Howard Kashpaw hides in the bathroom as his parents fight. His father, King, says something about a man who has “busted out again,” and his mother, Lynette, screams. Lynette yells at her husband, calling him selfish, asking what she is supposed to do. As they shout and King kicks the table, Howard stares at the wallpaper and wonders how his family even manages to stay together.
Howard is obviously traumatized by King’s abuse of Lynette as well. King’s comment that a man “busted out again” is a reference to Gerry, who King has previously informed on to the police. King betrayed Gerry, and both King and Lynette are worried that Gerry is coming for revenge.
Howard is smarter than the other kids at school, and he learned to read early by watching Sesame Street. At school, Howard’s teacher had asked him what he wanted to be called. His full name, King Howard Kashpaw, Junior, has many choices, she said, although he had never really thought of it that way. He told her to call him Howard, and that is what everyone at school has called him since. Once, while cutting out paper hearts, Howard asked his teacher what the word “PERMANENT” on the side of the marker meant. She said it meant “forever” and would never “erase.” Perfect, Howard thought as he wrote “Howard” in the center of his paper heart.
By referring to himself as Howard and not King or Junior, Howard manages to distance himself from his father, who is clearly abusive to Lynette and presumably Howard as well. Howard is just a young boy, yet he knows that he doesn’t want to be anything like his father, and this is reflected in Howard’s delight over the permanence of the marker. If Howard writes his name as Howard and not King, this identity independent of his father cannot be “erased.”
Hiding in the bathroom, Howard wonders if the police will come and get King again. It has happened before; the cops came in the middle of the day and put King in handcuffs. Howard hears one of the neighbors bang on their apartment door, and King and Lynette lower their voices. Howard hears them shut the door to their bedroom, and he closes his eyes to sleep.
Again, Howard is obviously traumatized by King’s abuse, as he cowers in a bathroom waiting for the police to come and arrest him. Even the neighbors are bothered by King’s abuse of Lynette, and they bang on the door when he gets too loud.