Oskar asks his mom if she’s in love with her friend Ron, but she insists they’re just friends. He doesn’t think it’s fair to him or his dad for his mom to enjoy herself.
One night, Oskar looks in his dad’s closet. He notices a blue vase on the top shelf and uses a chair to reach it. The vase falls and shatters. When his mom and Ron don’t hear him shout, Oskar gives himself a bruise. Glancing through the pieces, Oskar notices an envelope containing a key. He tries it on every lock he can find with no success.
The next morning, Oskar fakes being sick to avoid going to school. After his mom leaves for work, Oskar goes to a locksmith and asks him about the key. The locksmith says the key must be for an old safe or lockbox.
Oskar researches how many locks exist in New York City but realizes he can’t try every lock. He returns to his dad’s closet. When he looks at the envelope again, he notices it has the word “Black” written on it. After researching the word “black,” he does searches about other things and prints out the resulting images, like one of a shark attack, to put in his “Stuff that Happened to Me” scrapbook.
The next day Oskar tells his mom he’s sick again. She asks if he’s actually sad. Oskar lists things about the world that make him sad. Oskar believes that humans will destroy each other and that beautiful songs are sad because beautiful things aren’t true. His mom says that he reminds her of his dad. Oskar doesn’t like being told he reminds people of dad or grandpa because they’re gone, and it makes him feel like he’s not special. His mom apologies and lets him stay home.
Once his mom leaves, Oskar goes to an art supply store to ask the manager about the color black. The manager notes that whoever wrote “Black” on the envelope wrote it in red, which is unusual because people usually write a color’s name with the same color pen. She shows Oskar a piece of paper where people test out pens as an example. She suggests “Black” might be someone’s last name.