In Holes, author Louis Sacher creates a realistic portrait of a residential camp for troubled boys—right down to the peer politics, broken recreation room, and smell. Anyone who has visited such a facility would recognize it immediately, and Sacher’s portrayal of how these boys become objects to the authorities, rather than people, is bitter and deeply informed.
At the same time, the book’s realism rests within a frame that could have been lifted from a classic fable or even a fairy tale. Holes contains gypsy curses, extreme random chance, hero worship, terrifying beasts, good witches and bad ones, true love, buried treasure, clichés from every buddy movie and prison movie ever made, and riddles for the heroes to solve.
When Sacher shifts between the two modes, the transition is sometimes a bit bumpy. Coincidence can stretch too far, and at some key points it is not clear if realism or wish fulfillment is going to carry the day. But those points are rare, and as Sacher himself points out in the final pages, this story—like every story—is full of holes that readers must fill in themselves.
Holes is built around the intersecting stories of two settings (Camp Green Lake today, and Green Lake of 110 years ago) and three families (the Yelnats family, the Zeroni family, and the Walker family).
When he is falsely convicted of stealing sneakers that were donated for charity, Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to Camp Green Lake. When Stanley arrives, he is quickly processed and put to work digging holes. He and the other boys must dig countless five-by-five-foot holes “to build their character.” Stanley gets to know some aspects of his new life all at once: the formal structure of the camp, with the Warden at the top, Mr. Sir next in command, and Mr. Pendanski as his immediate counselor; and then an informal but complex community of boys, each of whom has his own nickname. Stanley is overweight and has a lot of trouble digging the holes at first, but he eventually settles into a routine.
If the campers find anything interesting, they are to let an adult supervisor know. When Stanley finds a gold tube with the initials “KB” on the bottom, he lets another boy, X-Ray, claim he found it in his hole because X-Ray has been there longest and the boy who finds something special gets the day off from digging. This sets Stanley moving up the informal hierarchy among the boys. He moves up even further when another of the boys (Magnet) steals Mr. Sir’s bag of sunflower seeds, and Stanley takes the blame without getting the other boy in trouble.
However, Stanley’s position among the boys is jeopardized when he starts teaching a boy named Zero how to read and Zero starts digging part of Stanley’s hole in repayment. This leads to tension. Some boys tease him, and Zigzag starts to pick on Stanley. Mr. Pendanski encourages Stanley to stand up for himself, and a near riot breaks out. Zero defends Stanley but afterwards runs away into the desert.
Days pass. A new boy named Twitch comes to camp to replace Zero. Twitch had stolen cars when out in the world, and this gives Stanley the idea to steal the water truck and drive out looking for Zero. Unfortunately, he wrecks the truck and has to go after Zero on foot.
Stanley walks toward the rock formation called Big Thumb. He stumbles across Zero, who had taken shelter under the remains of a wrecked old boat named the Mary Lou. The Mary Lou had belonged to Sam the onion man, who had lived in the town of Green Lake 110 years...
(The entire section is 1041 words.)
Chapters 1-3 Summary
Louis Sachar begins Holes with a description of Camp Green Lake. Nothing is green there, and there is no lake. It used to be the site of the biggest lake in Texas, but now it is a wasteland. There used to be a town as well, but it died when the lake dried up.
In summer, it is very hot at Camp Green Lake. It is about ninety-five degrees in the shade, and there is almost no shade. There are only two old oak trees that stand on the edge of the empty lakebed. A hammock hangs between those two trees, but campers are not allowed to use it. Only the Warden gets to lie in the hammock.
On the lakebed, campers often find rattlesnakes and scorpions. They are poisonous but not usually deadly. Yellow-spotted lizards are another matter: anyone who gets bitten by one of them is doomed.
Camp Green Lake is so bad kids only go there because they have to. Bad kids are sent to Camp Green Lake, where the Warden forces them to dig a big hole every day. Some people think this treatment will turn bad kids good.
Stanley Yelnats gets a choice. The judge says, “You may go to jail, or you can go to Camp Green Lake.” Stanley’s family is poor, and he has never been to camp before. He does not know what Camp Green Lake is like, so he says he would like to go there.
Stanley rides to camp on a bus with a driver and an armed guard. He is handcuffed to his seat. On the trip, he thinks about his life and his family.
Stanley remembers how, when he was little, he used to play a game with his stuffed animals. He pretended they were at a camp called Camp Fun and Games. Now, sitting in the bus to Camp Green Lake, he tries to pretend that is where he is going. He tells himself he will make friends and swim in the lake.
Stanley is innocent of any crime. He got arrested “because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!” According to family legend, Stanley’s great-great-grandfather stole a pig from a one-legged Gypsy, who cursed him and all of his descendants. Stanley and his family don’t really believe in curses, but they always pretend to blame this curse when they have bad luck.
Stanley and his family have a lot of bad luck. Stanley’s great-grandfather, who was also named Stanley (which is Yelnats spelled backward), made a fortune in the stock market. However, he was robbed by an outlaw called Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Ever since then, all of...
(The entire section is 515 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
The bus driver unlocks Stanley’s handcuffs, and Stanley thanks the driver for the ride. He has been riding the bus for hours with nothing to eat or drink. As he climbs out of the bus, he feels dazed and his throat hurts.
The guard leads Stanley into a small, air-conditioned building. Inside, a man sits at a desk wearing a cowboy hat and dark sunglasses. He is drinking a can of soda, which makes Stanley feel even thirstier. The man has a huge bag of sunflower seeds by his desk. When the guard asks about it, the man at the desk explains that he recently quit smoking; now he eats sunflower seeds instead.
The man at the desk gets two cans of soda out of a small fridge. Stanley hopes he will get one, but the man gives them to the guard and says one is for the bus driver. When the guard complains about the length of the trip to Camp Green Lake, Stanley feels a little sorry for the man, considering that he has to make the trip twice in one day.
The man behind the desk spits some sunflower seed shells into a wastebasket. He tells Stanley to call him Mr. Sir. Stanley does not think this can really be the man’s name, but he obeys.
Mr. Sir strip searches Stanley and then issues him two sets of uniforms and a towel. The uniforms consist of orange jumpsuits, orange T-shirts, yellow socks, white sneakers, and an orange cap with a flap sewn on to protect the back of the neck from the sun. Stanley also gets a plastic canteen, but it is empty.
Mr. Sir tells Stanley to wear one set of clothes for work and the other for relaxation. He explains that Stanley’s job will be to dig a hole every day, seven days each week. Every hole has to be five feet deep and five feet across all around. He is supposed to use his shovel to measure the depth of each hole.
Next, Mr. Sir explains that Stanley will eat breakfast every morning at 4:30, then go directly out to dig. They start early so that the boys can get out of the sun before the hottest part of the day.
"If you dig up anything interesting, you are to report it to me or any other counselor," Mr. Sir says, but he does not explain what Stanley might find.
Outside, Mr. Sir points out that there are no guard towers or fences. He invites Stanley to run away. When Stanley looks at Mr. Sir’s gun, Mr. Sir promises not to shoot him. The gun is for yellow-spotted lizards, not for campers.
Stanley does not run away. He...
(The entire section is 532 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
There are six tents at Camp Green Lake, five for campers and one for counselors. Stanley is assigned to D tent. His counselor is named Mr. Pendanski. Mr. Pendanski, who is not as scary as Mr. Sir, explains that his name is easy to keep in mind if Stanley just remembers the words pen, dance, and key. He tells Stanley that Camp Green Lake has only one rule: “Don’t upset the Warden.”
Mr. Pendanski says he respects Stanley even though Stanley must have made mistakes if he is at Camp Green Lake. Mr. Pendanski explains that having done bad things does not make him a bad kid. Camp Green Lake can turn his life around if Stanley lets it. Stanley does not argue with anything Mr. Pendanski says. He figures there is no point trying to convince anyone that he is innocent.
Just then, two boys arrive. They are dripping with sweat and so filthy that it takes Stanley a moment to realize one of them is White and the other is Black. Mr. Pendanski introduces them to Stanley and makes them shake hands. Inside the tent, X-Ray points out Stanley’s cot, which used to belong to someone named Barf Bag. Stanley is also given a crate in which to store his backpack, towel, and extra clothes.
Soon four other boys arrive. They call themselves Magnet, Armpit, Zigzag, and Zero. Mr. Pendanski, whom the boys call Mom, says that he does not like it when the boys use nicknames. He uses their real names instead. However, Stanley notices that Mr. Pendanski calls the last boy Zero, just as everyone else does. Mr. Pendanski explains that Zero got this name because his head is empty. Zero does not show any reaction.
After Mr. Pendanski leaves, Stanley asks one of the boys where he can fill his canteen. When he does so, he makes the mistake of calling him by his real name, Theodore. The boy grows angry and shoves Stanley to the ground before demanding to be called Armpit instead. Stanley is terrified. Armpit explains where to get water, then he walks away.
Stanley has no idea why somebody would want to be called Armpit, but he reasons that he should not mind being assigned to a cot that used to belong to a boy called Barf Bag. Apparently, at Camp Green Lake, gross names are a sign of respect.
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Chapter 6 Summary
Stanley quickly learns that life at Camp Green Lake is anything but comfortable. Showers only last four minutes, and there is no hot water. Dinner is a tasteless meat and vegetable stew. Stanley finishes his serving even though he does not like it. While he eats, one of the campers asks him what he did to get sent to Camp Green Lake. Stanley says he stole a pair of sneakers belonging to “Sweet Feet” Clyde Livingston, a famous baseball player. None of the boys believes him, and Stanley reflects on the irony of this. Back home, when he said he was innocent of the crime, nobody believed him and he was convicted. Now that he is paying for the crime, nobody believes him when he says he did it.
Clyde Livingston is Stanley’s hero. Stanley used to have a poster of him, but he does not know where it is now. The police took it as evidence. During Stanley’s trial, Livingston testified. Even under the circumstances, Stanley was excited to see Livingston in person. At the trial, Livingston testified that he had donated the sneakers to a homeless shelter to auction them off for money. Livingston believed Stanley was guilty and that he was a horrible person for stealing from homeless children.
On his first night at camp, Stanley has trouble sleeping. His cot smells like sour milk, and it is so rickety that Stanley is afraid his big body will break it. He thinks about school, where a bully named Derrick Dune always used to bother him. Whenever Stanley tried to tell, the teachers did not believe him because Derrick was so much smaller than Stanley was.
On the day Stanley was arrested, Derrick had stolen his notebook and put it in the toilet. Because of this, Stanley missed the bus and had to walk home. On the way, a pair of sneakers fell from the sky. One hit him in the head.
At the time, Stanley thought the sneakers might be a sign from heaven. His father had been trying to invent a use for old sneakers for some time, so maybe they would help his father with his invention. Stanley picked up the shoes and ran. Soon after that, the police arrived, and he was arrested. Only then did he learn that the sneakers belonged to Clyde Livingston—who did not have sweet feet at all, apparently, given how badly the sneakers stank.
Stanley had to wait months for his trial. His parents could not afford a lawyer, so his mother advised him simply to tell the truth. He did so, but now, lying in his cot at camp,...
(The entire section is 461 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
When Mr. Pendanski wakes everyone up the next morning, Stanley feels like he had only just fallen asleep. For breakfast he gets orange juice and bad-smelling cereal. It is still dark when he begins digging his first hole. The shovel feels heavy in his hands, and at first he thinks there is something wrong with it. He has trouble even cracking through the surface of the hard dirt.
Stanley’s shovel is five feet long from end to end. He is supposed to use it as a measuring tool for his hole, which needs to be five feet deep and five feet across in all directions. The whole lakebed appears to be full of holes. Before Stanley set out in the morning, Mr. Pendanski reminded him to tell a counselor if anything unusual turned up in his hole. He also said Stanley is not supposed to be looking for anything specific; he is just supposed to dig.
By the time Stanley has dug a small amount, he realizes that he is piling dirt within the area his hole is supposed to cover. He measures the ground with his shovel and moves his dirt out of the way. The digging is easier below the top crust of the earth, but by the time Stanley gets down that far, he already has a blister.
While digging, Stanley thinks of his great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats of Latvia. At fifteen, Elya fell in love with a fourteen-year-old girl named Myra Menke. Myra’s father decided Myra should marry Igor Barkov, a pig farmer who was willing to exchange a pig for the girl. Desperate, Elya went to see Madame Zeroni, an old Egyptian woman, who told him Myra was an empty-headed fool. She advised Elya to go to America and make his fortune, but Elya was too lovesick to take her advice.
After some deliberation, Madame Zeroni decided to help Elya. She gave him a runt pig and told him to carry it up the mountain every day and let it drink from a stream where the water ran uphill. While the pig drank, Elya was supposed to sing it a special song. Madame Zeroni promised that by Myra’s fifteenth birthday—the day she was supposed to be married—Elya’s pig would be fatter than Igor Barkov’s pig. Then Myra’s father would accept it as Myra’s dowry.
In exchange for her kindness, Madame Zeroni wanted only one favor. After Elya carried the pig up the mountain the final time, he was supposed to come back and carry Madame Zeroni to the stream and sing her the special song while she drank from it. Madame Zeroni warned Elya that if he failed...
(The entire section is 1193 words.)
Chapters 8-9 Summary
In Chapter 8, the story pauses briefly to describe the yellow-spotted lizard. Some people do not believe yellow-spotted lizards exist, but their bites are deadly whether or not someone believes. Yellow-spotted lizards are yellowish-green, with exactly eleven hard-to-see spots. They have scary faces with red-rimmed eyes, black teeth, and white tongues. They live in groups in big holes that give them protection from the sun. They eat many plant and animal foods—including the shells of sunflower seeds.
Chapter 9 begins as Stanley takes a shower. Today the cold water feels wonderful. He lets it pour over his sore body for the full four minutes he is allowed to let the water run. He does not use soap because he is too tired.
After his shower, Stanley changes his clothes and goes to the rec room, which is called the Wreck Room. Everything there is broken; even the people appear to be broken. Like Stanley, they are all worn out. On his way into the room, Stanley trips over a boy’s leg, and they get into an argument. X-Ray and Armpit warn Stanley not to mess with the boy. “You don’t want to mess with the Caveman,” X-Ray warns. Stanley protests that he is not trying to mess with anyone.
The boys from D tent ask Stanley how he liked digging his first hole. Stanley says the first hole is the hardest. X-Ray disagrees. He says the second hole, tomorrow’s hole, will be hardest because Stanley will already be sore. Also, all the fun of digging is gone. Stanley does not think the first hole was fun, but he does not say so.
When the boys find out Stanley is going to write to his mother, they seem jealous but they leave him alone. Stanley writes a note full of lies about making friends, going swimming, and trying water-skiing at camp. When he is half finished, he notices Zero looking over his shoulder. Stanley explains that he does not want his mother to worry, but Zero just stares at the note looking angry. Worried, Stanley puts his note away.
When Zero speaks, he does not ask about the letter. He wants to know if the shoes Stanley stole had red Xs on the back. Stanley says they did. He does not know how Zero could know this, but he reasons that Clyde Livingston may have done a commercial for that brand of shoes.
Soon the other boys from D tent call Stanley and Zero for dinner. They call Stanley Caveman, and only then does Stanley realize that Caveman is his new nickname....
(The entire section is 456 words.)
Chapters 10-11 Summary
Stanley sleeps well his second night, but by the next morning he is sore all over. He does not delay getting up, though. He knows that soon the sun will rise and burn down on him while he is digging, and he wants to get as much done as possible before that happens.
Today Stanley knows how to crack through the surface of the dirt to start his hole. He also knows to pile his dirt far from the edge of his hole so he will not have to move it later. He realizes that X-Ray was right that the second hole is the hardest. He does not think he can do it, but he has no choice. By now he has learned not to think about how big the task is, just to scoop up one shovelful at a time. He also knows to conserve his water and drink the last drop only when he sees the water truck coming.
Just before the sun rises, Stanley finds a strange rock. He picks it up and sees that it is the fossil of a fish. This surprises him. Even though he knows he is digging in a dry lake bed, he finds it hard to imagine there were ever fish here. Then he remembers he is supposed to show anything interesting he finds to a counselor. If the Warden likes it, Stanley will get the rest of the day off.
Stanley does not show his rock to the other boys because he is afraid they will take it. He tosses it face down next to his dirt pile. Hopeful that he will not have to finish his hole, he digs slowly, watching for the water truck. When Mr. Pendanski comes, Stanley takes the last place in line. When it is his turn to get his canteen filled, he shows Mr. Pendanski the fossil. When Stanley asks for the rest of the day off, Mr. Pendanski laughs and says the Warden is not interested in fossils.
Angry and disappointed, Stanley goes back to digging. When Mr. Pendanski is gone, X-Ray comes and asks Stanley to give him anything else he finds. “I’ve never found anything. You see, my eyesight’s not so good,” X-Ray says. He explains that it would not be fair for Stanley to get a free day after just a few days of digging when X-Ray has never had one in almost a year. Stanley does not want to make X-Ray angry because he is the leader of the group from D tent. Reluctantly, Stanley agrees.
As he goes back to digging, Stanley decides it is good he said yes to X-Ray. It is more important for him to be accepted by the other boys than to get one day off. Everyone respects X-Ray even though he is the second-smallest boy in the group, bigger only...
(The entire section is 556 words.)
Chapters 12-13 Summary
Again, Stanley is the last boy to finish digging his hole. Today he is so tired that he would not turn down a ride back to camp, but nobody offers one. When he arrives at D tent, he finds all the boys sitting in a circle with Mr. Pendanski. Stanley tells the group he finished his second hole, and he tells X-Ray that the second hole really is the hardest. X-Ray shakes his head. “The third hole’s the hardest,” he says.
Mr. Pendanski tells the boys they all need to think about what they want to do when they rejoin society. They have to have goals, he explains, or they will end up back in jail. Mr. Pendanski asks Magnet what he wants to do with his life, but Magnet does not know. Magnet likes animals, so Stanley suggests that Magnet train animals for the movies. Magnet likes the idea, but the other boys laugh and say he will never manage to do that. Mr. Pendanski says it would be hard, but it is possible.
Next Mr. Pendanski zeroes in on Stanley, asking him who is responsible for putting him in prison. Stanley is ready with his answer: “My no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.” The boys all laugh, even Zero, who usually looks blank and angry.
Mr. Pendanski’s response is stern. He says Stanley, and nobody else, is responsible for the fact that he is at Camp Green Lake. He says each boy in the camp has to fix his own life. He encourages them all to think about what they want to do, because each of them is capable of doing something positive. “Even you, Zero. You’re not completely worthless,” he adds. Although Zero says nothing, Stanley notices he is no longer smiling. Zero says all he wants to do with his life is dig holes.
The next morning, Stanley realizes that X-Ray was right; the third hole is hardest. He feels the same way about the next hole, and the next. Soon he loses track of how many holes he has dug. They all seem the same.
Stanley is losing weight and getting strong. His hands toughen up so it no longer hurts to hold the shovel. He realizes that he is either going to get into very good shape or die by the time he is finished with his eighteen-month sentence.
One day, Stanley finds a small gold tube in the dirt. It is engraved with a heart and the initials K.B. It looks familiar to Stanley, but he does not know why. For a while, he looks at it uncertainly, trying to figure out a way not to have to give it to X-Ray. He thinks of taking...
(The entire section is 579 words.)
Chapters 14-15 Summary
All night, Stanley wishes he could have kept the gold tube he found. For once in his life, he had a stroke of luck, but he did not get to benefit from it. At breakfast, he asks X-Ray about the tube, and X-Ray refuses to talk. Stanley feels hurt and bewildered as Mr. Pendanski assigns him a place to begin digging his day’s hole.
When the water truck comes, X-Ray fills his canteen and says nothing about the find. It is not until Mr. Pendanski goes to the next group of boys to fill their canteens that X-Ray calls out to him. Everyone runs to look in X-Ray’s hole. X-Ray shows them the little gold tube in a shovelful of dirt. Mr. Pendanski examines the find and seems excited.
Mr. Pendanski drives back to camp; soon he returns with a tall woman, who turns out to be the Warden. She tells Mr. Pendanski to fill all the boys’ canteens and then take X-Ray back to camp for clean clothes, a double shower, and a day off. Mr. Pendanski protests that he just filled the boys’ canteens, and the Warden gets surly and threatens to make him dig a hole. During the conversation, Stanley is surprised to realize that the Warden knows he is called Caveman.
After X-Ray leaves for his shower, the Warden changes the boys’ jobs for the day. She puts them in pairs in X-Ray’s hole and the two nearest holes. One boy from each pair digs, and the other sifts through the dirt to make sure the first digger did not miss anything. When the holes are finished, she makes the boys take the dirt away in wheelbarrows. The Warden watches them all day and makes sure Mr. Sir fills their canteens whenever they are thirsty.
Stanley does everything the Warden tells him but knows they are digging in the wrong place. Because the boys are paired up, the work is easier than usual even though the Warden makes them dig deeper than five feet.
When they are finished for the day, Stanley asks the others how the Warden knew all their nicknames. The boys tell him the Warden watches them through cameras all the time. Stanley doubts this, but he realizes that it explains why X-Ray refused to speak to him that morning. He also realizes that the inmates at Camp Green Lake are not just digging holes for punishment. They are searching for something.
(The entire section is 412 words.)
Chapters 16-17 Summary
The next day, the Warden watches the boys dig again. Again she makes some of them sift through dirt while the others dig. Stanley keeps thinking about the place where they were digging before, where he found the actual artifact. He also worries about the little tube itself. What could K.B. stand for?
By lunchtime, the Warden is so impatient she threatens to make Mr. Sir dig with the boys if they do not speed up. After that, the boys work much faster, especially when Mr. Sir is watching. They have to keep working long after all the other groups are finished.
That evening back in the Wreck Room, Stanley tries to figure out a way to get the Warden to take the boys from D tent back to the spot where they were digging the day he actually found the tube. He considers going out there by himself at night, but he does not want to dig all night after having to dig all day.
While Stanley is worrying, Mr. Pendanski gives him a letter from his mother. Some of the boys tease him, but X-Ray tells them all to leave Stanley alone. He even guesses that the letter is from Stanley’s girlfriend, just to make it seem cooler. Stanley is pleased.
When the other boys go to dinner, Stanley reads the note. His mother tells him she is proud he is trying to make the best of his situation. She mentions his father’s shoe project, which is making their apartment smell terrible. She jokes that she is sorry for the old lady who lived in the shoe. Stanley laughs at this, then he realizes Zero is hanging around watching him. Zero asks what is funny, and Stanley relates the joke. Zero does not get it, and Stanley realizes Zero has never heard the nursery rhyme about the old lady in the shoe. Zero wants to know how it goes, but Stanley refuses to recite it. He thinks it would feel to strange to say a nursery rhyme at Camp Green Lake.
For two weeks, the boys continue digging in the place where X-Ray supposedly found the gold tube. The Warden gets more and more angry and impatient, forcing them to work harder and longer every day. One day she attacks Armpit with a pitchfork, knocking him down and drawing blood.
Later, when all the boys are working together in one big hole, Zigzag accidentally knocks Stanley in the side of the head with a shovel. Stanley collapses, but Mr. Sir just bandages his head and makes him get back to work. When Stanley gets back into the hole, Zigzag points to the dirt that fell off...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Chapters 18-20 Summary
The next day, Mr. Sir takes the boys to a new part of the lake. They each go back to digging their own holes, five feet wide and five feet deep. Stanley is glad. He likes knowing how much he has to dig every day. It is also less nerve-wracking without the Warden hanging around.
Stanley has to move slowly and gingerly because his head aches from the accident with Zigzag’s shovel. However, the rest of his body is not sore. He is tougher and stronger than he used to be. He is still slower at digging than the other boys, but not by much.
That afternoon, Stanley writes to his mother again. He claims he has been learning to rock climb at camp. He stays in the tent so the other boys cannot tease him, but he keeps working when Zero comes in. When Zero looks at the note, Stanley tells him not to read over his shoulder. “I don’t know how,” Zero says. He asks Stanley to teach him to read and write. Stanley refuses. He does not know how to teach, and he is too tired after digging all day to try.
Sometime later, Stanley wakes up during the night and realizes Squid is crying. He asks Squid if he is okay, but Squid just says he has allergies. Later Squid threatens to beat Stanley up if he brings it up again.
Most of the time, Stanley does not talk. He is glad the other boys accept him, but he does not really feel like one of them. Unlike him, they are all actual criminals. One day during a water break, Magnet steals Mr. Sir’s sunflower seeds. The boys toss the bag around, saying they are grateful to eat something different for a change. When Zigzag tosses the bag to Stanley, he fails to catch it and the seeds spill into his hole. Just then, Mr. Sir returns.
Stanley knows he looks guilty. Cursing his bad luck, he says he stole the sunflower seeds. He knows nothing good will come if he tells on anyone else, so he also claims he ate them without any help from the other boys. The boys tease him and pretend to be mad that Stanley did not share.
Mr. Sir drives Stanley to see the Warden. On the way, Stanley feels relieved to be sitting down on a comfortable seat, not digging, and letting the wind blow on his face. He is surprised that he feels happy about anything.
The Warden brings Stanley into her air-conditioned house, where he confesses again. Mr. Sir tells the Warden he thinks Stanley is covering up for somebody else. The Warden listens to all this and tells Stanley to go...
(The entire section is 624 words.)
Chapters 21-22 Summary
Stanley walks back to his hole. The boys from D tent are farthest away from the Warden’s house today, so it is a long walk. He knows that, once again today, he will be digging long after the other boys are finished. He hopes he finishes before Mr. Sir recovers. After the scene in the Warden’s cabin, Stanley does not want to be alone out on the dry lake bed with Mr. Sir.
As he walks, Stanley thinks about his great-grandfather, the one who was robbed by Kissin’ Kate Barlow and left stranded in the desert. Stanley feels stranded, too, although he is more scared of Mr. Sir than he is of the desert weather.
According to Stanley’s family legend, his great-grandfather survived alone in the desert for seventeen days before some rattlesnake hunters found him. By that time, he was insane. He claimed he had “found refuge on God’s thumb.” Nobody ever knew what that meant, nor did he remember after he recovered in the hospital. He ended up marrying one of the nurses he met there.
Stanley is so absorbed in thinking about his great-grandfather’s story that he nearly steps on a rattlesnake. Its rattle warns him, and he runs away before it strikes.
When Stanley returns to the other boys, he tells them that he did not rat on them and that the Warden got mad at Mr. Sir for bothering her. He does not tell them what the Warden did to Mr. Sir. He turns to his hole and gets his first good surprise of the day: it is nearly finished. Nobody admits to doing the work, but Stanley sees that Zero—who is normally the fastest digger—has the smallest hole.
Stanley knows that Zero did most of his digging, but he doesn’t know why. The other boys suggest that Zero just likes to dig. Stanley finishes his hole first for once, then he heads back to camp to shower and change. When Zero arrives later, Stanley thanks him and asks why he helped with the hole. Zero points out that Stanley did not steal the sunflower seeds. He also says he knows Stanley did not do the crime that got him sent to camp.
Stanley is not as worn out as usual because Zero dug most of his hole. He offers to give Zero a reading lesson, and Zero grins. Stanley is not sure how to teach, so he starts with the alphabet. Zero does not know all of it, so Stanley recites it. He is surprised when Zero is able to say the whole thing back with no mistakes. Stanley explains that each letter has a capital and lower-case form, and Zero...
(The entire section is 609 words.)
Chapters 23-26 Summary
Chapters 23 through 26 take the narrative of Holes back in time one hundred and ten years, when Green Lake was an actual lake. In that distant past, the lakefront town always had a picnic on the Fourth of July. Everyone played games and ate pies and jams made from peaches, which grew all around the town. Every year, a woman named Katherine Barlow got a special award for spiced peaches. Katherine used a secret recipe to make these peach preserves, and everyone loved them.
Katherine was Green Lake’s schoolteacher. The school was rundown, but she was good at her job. She taught children all day, and in the evenings she held classes for adults. Many of her adult students were young men who wanted to date her. Everyone thought she would marry, Trout Walker, who was the son of the richest man in town. However, Trout was rude and loud in Katherine’s evening class; when he asked her out, she refused. Trout was very angry.
Sam, the onion man, always walked through town with his donkey, Mary Lou, selling fresh onions. He bragged that Mary Lou was fifty years old but still spry because she ate nothing but fresh onions. His onion patch was across the lake, but nobody knew exactly where it was. He rowed across the lake once or twice a week. It always took him a whole day to get across and another day to get back.
When people got sick, they always went to Sam, and he advised them to eat lots of onions. He also sold pastes and lotions made of onions, each of which cured a different ailment. The town doctor did not mind this because even though everyone bought Sam’s cures, they also bought the doctor’s medicines.
Like everyone else in town, Katherine Barlow always bought her onions from Sam. One day, when it was getting cloudy, she commented that the school roof leaked when it rained. Sam said he would fix the roof if she would give him some of her spiced peaches. He worked on the roof every day between the children’s classes and the adults’ classes. He was Black, so he was not allowed to attend the school, but he and Katherine Barlow became friends. When he was finished with the roof, she invited him to fix the windows, then her desk, then the door.
By the end of the semester, every broken thing in the school was fixed. This made Katherine Barlow sad. She missed having Sam around, so when she heard him outside selling onions, she ran out to see him. They ended up kissing, and they...
(The entire section is 654 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
Mr. Sir blames Stanley for the incident with the Warden and the rattlesnake-venom nail polish. For several days, whenever Mr. Sir delivers water to the boys, he pours Stanley’s water onto the ground instead of into his canteen. Stanley knows he does not have the power to do anything about this, so he simply thanks Mr. Sir for the water and goes on with his work.
Stanley has been thirsty since he arrived at Camp Green Lake, but now he is thirstier than ever. He conserves his water carefully, drinking it only when Mr. Pendanski is driving the water truck. Fortunately, Mr. Pendanski figures out what is going on. Whenever he comes to fill Stanley’s canteen, he lets Stanley drink a little extra. Even so, Stanley gets less to drink than the other boys do.
Zero digs for Stanley for an hour every day, which helps with the dehydration but makes the other boys resentful. They mock Stanley, saying he thinks he is better than the rest of them. They also say it is wrong that Stanley, who is white, lets Zero, who is black, do work for him. Stanley argues by pointing out that he took the blame for the sunflower seed incident and that he needs to save his energy to teach Zero to read. Neither of these things improves Stanley’s standing in the eyes of the other boys.
The boys’ comments hurt Stanley even though he knows they are wrong. He really does need the extra energy to teach Zero in the evenings. Zero is learning fast, and Stanley is proud of him. He hopes people will notice that Zero is not as stupid as everyone thought.
One afternoon, Mr. Sir fills Stanley’s canteen instead of pouring the water onto the ground. Then he takes the canteen into the cab of the water truck. Stanley waits nervously, unsure what is going on. When Mr. Sir returns, he grins, gives Stanley the canteen, and invites him to take a drink. Stanley is sure that Mr. Sir has put something terrible inside the canteen. For a long time, he resists drinking. When he cannot stand the thirst any more, he dumps the entire contents of the canteen onto the ground.
Pretty soon Zero learns how to write all his letters. Next Stanley teaches him to write Z-e-r-o. Thrilled, Zero writes the name over and over. Then on the way to dinner, Zero says everyone has always called him Zero, but his real name is Hector: Hector Zeroni.
(The entire section is 422 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
Chapter 28 shifts back in time again; now it is twenty years after Sam’s death. Kate Barlow returns to Green Lake. It has not rained a drop since the townspeople killed Sam, and Green Lake is now a ghost town. The peach trees are dead, and the lake is almost dry. The only trees left are two oaks by an old cabin five miles from the edge of the little water that remains. Kate moves into the cabin.
By now Kate is crazy. Sometimes she hears Sam’s voice outside, calling out for people to buy his onions. Kate sits in the cabin and speaks to him. She tells him she knows it is hot, but she feels cold anyway. Sometimes she hears him answer back, saying he could fix her discomfort. When she hears that, she feels better, at least for a little while.
Three months after Kate moves into the cabin, she wakes to the sound of her door being kicked in. She opens her eyes and sees Trout Walker pointing his rifle at her face. He and a red-haired woman ransack the cottage, dumping out all the drawers. She asks where Kate has hidden the loot from her many robberies.
Kate recognizes Trout’s red-haired companion as Linda Miller, who had been one of Kate’s students in Green Lake twenty years before. When Trout tells Kate he and Linda are now married, Kate says she is sorry. Linda admits she married Trout for his money, but the money is now gone.
Trout jabs Kate with the rifle, pressing her again to say where the loot is. He knows she robbed banks all around Texas. Kate tells him she has nothing left. Linda and Trout assume she is lying. They find a shovel and guess she buried her treasure.
Kate says Trout can kill her if he wants:
But I sure hope you like to dig. ’Cause you’re going to be digging for a long time. It’s a big vast wasteland out there. You, and your children, and their children, can dig for the next hundred years and you’ll never find it.
Trout and Linda force Kate outside and make her walk barefoot over the hot earth. They keep it up all day but Kate does not give in. As Trout shouts at Kate, demanding to know where her treasure is buried, a yellow-spotted lizard leaps up. Trout and Linda both try to kill it, but they fail. It bites Kate.
Kate smiles. Now that the lizard has bitten her, she knows she is going to die. “Start digging,” she says, and she laughs.
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Chapters 29-30 Summary
The boys continue digging holes every day. Clouds build, and all the boys hope the rain will reach Camp Green Lake. They imagine it will rain so hard the lake will fill up so they can go for a swim.
When there is lightning, Stanley can see a big mountain in the distance. On top of it is a strange rock that looks like a fist with a huge thumb sticking up. He remembers his great-grandfather’s words about staying alive in the desert: “I found refuge on God’s thumb.” Stanley has always wanted to know what that meant. When he was a little boy, he used to ask his dad about it, but his dad never knew the answer.
One day, Zigzag claims it is July 8, his birthday. Stanley, who has not kept track of days or dates for a long time, is doubtful Zigzag really knows what day it is. The boys do not give Zigzag special treatment, but Mr. Sir gives him an extra carton of juice.
With Zero’s math help, Stanley figures out that he is about to dig his forty-fifth hole. He tells himself the forty-fifth is the hardest, but it is not true. He is stronger now, and his body has adjusted to the conditions. Mr. Sir gives him water normally now, so Stanley feels like he has all the water he needs.
Stanley does not really like sitting around while Zero does some of his work. He keeps telling the boys that he and Zero have a deal, but the boys constantly give Stanley a hard time about being a slave driver who thinks he is better than everyone else. They pretend they all want to dig for Stanley. At lunch, Zigzag starts shoving Stanley. Mr. Pendanski sees and tells Stanley he should hit back. Stanley tries, briefly, but soon Zigzag is on top of him. Zero leaps on Zigzag’s back and tries to choke him. Mr. Pendanski fires his gun into the air.
All the counselors come running, and the Warden comes too. The boys all play down what has just happened, but Zigzag tells the Warden that Zero is digging part of Stanley’s hole every day. The Warden tells Stanley this is not allowed. Stanley explains that he is teaching Zero to read and write and that this is surely more important than digging holes.
The Warden questions Zero, asking what he learned the day before. Zero is slow to answer, but Stanley knows it is just because he does not like answering questions. When the Warden presses him, Zero correctly tells her what c-a-t and f-a-t spell. However, he gets h-a-t wrong, saying it spells chat...
(The entire section is 693 words.)
Chapters 31-22 Summary
The other boys leave Stanley to finish Zero’s hole alone. Nobody offers to help. Stanley digs and feels angry at them, at the counselors, at his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather,” and at himself. He knows he should have helped Zero learn to read because it was right, not because Zero gave him a rest from digging every day. He knows he should try to help Zero now. Nobody will stop Stanley if he runs away, but he is scared. He does not know what to do about water—unless he can somehow get to the rock formation he thinks of as the Big Thumb.
Stanley considers many ways to help Zero. He thinks of going to the Warden and telling her where he really found the lipstick tube on the condition that she will not hurt Zero. But Stanley knows he will not be able to prevent her from torturing his information out of him, and she might hurt X-Ray, too, for lying about the lipstick tube.
Zero is not back by morning, and nobody talks about him. Stanley only has to dig one hole. He keeps looking for Zero, but he knows it may already be too late. He hopes Zero has found the Big Thumb on his own, if it is indeed the place Stanley thinks it is—where his great-grandfather once found water.
When Stanley is finished with his hole, he finds the counselors and the Warden waiting for him at the camp. They ask Stanley if he has seen Zero, but Stanley says no. Mr. Pendanski says that Zero is a ward of the state and that nobody cares about him. Together, right in front of Stanley, all the counselors agree to destroy Zero’s files and pretend he never came to Camp Green Lake.
Two days later, a kid arrives to take Zero’s bunk. The boys name the newcomer Twitch because he fidgets all the time. Twitch is a car thief.
At night, Stanley lies in his bunk and imagines that Zero is still alive. He imagines Zero crawling through the desert, desperate for water. The next morning when the water truck arrives, Stanley takes the second to last place in line, ahead of Twitch. Stanley knows he cannot find Zero on two feet. He needs a car—and there could be no better choice right now than a car with a huge water tank on its back.
Before his turn comes to fill his canteen, Stanley sneaks around to look into the cab of the water truck. The keys are still in the ignition. He does not know how to drive, but he decides to try. He climbs into the driver’s seat and hits the gas. The car...
(The entire section is 543 words.)
Chapters 33-34 Summary
Stanley runs for a while, then he slows down. He knows nobody is coming after him. He is sure the truck will not be usable for a while. His mind races, but eventually the walking calms him down.
Stanley walks toward the Big Thumb, but he knows he cannot reach it without any water. He will have to return to the camp but decides not to do that right away. He thinks he might as well look for Zero until he is too tired and thirsty to walk anymore. That will give everyone time to calm down. Then Stanley can go back and try to make a deal with the Warden, using the location of the hole where he found the lipstick tube as his bargaining chip.
Stanley keeps finding holes long after he is out of sight of the camp. Nearer to camp, they are in a regular order, but out here they seem more random. As Stanley walks, he looks into each hole. He refuses to admit to himself that he is looking for Zero’s dead body. In one hole, he sees a family of yellow-spotted lizards. Terrified, he runs away.
When Stanley stops running again, he sees something on the ground and walks toward it. It is an old sunflower seed bag. There is only one seed at the bottom. Stanley eats it for lunch.
Stanley carries the empty sunflower seed bag with him because he thinks he might find something to put in it. He walks on through the hottest part of the day, feeling hotter and thirstier as time passes. He wonders if he is going too far, if he’ll be able to make it back. At one point, he sees a pool of water not far away and rushes toward it. The pool keeps its distance. He realizes it is just a mirage and stops chasing it.
Stanley keeps heading toward the Big Thumb for some time, but eventually he sees an object on the surface of the lake. Stanley cannot tell what the object is, but he thinks he can walk to it and still get back to camp without collapsing. As he heads toward it, he realizes it is a boat lying upside down in the dirt. At first Stanley thinks it is funny to find a boat in such a barren place, and then a grim thought occurs to him: somebody probably drowned in this boat long ago. When he gets to the boat, he looks around, reads its name—Mary Lou—and finds a little tunnel that leads beneath it.
Stanley assumes the tunnel belongs to an animal, so when he hears something coming out, he shouts, hoping to scare the animal back inside. To his surprise, the “animal” shouts back. It is Zero.
(The entire section is 466 words.)
Chapters 35-36 Summary
Zero looks like a rotting jack-o’-lantern. He is so dehydrated that when he talks, his tongue looks like it is wriggling uselessly in his mouth. Stanley explains that he has no water, that he tried bringing the water truck but failed. He says it is time to return to camp, but Zero refuses to go.
Zero takes Stanley under the boat and offers him some sploosh, which turns out to be a jar of brown-colored liquid. Zero explains that he found sixteen jars of the strange stuff when he arrived at the boat. They are why he is still alive.
Zero knocks the top off of a jar with his shovel, which he took with him when he ran away from camp. Although Stanley is frightened of the broken glass and the hundred-year-old contents of the jar, he is unable to resist the liquid. He drinks. The sploosh tastes wonderful, sweet and spicy and fruity. Stanley thinks it might once have been canned peaches. The boys pass the jar back and forth until it is empty. Only then does Zero tell Stanley there are none left.
Soon after the boys eat the sploosh, Zero collapses to the ground, moaning. Again Stanley tries to insist on taking Zero back, and again Zero refuses. After a while Stanley gives in, and the boys set out toward the Big Thumb on the thin hope that Stanley’s great-grandfather really did find refuge there once long ago. They take Stanley’s burlap sack, four unbroken jars that used to contain sploosh, and Zero’s shovel. Before they set out, Stanley warns Zero about the unlikeliness of their finding shelter on the Big Thumb. Zero points out that he has nothing to lose.
The boys walk for hours. Zero periodically collapses to the ground in agony. Stanley can do nothing to help, and he knows that Zero is probably ill from the sploosh. The same bacteria are probably going to make Stanley sick, too. When Zero’s attacks are over, he gets to his feet and uses his shovel as a crutch to keep walking. For a while, Stanley spells out short words for Zero to sound out. It gives them something to think about besides the likelihood that they will die before they reach the Big Thumb.
At the far edge of the lake bed, the boys find huge white cliffs that rise about fifty feet above where they are standing. Stanley picks a likely spot and starts to climb. Zero follows, his body trembling all over. Two-thirds of the way up, Stanley stops on a big ledge, unable to see a way to go higher. Zero convinces Stanley to boost...
(The entire section is 530 words.)
Chapters 37-38 Summary
As soon as Stanley realizes he and Zero may really make it to the Big Thumb, he begins to doubt that they will find water there, but he does not give up. He sets out uphill with Zero beside him. Soon the boys leave the barren lake behind. They walk past thorny weeds and begin to be tormented by bugs.
Stanley desperately wants a rest, but he is scared that he and Zero will not be able to start again if they stop. He resolves to keep going as long as Zero keeps going. To pass the time, he restarts the game of spelling words for Zero to sound out.
Suddenly, Zero vomits up all the sploosh he drank back at the boat. When he is finished, he gets up and tries to keep walking. Stanley encourages him, pointing out that there must be water nearby if there are plants and bugs. For a moment, Zero is thrilled—but then he passes out. Stanley cannot wake him up.
Stanley puts the shovel, the burlap sack, and the jars on the ground. He picks Zero up and keeps walking. He is not sure where he is getting the strength to go on, and he imagines that the Big Thumb is pulling him forward. He keeps climbing until the ground flattens out. Ahead of him, he sees a huge stone, and he loses hope. There is no way he can climb the stone, and even if he could, he does not see how could there be water at the top.
Unsure what else to do, Stanley keeps trying to get to the thumb. He continues until his strength fails and he collapses into the mud. Just as he is about to give up and let himself lose consciousness, he realizes something important:
You need water to make mud!
By now it is dark, and Stanley crawls forward through the mud. When he gets to ground that is very wet, he digs, and muddy water pools at the bottom of his hole. He drinks some, then he takes some to Zero and dribbles it into his mouth. Although Zero is unconscious, his tongue reaches out and licks up the water from his face. Stanley drags Zero closer to his well hole and sets about widening it. From time to time he pauses to scoop out water and feed it to his friend.
As he is digging, Stanley finds something smooth and round. It is far too dark so see, so it takes him a moment to realize it is an onion. He does not even bother to peel it; he just bites in. After he eats half, he gives the other half to Zero. By now Zero is awake enough to ask what it is. “A hot fudge sundae,”...
(The entire section is 468 words.)
Chapters 39-40 Summary
Stanley wakes up in a meadow beneath the giant tower of rock. He has very little strength, and his whole body hurts. His mouth is coated with sand from the dirty water he has been drinking. The hole he dug the night before has just a couple of inches of dark brown water at the bottom. He tries to rinse his mouth out with it.
Fighting against his weakness, Stanley forces himself to get up and explore the meadow. He walks the last few yards to the rock tower and touches it. He thinks about going to find the shovel and the jars so he can enlarge the little well he has dug.
Zero wakes up moaning, drinks some water, and lies on the ground shaking. Stanley encourages him to rest, but Zero wants to talk. He confesses that he took Clyde Livingston’s shoes—the ones Stanley was accused of stealing. Stanley thinks Zero must be delirious. When Zero falls asleep, Stanley sings a sad song his father used to sing:
“If only, if only,” the woodpecker sighs,
“The bark on the tree was just a little bit softer.”
While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely
He cries to the mo-oo-oon
“If only, if only.”
After a while, Stanley remembers the onion he found during the night when he and Zero arrived at the water. He reasons that there may be more wild onions in this field.
At this point, the narrative shifts briefly back to the story of Sam, the onion seller, in the old town of Green Lake more than a hundred years ago. One day as Sam walked down the street of Green Lake, a woman named Mrs. Tennyson came running after him in her nightgown. Mrs. Tennyson thanked Sam for his onion tonic. Her daughter had had a bad fever, and Sam’s tonic had saved her daughter’s life.
In the meadow by the Big Thumb, Stanley and Zero spend a great deal of time sleeping, eating wild onions, and drinking water out of Stanley’s well hole. Zero is very sick, but he seems to be healing. After a while, Stanley feels sure that Zero will survive. However, after two days it is clear the water in the well is getting sandier, and Stanley really needs to go find the shovel.
Stanley walks down the hill, following the trail he and Zero came up. He has trouble a few times, but he always manages to find it again. Stanley walks until he is tired, then he sits down to rest. He notices a lump in the grass and goes to investigate; he realizes it...
(The entire section is 480 words.)
Chapters 41-42 Summary
Over the next day or two, Stanley and Zero continue resting and eating onions. Stanley makes the water hole very big, almost as big as the holes he used to dig back at Camp Green Lake. Zero’s health is improving; Stanley, to his surprise, does not get sick.
Zero tells Stanley about the homeless shelter. He explains that he only went there when the weather was very bad and only if he could find a woman to pretend to be his mother so the people at the shelter would not bother him about being alone. Ever since Zero was little, when he was with his real mother, the two of them had stolen whatever they needed. So one day at the shelter, Zero took Clyde Livingston’s shoes. He did not know they were special because he could not read the sign, and he figured it was better to steal old shoes than new ones. Afterward, everyone at the shelter was upset. They looked for the shoes but did not notice they were on Zero’s feet. Zero did not know what to do, so he walked out and put them on a parked car. The next day he got arrested for stealing a pair of new shoes from a store.
By the end of a week at the Big Thumb, Zero is strong enough to help dig the water hole bigger. He lines the bottom with rocks to help filter the water, then he throws down the shovel and says he will never make another hole.
Stanley assumes that Zero is wrong, that they will both have to dig many more holes. He knows they cannot live on onions forever, and that is all they have to eat as long as they stay where they are. Eventually they will have to go back to Camp Green Lake. They do not talk about this. Instead, they discuss how many onions they have eaten and how badly they must stink.
A couple of nights later, Stanley lies awake feeling happy for the first time in years. He imagines what it would be like if he and Zero filled their jars and canteen with water, took as many onions as they could carry, and snuck down to Camp Green Lake. Nobody would be looking for them anymore, so they could slip into the camp at night to steal water and food. They might get away, but they would have to live the rest of their lives as fugitives.
At first Stanley does not take the idea of running away seriously, but the more he thinks about it, the more it seems plausible. It occurs to him that if he and Zero are going to be fugitives, they should have money. They can get money if they find Kissin’ Kate Barlow’s treasure. He still...
(The entire section is 502 words.)
Chapters 43 Summary
The next morning, Stanley and Zero pick onions and fill their jars with water. By the time they are prepared for their trip, it is late enough in the day that they do not want to start. They decide to wait until the next morning. While they wait, Zero tries to remember his childhood so he can tell Stanley about it. He describes his mother singing a song—much like the song Stanley sang about the woodpecker and the wolf—in a yellow room when he was still very young. He also remembers being homeless.
Stanley thinks about his own family and wonders whether they know he has run away from camp. He hopes they do not think he is dead. He worries about them because his mother said they might get evicted from their apartment. The smell of burning sneakers has been bothering the neighbors.
In the morning, the boys set out to walk to Camp Green Lake. They plan to get there just before dark and find the hole where Stanley uncovered the lipstick tube. They will spend the night digging and, if it is safe, steal some water and food from the camp. Whether or not they find the treasure, they will move on in the morning and run away.
The boys work their way down the mountain. Halfway down, Stanley falls, losing some of the onions. However, he is lucky and does not break any of the water jars. The boys get to the lake bed and climb into it. As they walk, they start a competition to see who can go the longest without drinking any water. Eventually they decide to drink together. When they do, each boy insists he is not thirsty but that he wants the other to drink.
They reach the boat before noon, and they stop for a lunch of onions. Zero goes back to talking about his mother, explaining that he is not sure what happened to her. He says his mother sometimes went off to do things without him. She would make him wait for her, and eventually she would come back. But one day she left him in Laney Park and never returned. Zero says he waited in the park for a whole month until he was driven away during a child’s birthday party.
Zero is so absorbed in his memories that he does not notice at first when they go the wrong direction. He draws a diagram to explain where they are to Stanley, but Stanley does not really understand. However, Zero seems sure, so Stanley agrees to follow him.
In the afternoon, a cloud covers the sun. This is unusual, and it makes Stanley think that luck is with them. Sure...
(The entire section is 584 words.)
Chapters 44-45 Summary
Sitting in his hole, Stanley listens to the sounds of Camp Green Lake until he falls asleep. After several hours, he hears Zero calling for him to wake up. They climb up and find the hole where Stanley thinks he found the lipstick tube. Stanley digs, hoping to find a treasure, while Zero goes to steal water and food.
After a while, Zero returns and gives Stanley some sugary breakfast cereal. After eating nothing but onions for so long, Stanley has trouble adjusting to the starchy sweetness, but he manages to eat a little. Zero digs for a while and then goes to get more water while Stanley resumes shoveling.
Stanley reasons that Kate Barlow could not have dug terribly deep, so he works on widening the hole rather than digging downward. He worries that he may miss the treasure in the dark, but soon he finds a smooth object, like a box. It is buried beneath a great deal of dirt, and he has found it by digging sideways into the wall of the hole. He does not have time to dig down to it, so he digs underneath instead. When he gets it out, a small avalanche of dirt falls on top, but Stanley is able to get it anyway. It turns out to be a suitcase.
As soon as the boys get the suitcase out of the hole, a light comes on, and they hear the Warden’s voice. She is there with Mr. Sir and Mr. Pendanski. She thanks the boys and says they have been a great help.
The Warden starts to tell the boys that they came just in time, but she stops halfway through her sentence. Stanley looks into the beam of her flashlight and sees a yellow-spotted lizard climbing on top of the suitcase, which Zero is holding. Zero freezes, and another lizard joins the first one. Stanley realizes he has been digging in a lizard nest. Looking down at himself, he sees lizards crawling all over his body. He freezes, too.
The Warden tells the counselors to wait because it will not be long before the boys are dead. “At least we’ll have a body to give that woman,” Mr. Pendanski says. They say “that woman” will ask questions about the deaths, but the Warden says the suitcase is all that matters. She has been looking for this treasure her whole life. When she was a child, her parents made her dig holes “even on Christmas.”
Stanley does not know who is going to ask the Warden questions, and for now he does not care. He listens to his heart beat, concentrating on the fact that he is still alive.
(The entire section is 450 words.)
Chapters 46-47 Summary
For some reason, the lizards do not bite Stanley and Zero. They crawl everywhere—over Stanley’s closed mouth, in and out of his pocket, through his hair—but they do not bite. One leaps toward Mr. Pendanski, and Mr. Sir shoots it in the air.
While she waits for the lizards to kill the boys, the Warden makes up a plan and tells it to the counselors. When Stanley is dead, they will turn his body over to “that woman” and tell her that he tried to run away in the night. They will claim that Stanley went crazy and that is why he tried to run even though he was going to be released the following day. They will not show Zero’s body to anyone because nobody knows Zero exists. When this is decided, the Warden turns to Zero. “Why aren’t you dead yet?” she asks.
Stanley remains perfectly still, not really listening, trying to think of his mother. He thinks of a happy memory of laughing with his mother in the snow. He wants this, not the Warden and Camp Green Lake, to be in his mind when he dies. He concentrates so hard that he barely hears Mr. Sir say that a lawyer has proved Stanley innocent. A while later, he wonders what Mr. Sir could have meant. Stanley knows his family cannot afford a lawyer.
It is almost 4:30 a.m., and the campers are about to wake up. The Warden sends the counselors to tell the boys not to talk to anyone. She says none of the campers will ever have to dig holes again, but anyone who talks will be severely punished.
Stanley and Zero stay frozen through the sunrise, with the lizards still crawling on them. The Warden claims that the lizards are not hungry and tries to convince Mr. Sir to take the suitcase from Zero. Mr. Sir refuses. Later, a tarantula walks past, and one of Stanley’s lizards leaps down to kill and eat it: the lizards are definitely hungry.
As the sun gets higher, the lizards work their way down Stanley’s body, staying in the shade. He sees that Zero’s lizards are also moving toward shade, hiding underneath the suitcase. Stanley whispers to find out how Zero is doing. “Is your last name your first name backward?” Zero asks. Stanley is surprised. He wonders whether Zero spent the whole night figuring that out.
Cars approach, and soon a tall man and a short woman walk out toward Stanley and the counselors. The tall man is the Texas Attorney General. The woman, who speaks with a slight Spanish accent, says she is Stanley’s...
(The entire section is 669 words.)
Chapters 48-49 Summary
Stanley walks back to camp in a daze. He cannot really understand anything that is going on. He learns the lawyer’s name, Ms. Morengo, and he thinks she seems tall even though she is shorter than he is. Mr. Pedanski gives him some juice and a bagel. Stanley drinks but cannot eat.
The Warden invents yet another story, saying the suitcase belongs to Stanley but its contents were stolen from her cabin. She demands that Stanley open the suitcase. Ms. Morengo says not to. As the two women argue, Stanley does nothing at all. Eventually the Attorney General says Stanley and Ms. Morengo can go, but Stanley says he cannot leave Zero; he calls him by his real name, Hector, for the adults’ benefit. “They’ll kill him,” Stanley says.
The adults try to convince Stanley that Zero is safe, but Stanley does not give in. The Attorney General orders the Warden to show Ms. Morengo Hector Zeroni’s file. The Warden sends Mr. Pedanski to get it, but of course he cannot find it because it has been destroyed. Nobody admits this, however; they just say the file is lost.
While the adults argue over this, the boys from D tent come to see Stanley. Only X-Ray hangs back. Zigzag apologizes, and Armpit tells Stanley to be careful out in the real world. Stanley promises to call Squid’s mother to convey his apologies.
The Attorney General makes a few phone calls, but he cannot find any information on Zero. When Ms. Morengo realizes nobody can say why Zero is in prison or how long he has been sentenced to stay, she demands that he be released. Nobody has the power to stop her from taking him, so both boys get to leave Camp Green Lake.
The story skips briefly back to Sam, the onion man, in old Green Lake. Sam talks with two men who are going out into the desert to hunt rattlesnakes. The men say they are not afraid of snakes, but they are scared of yellow-spotted lizards. Sam sells them bottles of onion juice and advises them to drink the juice the night before they leave and while they are out. He explains that lizards will not bite anyone who smells like onions.
As Ms. Morengo drives Stanley and Zero away from Camp Green Lake, she explains that she is a patent lawyer hired by Stanley’s father. Stanley’s father has invented a substance that eliminates foot odor. She lets Stanley and Zero smell it and says she wishes she had more because the boys smell terrible.
Ms. Morengo tells...
(The entire section is 541 words.)
Chapters 50 Summary
There is no way of knowing whether there really was a curse on the men of Stanley Yelnats’s family. Stanley’s mother does not think there was. However, Stanley’s father invented his cure for foot odor on the same day the great-great-grandson of Elya Yelnats carried the great-great-great-grandson of Madame Zeroni up the mountain.
Stanley and Hector get to keep the suitcase they uncovered at Camp Green Lake. It contains some jewels that are not of high quality as well as a bunch of financial papers. The papers turn out to be worth a good deal, and Stanley and Zero each get almost a million dollars. Stanley buys his family a house with a big laboratory in the basement where his father can work. Zero hires a private investigator to find his mother.
After Stanley and Zero get settled, Stanley’s family throws a party. It is an adult party, except for Stanley and Zero, and they serve food like caviar and champagne. The Super Bowl is on TV, but nobody watches until a commercial comes on.
In the commercial, Clyde Livingston slides into home plate, then he tells the camera all about a miraculous product, Sploosh, which cured his foot odor. He explains that he sprays Sploosh on his feet every morning, and it makes his feet smell great. “Sploosh,” says a voice, “A treat for your feet.”
When the commercial is over, everyone in the room claps—including the real Clyde Livingston, who is sitting on the sofa. His wife, who is sitting next to him, goes on and on about how the commercial is all true, especially the part about how Clyde’s feet used to stink. She insists that it used to be terrible to “be in the same room with his socks.” Clyde demands that Stanley put his hand over this woman’s mouth. Embarrassed, Stanley averts his eyes.
He looks at Zero, who is sitting on the floor with his mother, a woman who looks mentally and physically worn out. She sings Zero a song she learned from her mother, a song very like the one Stanley learned from his father. It is probably another translation of the magical song Madame Zeroni taught to Stanley’s “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather,” back in Latvia long ago:
If only, if only, the moon speaks no reply...
Reflecting the sun and all that’s gone by.
Be strong my weary wolf, turn around boldly.
Fly high, my baby bird,
My angel, my only.
(The entire section is 415 words.)