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.