I lifted my head off the grass.
The policeman squatted down beside me and said, 'Would you like to tell me what's going on here, young man?'.
I sat up and said 'The dog is dead.'
'I'd got that far,' he said.
I said, 'I think someone killed the dog.'
'How old are you?' he asked.
I replied, 'I am 15 years and 3 months and 2 days.'
'And what, precisely, were you doing in the garden?' he asked.
'I was holding the dog,' I replied.
'And why were you holding the dog?' he asked.
This was a difficult question. It was something I wanted to do. I like dogs. It made me sad to see that the dog was dead.
I like policemen, too, and I wanted to answer the question properly, but the policeman did not give me enough time to work out the correct answer.
'Why were you holding the dog?' he asked again.
'I like dogs,' I said.
'Did you kill the dog?' he asked.
I said, 'I did not kill the dog.'
'Is this your fork?' he asked.
I said, 'No.'
'You seem very upset about this,' he said.
He was asking too many questions and he was asking them too quickly. They were stacking up in my head like loaves in the factory where Uncle Terry works. The factory is a bakery and he operates the slicing machines. And sometimes the slicer is not working fast enough but the bread keeps coming and there is a blockage. I sometimes think of my mind as a machine, but not always as a bread-slicing machine. It makes it easier to explain to other people what is going on inside it.
The policeman said, 'I am going to ask you once again '
I rolled back onto the lawn and pressed my forehead to the ground again and made the noise that Father calls groaning. I make this noise when there is too much information coming into my head from the outside world. It is like when you are upset and you hold the radio against your ear and you tune it halfway between two stations so that all you get is white noise and then you turn the volume right up so that this is all you can hear and then you know you are safe because you cannot hear anything else.
The policeman took hold of my arm and lifted me onto my feet.
I didn't like him touching me like this.
And this is when I hit him.
This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them. Here is a joke, as an example. It is one of Father's.
His face was drawn but the curtains were real.
I know why this is meant to be funny. I asked. It is because drawn has three meanings, and they are 1) drawn with a pencil, 2) exhausted, and 3) pulled across a window, and meaning 1 refers to both the face and the curtains, meaning 2 refers only to the face, and meaning 3 refers only to the curtains.
If I try to say the joke to myself, making the word mean the three different things at the same time, it is like hearing three different pieces of music at the same time which is uncomfortable and confusing and not nice like white noise. It is like three people trying to talk to you at the same time about different things.
And that is why there are no jokes in this book.
The policeman looked at me for a while without speaking. Then he said, 'I am arresting you for assaulting a police officer.'
This made me feel a lot calmer because it is what policeman say on television and in films.
Then he said, 'I strongly advise you to get into the back of the police car because if you try any of that monkey-business again, you little shit, I will seriously lose my rag. Is that understood?'.
Excerpted from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. Copyright © 2003 by Mark Haddon. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, 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.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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