I thought it might have been the mercury that sent our father mad, but Luke, his grimy finger pointing to the entry in the encyclopaedia, insisted that it couldn't have been.
“Symptoms of mercury poisoning include sensory impairment, disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination,” he read in his clear, loud voice. “He couldn't have hit mum if he was uncoordinated.”
There were other words we had to look up to check their meaning, such as parasthesia and desquamation, but he didn't seem to have those either, or Luke would have heard about it. Because I was deaf, Luke told me everything he overheard from Mum and Dad.
“So it can't have been the mercury,” he concluded.
I kept reading. “It says it comes from cinnabar, which is the source of vermillion.”
“He might use vermillion.”
We stared at the image of the pigment next to the text, ground into a poisonous red pile.
“Let's go and check,” Luke said.
We ran across the grass, warm already from the morning sun, to Dad's studio. On his desk was a painting of a man riding through the main street of a deserted town at sunset. This must have been the fourth time Dad had painted that picture.
We poked among the tubes of paint in the worn cardboard shoebox.
“Here.” I held up the wrinkled tube with a band of red across the top. “Vermillion.”
Luke looked worried.