‘What are you doing?’ he asked in as polite a tone as he could muster, for although he wasn’t happy to come home and find someone going through his possessions, his mother had always told him that he was to treat Maria respectfully and not just imitate the way Father spoke to her. ‘You take your hands off my things.’
Maria shook her head and pointed towards the staircase behind him, where Bruno’s mother had just appeared. She was a tall woman with long red hair that she bundled into a sort of net behind her head, and she was twisting her hands together nervously as if there was something she didn’t want to have to say or something she didn’t want to have to believe.
‘Mother,’ said Bruno, marching towards her, ‘what’s going on? Why is Maria going through my things?’
‘She’s packing them,’ explained Mother.
‘Packing them?’ he asked, running quickly through the events of the previous few days to consider whether he’d been particularly naughty or had used those words out loud that he wasn’t allowed to use and was being sent away because of it. He couldn’t think of anything though. In fact over the last few days he had behaved in a perfectly decent manner to everyone and couldn’t remember causing any chaos at all. ‘Why?’ he asked then. ‘What have I done?’
Mother had walked into her own bedroom by then but Lars, the butler, was in there, packing her things too. She sighed and threw her hands in the air in frustration before march-ing back to the staircase, followed by Bruno, who wasn’t going to let the matter drop without an explanation.
‘Mother,’ he insisted. ‘What’s going on? Are we moving?’
‘Come downstairs with me,’ said Mother, leading the way towards the large dining room where the Fury had been to dinner the week before. ‘We’ll talk down there.’
Bruno ran downstairs and even passed her out on the staircase so that he was waiting in the dining room when she arrived. He looked at her without saying anything for a moment and thought to himself that she couldn’t have applied her make-up correctly that morning because the rims of her eyes were more red than usual, like his own after he’d been causing chaos and got into trouble and ended up crying.
‘Now, you don’t have to worry, Bruno,’ said Mother, sitting down in the chair where the beautiful blonde woman who had come to dinner with the Fury had sat and waved at him when Father closed the doors. ‘In fact if anything it’s going to be a great adventure.’
‘What is?’ he asked. ‘Am I being sent away?’
‘No, not just you,’ she said, looking as if she might smile for a moment but thinking better of it. ‘We all are. Your father and I, Gretel and you. All four of us.’
Bruno thought about this and frowned. He wasn’t particularly bothered if Gretel was being sent away because she was a Hopeless Case and caused nothing but trouble for him. But it seemed a little unfair that they all had to go with her.
‘But where?’ he asked. ‘Where are we going exactly? Why can’t we stay here?’
‘Your father’s job,’ explained Mother. ‘You know how important it is, don’t you?’
Excerpted from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne Copyright © 2006 by John Boyne. Excerpted by permission of David Fickling Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.