The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
know they don’t like us. They hate us.’
Bruno sat back in surprise. ‘I’m sure they don’t hate you,’ he said.
‘They do,’ said Shmuel, leaning forward, his eyes narrowing and his lips curling up a little in anger. ‘But that’s all right because I hate them too. I hate them,’ he repeated forcefully.
‘You don’t hate Father, do you?’ asked Bruno.
Shmuel bit his lip and said nothing. He had seen Bruno’s father on any number of occasions and couldn’t understand how such a man could have a son who was so friendly and kind.
‘Anyway,’ said Bruno after a suitable pause, not wishing to discuss that topic any further, ‘I have something to tell you too.’
‘You do?’ asked Shmuel, looking up hopefully.
‘Yes. I’m going back to Berlin.’
Shmuel’s mouth dropped open in surprise. ‘When?’ he asked, his voice catching slightly in his throat as he did so.
‘Well, this is Thursday,’ said Bruno. ‘And we’re leaving on Saturday. After lunch.’
‘But for how long?’ asked Shmuel.
‘I think it’s for ever,’ said Bruno. ‘Mother doesn’t like it at Out-With – she says it’s no place to bring up two children – so Father is staying here to work because the Fury has big things in mind for him, but the rest of us are going home.’
He said the word ‘home’, despite the fact that he wasn’t sure where ‘home’ was any more.
‘So I won’t see you again?’ asked Shmuel.
‘Well, someday, yes,’ said Bruno. ‘You could come on a holiday to Berlin. You can’t stay here for ever after all. Can you?’
Shmuel shook his head. ‘I suppose not,’ he said sadly. ‘I won’t have anyone to talk to any more when you’re gone,’ he added.
‘No,’ said Bruno. He wanted to add the words, ‘I’ll miss you too, Shmuel,’ to the sentence but found that he was a little embarrassed to say them. ‘So tomorrow will be the last time we see each other until then,’ he continued. ‘We’ll have to say our goodbyes then. I’ll try to bring you an extra special treat.’
Shmuel nodded but couldn’t find any words to express his sorrow.
‘I wish we’d got to play together,’ said Bruno after a long pause. ‘Just once. Just to remember.’
‘So do I,’ said Shmuel.
‘We’ve been talking to each other for more than a year and we never got to play once. And do you know what else?’ he added. ‘All this time I’ve been watching where you live from out of my bedroom window and I’ve never even seen for myself what it’s like.’
‘You wouldn’t like it,’ said Shmuel. ‘Yours is much nicer,’ he added.
‘I’d still like to have seen it,’ said Bruno.
Shmuel thought for a few moments and then reached down and put his hand under the fence and lifted it a little, to the height where a small boy, perhaps the size and shape of Bruno, could fit underneath.
‘Well?’ said Shmuel. ‘Why don’t you then?’
Bruno blinked and thought about it. ‘I don’t think I’d be allowed,’ he said doubtfully.
‘Well, you’re probably not allowed to come here and talk to me every day either,’ said Shmuel. ‘But you still do it, don’t you?’
‘But if I was caught I’d be in trouble,’ said Bruno, who was sure Mother and Father would not approve.
‘That’s true,’ said Shmuel, lowering the fence again and looking at the ground with tears in his eyes. ‘I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow to say goodbye then.’
Neither boy said anything for a moment. Suddenly Bruno had a brainwave.
‘Unless …’ he began, thinking about it for a moment and allowing a plan to hatch in his head. He reached a hand up to his head and felt where his hair used to be but was now just stubble that hadn’t fully grown back. ‘Don’t you remember that you said I looked like you?’ he asked Shmuel. ‘Since I had my head shaved?’
‘Only fatter,’ conceded Shmuel.
‘Well, if that’s the case,’ said Bruno, ‘and if I had a pair of striped pyjamas too, then I could come over on a visit and no one would be any the wiser.’
Shmuel’s face brightened up and he broke into a wide smile. ‘Do you think so?’ he asked. ‘Would you do it?’
‘Of course,’ said Bruno. ‘It would be a great adventure. Our final adventure. I could do some exploring at last.’
‘And you could help me look for Papa,’ said Shmuel.
‘Why not?’ said Bruno. ‘We’ll take a walk around and see whether we can find any evidence. That’s always wise when you’re
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