Oskar’s school production of Hamlet, in which he plays Yorick, opens. He stands on stage as Jimmy Snyder, who plays Hamlet, holds his head. Jimmy laments the death of Yorick, the funny jester. Oskar wears a papier-mâché mask shaped like a skull. He looks out into the audience and sees his family and also several of the people named Black.
Out of Oskar’s family, only Grandma comes to the next two performances. She laughs and cries at the wrong moments. Oskar hates that he noticed Grandma’s mistakes until Jimmy mocks her backstage. Then, Oskar decides that it’s actually Grandma’s fault for being loud.
During the next performance, Oskar hears Grandma mumbling, “That’s so sad,” and wonders about her life, in which she needs imaginary friends. Oskar wonders what makes life worth living. He imagines taking Jimmy’s head in his hands and changing the monologue to be about Jimmy. In Oskar’s imagination, he removes his mask and smashes Jimmy with it. Jimmy’s skull becomes Ron’s, and Mom’s, Dr. Fein’s, Dad’s, Grandma’s, and the entire audience’s. Everyone cheers Oskar for making sense.
In reality, Oskar locks eyes with Abe Black in the audience and plays Yorick as usual.
Oskar meets Abe Black twelve weeks prior, when he takes a cab to Coney Island. Abe doesn’t know about the key, but he takes Oskar on the famous Cyclone roller coaster. Oskar’s afraid of the ride, but Abe tells him it would be a shame to die never having ridden it. Oskar next meets an extremely wealthy woman named Ada Black.
The next person on Oskar’s list lives in his building on the floor just above his. Mr. Black was born on January 1, 1900 and has known many people. He tells Oskar that it’s important to welcome new people into his life, but that means he must also let them go. Mr. Black’s wife died twenty-four years prior. He discusses his career as a war reporter, writing about wars Oskar’s never heard of.