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 Stanley’s shovel when he collapsed; he calls it Stanley’s dirt. Zigzag makes Stanley scoop that dirt out of the hole before continuing to dig.