The chapter begins with an interview of a Hiroshima survivor. Oskar is playing the recording for his classmates at school. The woman in the interview describes her daughter dying in her arms; there are maggots in the daughter’s wounds, and the daughter’s skin is peeling off. The daughter died in the mother’s arms, saying that she didn’t want to die.
The woman holding her dying daughter in her arms in the aftermath of Hiroshima parallels Grandpa’s searching for Anna and his parents in the Dresden firebombing. The woman with the dying child in her arms also symbolically recreates the famous image of Mary holding the dead body of Christ when Christ was crucified.
After the recording, the girls in Oskar’s class are crying, and the boys are making barfing noises. Oskar explains scientific aspects of the explosion, such as the fact that scientists could determine where the explosion came from by tracing shadows from objects in its path. Jimmy Snyder asks Oskar why he’s so weird.
When Oskar narrates events in a hyper-scientific, associative fashion within the novel, the reader becomes accustomed to this style. Unlike Dad, Grandma, Mr. Black, or the other adults in the novel who are kind to Oskar, Oskar’s classmates don’t understand him, and instead of trying to communicate with him, they make fun of him.
Oskar explains that dark things burn more than lighter things, because dark absorbs light; in a chess match, only the white pieces and white squares remained, for example, and characters on a page of writing were burned out. Oskar has had the effect replicated by die-cutting the first page of A Brief History of Time in Japanese translation.
The image of specific letters and shapes disappearing while others remain is reminiscent of Oskar searching for missing puzzle pieces in his expeditions, as well as his search to find the lock that the key fits into: to cope with terrifying events, Oskar turns the chaos into clues, the not understandable into the understandable.
Jimmy Snyder asks Oskar who Buckminster is, and when Oskar says, “Buckminster is my pussy,” the kids crack up. There’s a photograph of a cat leaping through space in the chapter. Later that week, Jimmy continues to tease Oskar by making really raunchy jokes. Oskar gets a letter from the cab driver who’d driven him to Coney Island, thanking him for sending the $76.50 he owed him (though the cab driver does mention that Oskar hadn’t sent a tip).
The kids in Oskar’s class could live on a different planet in terms of their similarities to Oskar: while Oskar sees the world as an encyclopedic puzzle, Jimmy Snyder’s primary concern is making fun of Oskar, rather than listening to anything that Oskar is trying to communicate. The letter from the cab driver shows that even though Oskar might lie sometimes (for instance, he doesn’t tell Mom about where he’s going), he doesn’t break promises. It also shows Oskar’s lack of worldly knowledge, leaving out the tip.
That weekend, he and Mr. Black (from the apartment upstairs) continue the search. They take the train to the Bronx, which makes Oskar very panicky, though he manages to get through it. When they get to Agnes Black’s building, it turns out that she doesn’t live there anymore. The Spanish woman who now lives there explains to Mr. Black in Spanish that the woman who used to live there had been a waitress at Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center. Oskar wonders if she could have served Dad coffee on the morning that Dad died.
When Mr. Black joins Oskar on the expedition, he makes Oskar do things that Oskar is afraid to do on his own, like take the subway—but Oskar is also making Mr. Black do things he hasn’t done in decades, namely, leave his house and interact with other people in the world. Both Oskar and Mr. Black are expanding each other’s horizons.
Oskar and Mr. Black leave, but Oskar makes Mr. Black turn around after three blocks to ask the Spanish woman if Agnes had had kids. She hadn’t. On the way back to the subway, they buy tamales, which isn’t something that Oskar would normally do.
Oskar is searching for some form of connection to every person that he meets on his expedition. Normally, Oskar is very regimented about his food, but Mr. Black opens him to new experiences.
They meet Albert Black and Alice Black, but neither one of them knows about the key. Oskar asks Alice if he can kiss her. Oskar receives a letter from Gary Franklin, a researcher, telling him to send his resume to apply for a position. There’s a photograph of a set of doors.
Oskar asks several of the women he meets—Abby, Alice, etc.—to kiss him. He seems to be searching for a mother figure more than a romantic interest; most importantly, throughout his whole expedition, he’s looking for people with whom he connects.
Allen Black is a doorman for a building on Central Park South. Oskar helps him set up an email account. As Oskar is leaving, Allen says, “Good luck, Oskar,” but Oskar doesn’t remember having told the man his name. At home, he has received a letter from Jane Goodall. Oskar puts a Band-Aid on the part of his chest that the keys rest against, because sometimes the keys get cold against his heart.
Allen seems to know who Oskar is even before Oskar tells him, which is the first inkling that the reader has that something might be up and that Oskar might not be as alone in his quest as he thinks he is. As Oskar meets more people, he also continues to receive replies from the famous people to whom he’s reached out, suggesting that his world is continuing to expand. The cold of the keys against his chest suggests the pain that is also a part of love and connection.
On Tuesday, Oskar has an appointment with his therapist, Dr. Fein. Dr. Fein asks Oskar about Oskar’s emotions, and Oskar describes emotions in detail, telling him that he feels too much, and that his insides don’t match up with his outsides. Dr. Fein asks Oskar if he’s noticed hairs on his scrotum, and suggests that some of his feelings might be due to puberty. Oskar rejects this statement, saying that he feels the way he does because his Dad died a horrible death.
Dr. Fein tries to find simple solutions to all of Oskar’s complex emotions, suggesting that his feelings might have their roots in his puberty and growing older. Oskar doesn’t want to assuage his feelings through therapy—he feels as though he has to solve the problem of his Dad’s death in his own way, not through commonplace answers.
That night, Oskar listens to one of Dad’s messages again—the one left at 9:46 AM—and waits for Saturday, so that he can continue the search.
Oskar’s primary focus in life is his expedition, trying to assuage his guilt for his Dad’s death.