They find a clearing that contains the last few broken branches of a den they built earlier in the summer where they drank Tizer and smoked four menthol cigarettes which Sean had stolen from his mother’s handbag. Let’s do it here. Sean finds a log to use as a shooting gallery and sends Daniel off in search of targets. He climbs the boundary fence and searches among the hawthorn bushes which line the hard shoulder, coming back with two empty beer bottles, a battered plastic oilcan and a muddy teddy bear with both arms missing. He feels exhausted by the heat. He imagines standing on the lawn at home, squeezing the end of the hose with his thumb and making rainbows in the cold falling water. He arranges the objects at regular intervals along the log. He thinks about the child who once owned the teddy bear and regrets having picked it up but doesn’t say anything.
Sean raises the gun and moves his feet apart to brace himself. A deep cathedral quiet. The traffic stops. He can hear the shuttle of his own blood.
The Red House by Mark Haddon is published by Random House.
Photograph © Edinburgh International Book Festival