In this first chapter, the narrator, Junior, introduces himself. He was born with "water on the brain", and when he was six months old had to undergo surgery which he was not supposed to survive. Obviously, Junior did survive the surgery, but he has a variety of physical problems resulting from brain damage sustained during the operation.
One of Junior's anomalies is that he ended up having forty-two teeth. He had to have the extra ones pulled out by the Indian Health Service dentist, but since the Health Service funded major dental work only once yearly, he had to have all ten pulled at once, with only half the usual amount of Novocain, because the white dentist believed Indians "only felt half as much pain as white people". Junior also has to wear "ugly, thick, black plastic" eyeglasses, and is extremely skinny, with huge hands and feet. His skull is enormous, and he is prone to seizures.
In addition to the above-named handicaps, Junior also has a stutter and a lisp, which make him the object of much teasing by his peers. At fourteen years old, he has been branded "a retard", and to avoid being beaten up regularly, he spends a lot of time alone in his room reading books and drawing cartoons.
Junior is a good cartoonist, who likes to draw because "words are too unpredictable...but...when you draw a picture, everybody can understand it". He also draws because he would like to become rich and famous, and he sees the arts as the only avenue by which someone like him might someday escape the reservation (Chapter 1).