Bruno’s eyes opened wide and his mouth made the shape of an O. He felt his arms stretching out at his sides like they did whenever something surprised him. ‘You don’t mean we’re leaving Berlin?’ he asked, gasping for air as he got the words out.
‘I’m afraid so,’ said Mother, nodding her head sadly. ‘Your father’s job is–’
‘But what about school?’ said Bruno, inter-rupting her, a thing he knew he was not supposed to do but which he felt he would be forgiven for on this occasion. ‘And what about Karl and Daniel and Martin? How will they know where I am when we want to do things together?’
‘You’ll have to say goodbye to your friends for the time being,’ said Mother. ‘Although I’m sure you’ll see them again in time. And don’t interrupt your mother when she’s talking, please,’ she added, for although this was strange and unpleasant news, there was certainly no need for Bruno to break the rules of politeness which he had been taught.
‘Say goodbye to them?’ he asked, staring at her in surprise. ‘Say goodbye to them?’ he repeated, spluttering out the words as if his mouth was full of biscuits that he’d munched into tiny pieces but not actually swallowed yet. ‘Say goodbye to Karl and Daniel and Martin?’ he continued, his voice coming dangerously close to shouting, which was not allowed indoors. ‘But they’re my three best friends for life!’
‘Oh, you’ll make other friends,’ said Mother, waving her hand in the air dismissively, as if the making of a boy’s three best friends for life was an easy thing.
‘But we had plans,’ he protested.
‘Plans?’ asked Mother, raising an eyebrow. ‘What sort of plans?’
‘Well, that would be telling,’ said Bruno, who could not reveal the exact nature of the plans — which included causing a lot of chaos, especially in a few weeks’ time when school finished for the summer holidays and they didn’t have to spend all their time just making plans but could actually put them into effect instead.
‘I’m sorry, Bruno,’ said Mother, ‘but your plans are just going to have to wait. We don’t have a choice in this.’
‘Bruno, that’s enough,’ she said, snapping at him now and standing up to show him that she was serious when she said that was enough. ‘Honestly, only last week you were complaining about how much things have changed here recently.’
‘Well, I don’t like the way we have to turn all the lights off at night now,’ he admitted.
‘Everyone has to do that,’ said Mother. ‘It keeps us safe. And who knows, maybe we’ll be in less danger if we move away. Now, I need you to go upstairs and help Maria with your packing. We don’t have as much time to prepare as I would have liked, thanks to some people.’
Bruno nodded and walked away sadly, know-ing that ‘some people’ was a grown-up’s word for ‘Father’ and one that he wasn’t supposed to use himself.
He made his way up the stairs slowly, holding on to the banister with one hand, and wondered whether the new house in the new place where the new job was would have as fine a banister to slide down as this one did. For the banister in this house stretched from the very top floor — just outside the little room where, if he stood on his tiptoes and held on to the frame of the window tightly, he could see right across Berlin — to the ground floor, just in front of the two enormous oak doors. And Bruno liked nothing better than to get on board the banister at the top floor and slide his way through the house, making whooshing sounds as he went.
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.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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