We're headed to camp! Actually, scratch that exclamation point: Holes begins with a description of Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility in Texas. Basically, it's a place for kids who have committed crimes. Stanley Yelnats, overweight, lonely, and poor, has been arrested for a crime he didn't commit, and he's on a bus headed for Camp Green Lake.
Stanley's arrest is just the latest in a string of bad fortunes for the Yelnats family. Turns out that several generations back, the Yelnatses were cursed by a one-legged gypsy. And over the course of the book, we get a glimpse into some different time periods: the story of Stanley Yelnats and his unlikely friendship with another camper named Zero; the story of Stanley's great-great-grandpa who was cursed by Madame Zeroni; and the story of Miss Katherine's transformation to Kissin' Kate Barlow after a failed love affair with an onion man.
In the end, all of these stories come together, and – spoiler alert – Stanley Yelnats comes out on top and the underdog prevails. Booya.
- It all starts with Part 1 (naturally), which is called "You Are Entering Camp Green Lake." So we guess we're entering Camp Green Lake.
- First we get a description of said camp: it's a "dry, flat wasteland" in Texas. Sounds… not awesome.
- We don't yet know what kind of camp Green Lake is, but there is a Warden, who "owns the shade." The campers are forbidden to lie in the Warden's hammock. Boo!
- We get a little more 4-1-1 on the camp: it's horribly dry and hot, and has a variety of dangerous animals: rattlesnakes, scorpions, and something called a "yellow-spotted lizard." A bite from this crazy-sounding lizard is a guarantee of "a slow and painful death." This place sounds like a great vacation spot, eh?
- Now we get the real story: turns out Camp Green Lake is "a camp for bad boys."
- In fact, the boys at the camp have to dig a hole every day, in the hopes that it will make them good boys. Hmm.
- Stanley Yelnats, for one, chose to go to Camp Green Lake. After all, the alternative was going to jail; plus, he's poor and has never been to camp before. Sounds like a good choice, then.
- Stanley is on a bus to Camp Green Lake. He is the only passenger, and he is handcuffed to his seat. There's also an armed guard on the bus. So far, so yikes.
- The bus ride is hot and unpleasant. All Stanley has with him are a few possessions, including some stationery he brought so he can write to his mom. This is one sweet guy.
- When Stanley was younger, he used to play a game with stuffed animals, a marble, and some broken rubber bands, pretending that his stuffed animals were going to camp and having lots of fun. Talk about making something from nothing.
- Two more facts about Stanley: he's overweight and has no friends. Oh, and he's on the bus because he was arrested for a crime he didn't commit. So that's not awesome.
- There is a joke in Stanley's family that when things go wrong, it's because of Stanley's "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather" (3.10). According to family legend, Stanley's great-great-grandfather was cursed by a one-legged gypsy for stealing her pig, and the curse is still in place. Best family story ever.
- Stanley remembers a lullaby his father used to sing to him. His father is an inventor who works hard but has never had a successful invention.
- Stanley's dad's name is also Stanley: for generations, the Yelnats sons (who have all been only children) have been named Stanley. They seem to like the fact that the name Stanley Yelnats is spelled the same forward and backwards. (The fancy term for a word or name like this is a "palindrome." There are tons of pretty fun examples.)
- All of these Stanley Yelnatses (kind of a mouthful, we know) have been unlucky, poor and –amazingly – hopeful.
- The first Stanley Yelnats (our Stanley's great-grandfather) was rich, but he lost all his money when his stagecoach was robbed by a famous outlaw called Kissin' Kate Barlow.
- Kissin' Kate Barlow didn't actually kiss Stanley's great-grandfather; apparently she only kissed the men she was planning to kill. Well, then.
- The apartment in which Stanley's family lives smells super nasty – like feet! – because Stanley's father is trying to invent a way to recycle old sneakers. It turns out it was this project that somehow led to Stanley's being arrested. This should be good.
- Finally, the bus arrives at Camp Green Lake.
- Stanley gets off the bus at Camp Green Lake. He's thirsty and hot, and the camp is a barren wasteland, with only some old buildings, tents, and a couple of trees. Ick.
- The guard takes Stanley into an air-conditioned building, where there is a man with his feet up on a desk drinking soda and eating sunflower seeds out of a burlap sack. Now that's an image. The man, who wears a cowboy hat and has a rattlesnake tattoo, says his name is Mr. Sir. He also says he's been eating sunflower seeds since he quit smoking.
- "You're not in the Girl Scouts anymore," Mr. Sir tells Stanley (4.19).
- Stanley is given two (identical) sets of clothes, one for work and one for rest. Each set of clothes consists of a bright orange jumpsuit, a shirt, and a cap. He's also given white sneakers and an empty plastic canteen. This sure doesn't sound like the camp Shmoop went to as a kid.
- Laundry, Mr. Sir tells him, will be done every three days, at which point Stanley will get a new set of rest clothes, and his old rest clothes will become his work clothes.
- Um, ew.
- Mr. Sir also tells him that he will be expected to dig a five-foot deep, five-foot wide hole every day, and that breakfast is at 4:30 in the morning: they start early so they can be finished digging before the sun gets too high.
- Next, Mr. Sir takes Stanley back outside and tells him to look around. He points out that there is no fence, no guard tower – nothing to keep Stanley from running away. Oh, but there's also no water for a hundred miles.
- So yeah, if Stanley tries to run away, he'll be "buzzard food in three days" (4.43). Our not-so-lovable Sir tells Stanley to get used to being thirsty: he's going to feel that way for the next eighteen months.
- There are six tents at Camp Green Lake (yep, that's right, tents): the campers sleep in tents A through E, and the counselors sleep in tent F. Our buddy Stanley is assigned to tent D, and his counselor is Mr. Pendanski.
- Mr. Pendanski tells Stanley that Mr. Sir isn't as scary as he seems. The one he needs to worry about is the Warden.
- Mr. P seems pretty supportive: he knows that Stanley has made mistakes, but he's going to help him turn his life around.
- Then two more boys arrive. Mr. Pendanski introduces them to Stanley as Alan and Rex, but they say they are actually called Squid and X-Ray. Right.
- Inside D Tent, there are seven cots. Stanley will be sleeping on the cot formerly used by Lewis (known as Barf Bag – naturally).
- Four more boys arrive. And guess what? More name games. Mr. Pendanski introduces the first three as Jose, Theodore, and Ricky, but they call themselves Magnet, Armpit, and Zigzag.
- The last boy is called Zero by both Mr. Pendanski and by the other boys. Mr. P teases the boy, saying his name is Zero because "there's nothing inside his head" (5.33). No response. Hmmm, maybe that's a sore spot?
- One of the boys jokes that Mr. Pendanski's nickname is "Mom." Fine by Mr. P, who then leaves, telling the boys to make Stanley feel welcome.
- They all get ready to go take their showers, but Stanley, who is still really thirsty, asks Theodore where he can go to fill his canteen. Oops. Theodore throws Stanley to the ground and tells him not to call him Theodore: his name is Armpit. Duh.
- The rest of the night isn't super for Stanley: he takes a cold shower (and each boy is only allowed to use the water for four minutes anyway), and he eats a tasteless and unidentifiable dinner.
- One of the other campers asks Stanley what brought him to Camp Green Lake. He says he stole a pair of sneakers that belonged to Clyde Livingston. Yeah, right: nobody believes him.
- Later, as he lies on his cot in D Tent, Stanley thinks about his path to Camp Green Lake.
- It turns out Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston is a famous baseball player. Stanley even had a poster of Livingston hanging in his room at home, although the poster was taken by the police as evidence when Stanley was arrested.
- Clyde Livingston himself came to Stanley's trial, and Stanley was super excited that he was going to get to meet his hero. But… Livingston was not so excited to meet Stanley.
- The ball player testified that he had donated his sneakers to raise money for a homeless shelter, and "he couldn't imagine what kind of horrible person would steal from homeless children" (6.18).
- Still lying in his cot, Stanley also thinks about Derrick Dunne, a bully who used to pick on him in school. Derrick was much smaller than Stanley, so his teachers found it funny that a little kid could pick on a bigger kid, and no one did anything to help Stanley. Not cool.
- The day Stanley was arrested was actually a Derrick-filled day: the bully had taken Stanley's notebook and dropped it in a toilet, and Stanley had to fish it out. Gross. And what's worse, it made him miss the bus, which meant he had to walk home.
- While he was walking home, the sneakers fell from the sky (well, from a freeway overpass) and hit him on the head. Seriously.
- Stanley didn't know the shoes belonged to Clyde Livingston, but he could tell there was something special about them. It was as if they were a sign from God, and they would be the key to his father's recycling project. (They smelled pretty nasty, after all.)
- So Stanley was running home when a police car pulled up beside him. Turns out the shoes had been stolen from a homeless shelter nearby, where they were going to be auctioned off at an expensive charity dinner that night. Clyde Livingston – who had once lived at the shelter – was going to be at the dinner signing autographs, and his donated shoes were expected to raise a lot of money for the homeless.
- Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Stanley's parents couldn't afford a lawyer, but his mother told him to just tell the truth. So he did. But no one believed him.
- And so the judge gave Stanley the choice of going to jail or going to Camp Green Lake. And here we are.
- Stanley is digging a hole the next morning while it's still dark.
- After breakfast that morning, the boys had each filled their canteens and fetched a shovel from a shed near the showers. Then each group of boys was sent to dig in a different area.
- The camp is full of holes that have been dug in the past: just picture it! Kind of creepy, right?
- If the boys find anything interesting or unusual while digging, they're supposed to tell Mr. P or Mr. Sir. And if the Warden likes what they find, they'll get the rest of the day off with no more digging. Weird system, but hey, no one's complaining about a day off.
- Stanley continues to dig, struggling in the heat.
- Get ready to shift gears. Suddenly we're in the past, hanging out with Stanley's great-great-grandfather. His name is Elya Yelnats, and when we meet him he is fifteen years old and living in Latvia (a small country in northeastern Europe).
- Bonus, this is a love story! Stanley's great-great-grandpa is in love with the local beauty, Myra Menke. He wants to marry her, but she's also being courted by Igor Barkov, a fifty-seven-year-old pig farmer.
- Turns out this is some tough competition: the pig farmer offers Myra's father his fattest pig in exchange for Myra. Top that, Elya.
- Elya goes to see his friend Madame Zeroni – an old woman with only one foot – to ask her for advice. She tells Elya that he shouldn't marry Myra anyway: she's got nothing going for her other than her beauty.
- But Elya doesn't get it. As the narrator tells us, "[h]e was fifteen, and all he could see was Myra's shallow beauty" (7.40).
- So Madame Zeroni agrees to help mini-great-great-grandpa. She gives him a little baby pig, the runt of the litter, and tells him that if he carries the pig up a nearby mountain every day and lets it drink from the stream at the top, by Myra's birthday – the big decision day – the pig will be big and strong. Oh, and one more thing: Elya has to sing a special song to the pig while he's carrying it. Weird, we know, but she's a wise old lady, so just go with it.
- Speaking of going with it, there's more: on the last day, after he gives the pig to Myra's father, he has to carry Madame Zeroni (yep, the old lady herself!) up the mountain and sing the song to her, too. If he doesn't do it, she tells him, things will be bad. Very bad. In fact, "he and his descendants would be doomed for all of eternity" (7.59).
- Now we're back in the present with Stanley, who is still digging his hole. His progress is super slow, he's finished the last of his water, and he has blisters on his hands. Not great.
- Mr. Sir drives up in the water truck, refills the boys' canteens, and tells Stanley he'd better learn to dig faster. The guy is still eating sunflower seeds, and he spits some shells into Stanley's half-dug hole. Not the best motivator, it seems.
- Get ready: through the magic of narrative, we jump back again to the story of Elya in Latvia.
- Elya has been carrying the pig up the mountain every day, singing to it, doing exactly as he was told. In the meantime, he's been growing bigger and stronger from all that hog-hauling.
- On Myra's birthday, Elya gets a little over-eager: he skips the climb up the mountain and just takes the pig straight to Myra's father. When Myra's father weighs the pig, he finds that it weighs exactly the same as Igor Barkov's pig. What are the chances?
- (Back in the present, Stanley is still digging. He is thoroughly miserable, and even his blisters have blisters. Ouch.)
- Since both pigs weigh the same, Elya suggests that Myra decide which suitor to marry. Seems fair enough.
- Just one problem: Myra doesn't even remember who Elya is (talk about heartbreak!), can't decide which one to marry, and doesn't even seem to care. So Elya walks away in disgust – he doesn't want to marry a girl like that anyway.
- (Back at Camp Green Lake, Mr. Pendanski has brought the boys lunches and fresh water. Stanley is still way behind the other boys in his digging. It is his first day, after all.)
- Now back in Latvia (anyone getting dizzy?), Elya wanders around in despair, finally seeing the truth of what Madame Zeroni had told him about Myra at the very start of this whole ordeal.
- He decides right then and there to go to America as a deck hand on a ship. And of course he gets hired right away because of his new buff, post-pig-carting body. Only after the ship sails does he remember that he had promised to carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain so she could drink from the stream at the top. Uh oh. This can't end well.
- (Back at Camp Green Lake, Stanley is – you guessed it – still digging. Although he's the smallest kid in the group, Zero finishes his hole first. One by one, each of the other boys finishes and goes back to the tent to shower and rest, leaving only Stanley still out digging in the hot sun.)
- Great-great-grandpa Elya, having moved to America, falls in love with a woman very different from Myra. His new wife can "push a plow, milk a goat, and, most important, think for herself" (7.131). Sounds like the perfect woman, eh?
- There is one hitch: Elya always seems to have really bad luck. He starts to think that maybe Madame Zeroni's curse is real.
- Meanwhile, Elya teaches the pig lullaby to his wife, who sings it to their child when he is born a year later. The child's name is Stanley (that's our Stanley's great-grandfather), and the song is the same one our Stanley's father sang to him when he was little. Tradition!
- (Back at Camp Green Lake, Stanley finally finishes digging his hole. Whew! He is beyond exhausted, but very proud.)
- Now it's just us and the narrator. He tells us that a lot of people don't believe in curses. But actually, a lot of people don't believe in yellow-spotted lizards either: and it definitely won't matter if you believe in them when one bites you. (Get it?)
- Some details about the yellow-spotted lizard: they are extremely deadly, with red-rimmed eyes and black teeth. Also, they like to live in holes (uh oh) and they can leap out of holes to attack prey (double uh oh). One last thing: they like to eat the shells of sunflower seeds. Yeah, this isn't good news.
- Stanley heads straight for the shower after digging his hole. He goes to the rec room, where the other boys are already gathered, exhausted from their day. Everything in the rec room (or "Wreck Room," as it says on the door) is broken.
- Stanley trips over a large boy's foot, and the boy, offended, challenges him. But X-Ray and Armpit come to Stanley's defense: they give him the nickname "Caveman" and tease him about how tough it was to dig the hole. (If that's defending him, we wonder what bullying looks like.)
- The boys notice the stationery that Stanley has brought with him to the wreck room, and they laugh when he tells them he's going to write to his mother. (We, on the other hand, think it's sweet.)
- Stanley starts writing to his mother, making it sound as if the camp is a fun place to be.
- He suddenly realizes that Zero is reading over his shoulder. Zero looks "serious, almost angry" (9.47) and asks if Clyde Livingston's shoes had red X's on them.
- Huh? They did. Stanley is puzzled (so are we): how does Zero know that?
- The next day, Stanley is digging another hole. He is hot, blistered, and even more miserable than he was the day before. (We're on day two here: eighteen months of this sure won't be easy.)
- As he's digging, he finds a rock with the outline of a fossilized fish in it. This could be his ticket to a day of rest!
- When Mr. Pendanski comes by with the water truck, the boys line up to have their canteens filled. They always line up in a specific order: X-Ray, Armpit, Squid, Zigzag, Magnet, Zero, and, finally, Stanley. (How about those names?)
- When it's his turn to get water, Stanley presents the fossil to Mr. Pendanski, expecting to get the rest of the day off. But no such luck: Mr. P tells him that the Warden isn't interested in fossils.
- Back to the digging.
- X-Ray approaches Stanley and suggests that if he finds anything else while he's digging, he should give it to X-Ray to turn in. Since he's been at the camp a lot longer than Stanley, X-Ray thinks he deserves a day off more.
- Questionable logic, but Stanley more or less agrees to the plan.
- After he goes back to digging, Stanley starts to think about the hierarchy at Camp Green Lake. X-Ray is obviously the leader of D Tent, even though he's one of the smallest boys. Not a bad set-up.
- Then the fantasizing begins: he imagines all these boys coming with him to his school and beating up the bully Derrick Dunne when he tries to pick on Stanley. Ah, comeuppance.
- When Stanley finishes digging his hole – once again, he's the last one to finish – he finds Mr. Pendanski and the other boys sitting in a circle back at the tent.
- Mr. Pendanski says they are discussing their future plans: he asks the boys what they like to do, trying to get them to come up with ideas for future careers.
- Then he launches into a lecture about how Stanley is the one responsible for where he is right now: he alone can set his life straight. This is some pretty serious stuff.
- Mr. P says that each of the boys is special in his own way. "Even you, Zero," he says. "You're not completely worthless" (12.41). Well, then.
- He asks Zero what he likes to do. The boy's response?: "I like to dig holes" (12.46).
- Days pass and Stanley digs more holes. After a while, he loses track of how long he's been at the camp. All he knows is that he's lost weight, and digging has become a little bit easier. Well, at least that's one positive.
- One day, the first cloud he's even seen at Camp Green Lake floats across the sky.
- Stanley finds an object in the hole he's digging. Drumroll please… it's a gold tube, about the size of a finger. There is a design engraved on the bottom of the tube: the outline of a heart with the letters KB inside it.
- A second chance for a day off? Well, not so much. He doesn't want to have to give it to X-Ray, but he realizes that it's inevitable – he'll have to in the end.
- The boys don't know what the tube is, but he says he'll show it to Mr. Pendanski anyway, and maybe he'll get the day off. But Stanley points out that X-Ray's hole is almost finished, and suggests he save the object for the next day, when getting the day off will matter more. Smart thinkin', Stan.
- When the water truck comes and the boys line up, X-Ray tells Stanley to take the place in front of Zero. Stanley's moving up in the world!
- The next morning, Stanley asks X-Ray if he has the gold tube, but X-Ray just gets angry. Huh?
- Then, when Mr. Pendanski comes with the water truck, X-Ray doesn't say anything about the tube. But wait! As Mr. Pendanski is about to drive away, X-Ray calls him over and tells him that he's found something.
- Mr. P looks it over and tells the boys that he thinks the Warden will like it. Fingers crossed. He drives off, returning a few minutes later with the Warden.
- The Warden is a woman: she's tall with red hair and freckles, a black cowboy hat, and black cowboy boots. Just picture it. Seriously, picture it.
- She asks X-Ray where he found the tube, and then – you guessed it – grants him the day off. She tells Mr. Pendanski to drive X-Ray back to camp, let him take a double shower, and give him some clean clothes.
- But first, she tells him to fill all the boys' canteens. When Mr. P protests that he just filled them, the Warden gives him a verbal slapdown. If he doesn't learn to follow her orders without question, she'll have him start digging holes and let Stanley fill the canteens.
- The Warden directs the boys to keep digging, but there's a slight change. Instead of digging their own holes, they're all digging in or near the hole where X-Ray said he found the gold tube. This sure smells like a treasure hunt to us.
- The Warden stays at the site all day, anxiously directing the boys and making sure they have enough water. We wonder what she's hoping to find…
- Finally, at the end of the day she says that they can stop. "I've waited this long," she says, "I can wait another day" (15.15). Cliffhanger!
- As the boys walk back to their tent, Stanley wonders aloud how the Warden knew all of their names since he'd never even seen her before. Zigzag and Armpit (we still can't get over these nicknames) tell him that she has hidden cameras and microphones all through the camp.
- Stanley isn't sure whether he believes this or not.
- He looks back toward the hole he was digging the day before when he found the tube. He realizes that whatever the Warden is looking for, it might be there, and he memorizes the location of the hole.
- After they've arrived back at camp and taken their showers, the boys sit around in the wreck room, as they do. X-Ray is animated and energetic, but the rest of the boys are exhausted.
- The next day, the so-far-so-scary Warden joins them at the dig site again. She seems even more anxious than the day before, quickly becoming impatient that nothing else has been found.
- Stanley, ever the detective, tries to figure out what that gold tube was: it looked familiar to him, but he can't quite pinpoint what it reminds him of.
- That day, the Warden makes the boys dig long after they would usually be finished. Ugh.
- Later, back at camp, Mr. Pendanski brings Stanley a letter. Squid and Armpit tease Stanley, asking if the letter is from his mom but X-Ray tells the boys to leave Stanley alone. Looks like someone's got a bodyguard.
- After the other boys go to dinner, Stanley reads the letter: it is from his mother, as upbeat and encouraging as ever. She even makes a joke about the odor from Stanley's father's experiments making their apartment smell like the house of the little old lady who lived in a shoe. Yum. In any case, it makes Stanley chuckle, and we're happy to see this.
- Stanley realizes Zero hasn't gone to dinner with the other boys only when Zero asks him why he is laughing. When Stanley tells him about his mom's joke, Zero doesn't seem to understand: turns out he's never heard the nursery rhyme. Travesty, we do declare!
- Nothing doing for the next week and a half. The Warden keeps coming to the dig site, and she gets more and more impatient and unhappy every day that they don't find something.
- All the boys are digging in the area where X-Ray supposedly found the gold tube: by now, the area has just become one huge hole. (Sounds like fun for a day at the beach, but not at Camp Green Lake.)
- One day, when Armpit returns from a bathroom break, the Warden jabs at him with a pitchfork, knocking him backward into the hole and leaving three tiny holes in his shirt.
- Wow. This just got way scary.
- To top it off, she tells Mr. Pendanski that he's giving the boys too much water.
- Later that same day, Stanley and the other boys are all digging when Zigzag accidentally knocks Stanley out with his shovel. And get this: he doesn't apologize.
- Stanley has a big gash on the side of his head, but Mr. Sir just bandages it with a piece of his sunflower seed sack and tells Stanley to keep digging.
- This is not good, Shmoopers.
- The next day, the boys are back to digging their own holes in a whole new part of the dried-out lake. The Warden is no longer coming to supervise the digging, which is a good thing, we guess.
- Stanley's head is still hurting from when he got whacked with a shovel (duh). His body, though, has grown strong from all the weeks of digging: he's gotten better at digging holes, too, and finishes much more quickly than he used to. Practice makes perfect, right?
- When he gets back to camp, Stanley starts writing a letter to his mother. Just as in his last letter, he makes up fun, camp-like activities to tell her about. He doesn't want to worry Mom.
- Zero comes into the tent, but Stanley keeps writing his letter: he "didn't care what Zero thought. Zero was nobody" (18.7). (Sounds like Stanley's being a bit of a bully himself, don't you think?)
- Then little Zero tells Stanley that he doesn't know how to read and write, and asks Stanley to teach him. Our guy is surprised, but answers with a big, fat, whopping no.
- Stanley wakes up one night to hear Squid crying in the cot next to his. When he oh-so-kindly asks him if he's all right, Squid says he's fine. But in the morning, when Stanley asks if he's feeling better, Squid freaks out on him and tells him to keep quiet. Well, then. He never learned that sharing is caring, apparently.
- Later, Stanley and the gang are out on the lake digging their holes when Mr. Sir comes by with the water truck. After he's gone, Magnet offers the other boys some sunflower seeds – turns out he stole Mr. Sir's burlap sack when he wasn't looking.
- Stanley knows this is bad news and doesn't want anything to do with the bag. But when Zigzag tosses it to Stanley, the bag spills all over Stanley's hole. Uh oh.
- Sure enough, Mr. Sir comes back and looks into all the half-dug holes to find the culprit. When he finds the bag in Stanley's hole, Stanley takes the blame. The other boys play along, acting as though they knew nothing about it.
- This is what we call taking one for the team.
- Mr. Sir is skeptical (he doesn't buy it), but he tells Stanley to get into the water truck so they can go tell the Warden about the incident.
- Although he's dreading his confrontation with the Warden, Stanley still notices – and appreciates – the brief break from digging that he gets to enjoy.
- Outside the Warden's cabin there are more holes. Can you imagine what this camp looks like?
- Inside the air-conditioned cabin, the Warden is watching television: she doesn't seem too happy to have visitors.
- Stanley fake-confesses that he stole the sunflower seeds, but Mr. Sir says he thinks that Stanley is covering up for one of the other boys. (Smart man.)
- The Warden tells Stanley to go into the other room and bring her a small flowered case that he'll find there. He's confused, but he does what she asks. Obvi.
- The Warden opens the case to reveal several bottles of nail polish, lipstick tubes, and powders: it's a makeup case. She shows Stanley a bottle of bright red nail polish, telling him that it's "special" (20.23).
- As she paints her nails (um, is now really the time, lady?), the Warden tells Stanley why it's so special: it's made from rattlesnake venom, and it's toxic while wet. Oh, and then she runs her wet nails down Stanley's cheek.
- Next, she turns to Mr. Sir and slaps him across the face, scratching his skin with her now-venomous nails. The guy falls to the floor, clutching his face and writhing in pain.
- But Mr. Sir isn't going to die: "Unfortunately for you," the Warden tells Stanley (20.46).
- Don't worry, we're freaked out, too.
- As Stanley walks back to his hole, he worries what Mr. Sir will do to him when he recovers. He also realizes that, because of the time spent at the Warden's cabin, he'll be digging long after the others have finished.
- Now he starts to think about his great-grandfather, who was robbed by Kissin' Kate Barlow. Kissin' Kate left Stanley's great-grandfather alone in the desert, where he somehow managed to survive for seventeen days before he was rescued. He told his rescuers that he survived because he "found refuge on God's thumb" (21.7).
- In his pensive haze, Stanley nearly steps on a rattlesnake on his way back to the holes. In case things weren't scary enough already.
- When he gets back to the place where the boys are digging, he finds that his hole is almost finished. Huh? Thinking that the other boys dug the hole to thank him for taking the blame for stealing the sunflower seeds, he smiles and thanks them. But none of the other boys takes credit for digging his hole.
- At that moment, Stanley notices that Zero's hole is barely begun: it was Zero who dug the hole for him. Well how about that?
- When Zero gets back to the tent that night, Stanley asks him about his grand digging gesture. Turns out Zero was helping Stanley out since he knows he didn't steal the sunflower seeds. And when Stanley points out that Zero didn't steal them either (good point), Zero tells him, "You didn't steal the sneakers" (22.14).
- It seems like Zero is a pretty decent dude after all, so Stanley tells him that he will try to teach him to read.
- Zero doesn't even know the alphabet, but he learns it pretty quickly once Stanley recites it for him. In fact, Zero's a pretty bright kid: he also has some math chops in him.
- The boys strike a deal: Stanley will teach Zero more letters every day, and in return, Zero will dig some of Stanley's hole. This way Stanley will have more energy for teaching. Sounds like a fair trade.
- Later that night, Stanley lies in bed worrying – what's new, right? He's not sure what X-Ray will think about the fact that Zero's helping him dig his hole.
- And now for some more thinking. Stanley remembers his meeting with the Warden: her fingernail polish, her makeup kit… and bam! Suddenly Stanley realizes what the gold tube was: part of a tube of lipstick.
- Remembering the inscription on the bottom of the tube ("KB"), he wonders if that lipstick might just have belonged to Kissin' Kate Barlow.
- The plot thickens…
- This chapter takes us back one hundred and ten years, before Camp Green Lake even existed, and of course well before Stanley was born. At that time, Green Lake actually was a lake, with a lovely, all-American kind of town on its banks. Sounds pretty nice.
- The town's schoolteacher, Miss Katherine Barlow, is famous for both her canned peaches and her beauty. What do you know? Those are Shmoop's specialties, too! In any case, all the children love her.
- She teaches an adult class in the evening, and it is filled with young men, many of them "more interested in the teacher than they were in getting an education" (23.8). Yeah, we figured.
- One of the men in Miss Katherine's class is Charles Walker, the son of the richest man in town. He's known around town as "Trout," because "his two feet smelled like a couple of dead fish" (23.10). Wow, sounds appealing, doesn't it?
- Actually, Trout's feet smell because he has an incurable foot fungus, the same one that Clyde Livingston will have years later. (Remember his smelly shoes?)
- Trout comes to Miss Katherine's evening class, but he has no interest in learning. He's disrespectful and stupid, and he's only there to put the moves on the teacher.
- One evening, Trout asks Miss Katherine to go for a ride with him in his new, expensive, motorized boat. She tells him – in no uncertain terms – that she isn't interested.
- Now we're back in our Stanley's world.
- At breakfast, Mr. Sir looks pretty nasty: his face is horribly swollen, and the three long jagged scratches down his cheek are bruised. Not a pretty picture.
- Stanley and the other boys in D tent know better than to bring it up, but a boy from another tent doesn't have the same tact. He asks Mr. Sir what's happened to his face – and boy is that a mistake.
- Mr. Sir reacts violently, slamming the boy's head against a pot and then dropping him to the floor. Wow, this is just getting worse and worse.
- Out on the lake, the boys ask Stanley what happened to Mr. Sir, but he doesn't answer.
- When Mr. Sir comes by with the water truck, instead of filling Stanley's canteen, he pours the water onto the ground, leaving Stanley with nothing to drink for the rest of the day.
- (Just FYI, this is totally inhumane, in case you didn't catch that.)
- Once again, we're plopped back in Camp Green Lake, past-style (one hundred and ten years ago). The town has a doctor named Dr. Hawthorn and an "onion man" named Sam, both of whom help out the townsfolk when they get sick.
- Sam the onion man walks through the town with his donkey, Mary Lou, selling onions from a secret onion patch on the other side of the lake. (He gets there in a boat he made himself.)
- Sam's onions, and the ointments and other medicines that he makes from them, are said to heal all kinds of ailments. Sam himself claims that eating raw onions makes for a long life.
- We'll just trust him on that one, because we're sure not about to try. Shmoop is not a fan of raw onions: are you?
- Sam is also good with his hands, and Miss Katherine makes a deal with him: he'll fix the leaky roof of the schoolhouse in exchange for some of her spiced peaches. The people in this book are all about trade-offs, huh?
- This onion man of ours works on the roof in the afternoons after school lets out. He isn't allowed to attend the evening classes with the other townsfolk, because he's "a Negro" (25.24). (This reminds us that we're way in the past here.)
- While Sam fixes the roof and Katherine grades schoolwork, the two get to know each other pretty well. Sam likes poetry and learning, and they have a lot in common.
- In fact, Miss Katherine keeps coming up with other things that need to be fixed around the schoolhouse so that she can spend more time with this guy. But one day, she can't find anything else that needs to be fixed.
- In a pretty sad scene, she sits crying in the empty schoolhouse, missing Sam. But then she hears him outside with Mary Lou and his onion wagon. She runs out to him, and in an oh-so-sweet moment, they realize they're in love. (Cue sappy music.)
- But don't get too cozy: the scene is quickly ruined by a townswoman who, seeing the two lovebirds, declares: "God will punish you!" (25.46)
- Surprise! We're still in the story of Katherine and Sam.
- The next morning – after the big kiss – Katherine is sitting alone in the schoolhouse when a mob, led by Trout Walker, comes storming into the building. They say awful things to Katherine, turn over desks, pull books off of shelves, and generally destroy the place.
- Katherine escapes and runs to the sheriff's office. But when she tells him about what's happening at the schoolhouse, he doesn't seem concerned at all.
- The sheriff tells Katherine that he's planning to hang Sam for kissing a white woman. But if Katherine gives the sheriff a kiss, he'll just run Sam out of town instead. Oh, just run him out of town, eh? Geez.
- Katherine is horrified. As she runs out of the office, she hears the sheriff saying, "The law will punish Sam. And God will punish you" (26.31).
- She runs straight to Sam, who is on the banks of the lake hitching Mary Lou to his onion cart. She tells him that the sheriff is planning to hang him, and that they have to get the stink out of there as quickly as possible. Sam agrees, although he's sad to leave his precious Mary Lou behind.
- Sam and Katherine get into Sam's boat and start rowing to the other side of the lake, but sure enough, they hear the sound of Trout Walker's motorized boat as it follows after them.
- The narrator very succinctly tells us what happens next. Walker's boat smashes into Sam's boat. Sam is shot and killed. Katherine is taken back to the shore.
- And to top it all off, Mary Lou the donkey has also been shot.
- Since that day, no rain has fallen on Green Lake.
- Three days after Sam's death, Katherine shoots the sheriff, puts on fresh lipstick, and kisses him, starting her career as "one of the most feared outlaws in all the West" (26.45).
- Back to Stanley's story.
- Three days after the incident with the Warden, Mr. Sir is still pouring Stanley's water onto the ground when he comes by with the water truck. Luckily, when Mr. Pendanski drives the truck, he takes pity on Stanley and gives him a little extra water.
- X-Ray and the other boys don't like the fact that Zero is helping dig Stanley's holes: since Zero is black and Stanley is white, X-Ray complains that "[t]he white boy sits around while the black boy does all the work" (27.8).
- That day, Mr. Sir comes by with the water truck and fills Stanley's canteen with water. Well, that's good. But not so fast. He then he takes it into the truck for a minute – where Stanley can't see what he's doing – and brings it back. Stanley wonders what Mr. Sir might have put into his water. So do we, Stan, so do we.
- After Stanley's been back to digging for a while, he pours the water out onto the ground himself so that he won't be tempted to drink it.
- Meanwhile, Zero is making good progress with his reading, and he even learns to write his name. That's when we learn that Zero isn't his real name (really?): he's actually named Hector Zeroni. Hmmm, that name sounds familiar.
- Ready to jump back into the past again?
- Twenty years have passed since Sam's murder, and Katherine (now going by Kate) Barlow has returned to Green Lake. The town is "a ghost town on a ghost lake" (28.1), and Kate is living in an abandoned cabin on the edge of the old lakebed. She still thinks of Sam – hey, true love is tough to get over.
- One morning, Trout Walker and his wife show up. Trout's wife Linda is a freckle-faced woman with dirty, scraggly red hair.
- Trout and Linda have a rifle, and they threaten Kate, demanding that she show them where she's buried the loot from all her robberies.
- Strong-willed Kate refuses, telling them that they can dig for "the next hundred years" (28.25) and they'll never find it.
- In response, Trout and Linda drag Kate outside. They tie her legs together and make her walk around the hot, dried-out lake barefoot, hitting her on the back of the legs with a shovel. (This is what we at Shmoop call torture.)
- Never wavering, she still refuses to tell them where she's buried the loot.
- At that moment, a yellow-spotted lizard suddenly leaps toward them. It lands on Kate, biting her on the ankle. Knowing she is about to die, Kate tells Trout and his wife to start digging. And then, well, she dies laughing.
- We are back in Stanley's story now and also in Part 2 of the novel ("The Last Hole").
- Stanley and the other boys are – you guessed it! – out on the lake digging. There is a storm off in the distance, and the boys joke about the chance of rain coming their way. Rain at Camp Green Lake? Yeah, right.
- But wait, this is cool: during a lightning flash, Stanley thinks he sees a strange rock formation on one of the mountain peaks way off in the distance. It looks like a giant fist giving a thumbs-up. (We told you it was cool.)
- Stanley thinks about his great-grandfather telling people that he found refuge on God's thumb. No one ever knew what he meant.
- Finally a reason to celebrate: it's Zigzag's birthday.
- In honor of the occasion (not really), Stanley tries to figure out how long he's been at Camp Green Lake. Zero, in another display of crazy math power, instantly says it's been forty-six days.
- Later, as he digs his hole, Stanley thinks about how much he's changed since he came to the camp. For one thing, he's stronger and much better at digging. Oh, and luckily, Mr. Sir is giving him water again, too.
- Zero is still helping him out with his hole-digging in exchange for reading lessons, as they had agreed. But the whole situation makes Stanley awkward, and the other boys are getting pretty angry about it. They tease Stanley big time, saying that he's doing Zero a favor by letting him dig his hole, and mockingly asking if he'll let them dig his hole, too.
- Mr. Pendanski comes by with the water truck, and X-Ray makes Stanley go to the front of the line for water and lunch: you know, since "[h]e's better than all of us" (30.36). Ugh, bullying.
- After they get their lunches, Zigzag continues to harass Stanley, saying he'll trade his cookie for a chance to dig Stanley's hole. Stanley pushes the cookie away, and in a not-so-equal response, Zigzag pushes Stanley.
- X-Ray is watching and says that Stanley should be able to take care of himself, since he's bigger than Zigzag. Stanley is relieved to see Mr. Pendanski approaching, but it turns out Mr. P's attitude is the same as X-Ray's: he says that Stanley should go ahead and hit Zigzag back.
- "Teach the bully a lesson," he says (30.68).
- Stanley tries, but he really doesn't have the heart to fight. Zigzag, on the other hand, seems eager to fight Stanley: he jumps on top of him, slamming him to the ground and punching him over and over… and over again.
- This is when things escalate. Zero joins in and attacks Zigzag, pulling him off of Stanley and starting to choke him. Just when things look really dire, Armpit pulls Zero away from Zigzag and Mr. Pendanski fires his pistol into the air to signal for help.
- When the other counselors and the Warden arrive, Mr. Pendanski tells them that "[t]here was a riot" (30.85). X-Ray, on the other hand, tries to downplay what happened, saying that Zigzag was just short-tempered because of the heat.
- But Zigzag won't back up X-ray's story. Instead, he tells the truth: he was angry because Zero has been digging Stanley's holes for him.
- Uh oh.
- Stanley explains: Zero is digging for him because he's teaching Zero to read and write.
- The Warden asks Zero to tell them something he's learned. At first Zero doesn't respond, but after Mr. Pendanski basically calls him stupid, he tells them some of the letters and sounds he knows.
- The Warden quizzes him on a few things, most of which he gets right. But when he makes a wrong guess about a letter that he hasn't learned yet, all of the counselors laugh at him. Man, this kid can't catch a break.
- The Warden says that from now on, Stanley has to dig his own stinkin' hole: it's all about learning a lesson. Oh, and no more reading lessons for Zero.
- Then, in a moment of triumphant defiance, Zero announces: "I'm not digging another hole" (30.128).
- No one really buys it. Mr. Pendanski tells Stanley that "Zero's too stupid to learn to read" (30.133), and he hands Zero a shovel so he can get back to digging.
- Zero takes the shovel and – eek! – hits Mr. P across the face, knocking him unconscious. He says that he hates digging holes, and he runs away across the lake.
- The search is on for Zero. The Warden tells the counselors to take turns guarding the camp's water sources: he'll have to come back for water and that's when they'll catch him.
- When he returns, she says, she is going to have to paint her nails again.
- After Zero runs away, it's business as usual, and the boys go back to digging their holes. Stanley is angry with himself, thinking that he should just go after Zero and help the guy out. He keeps looking for his friend in the distance, but Zero is nowhere in sight.
- Then Stanley gets to thinking: if he goes after Zero, he thinks, maybe they can climb up the mountain to the big thumb. That might be where Stanley's great-grandfather found refuge – if so, there might be water there, too. Hmmm.
- The next day, Zero still hasn't come back to camp, and the counselors continue to guard the water sources.
- While he's digging, Stanley thinks – nay, dreams – about the possibility that Zero could make his way to God's thumb and find water there from the recent storm. (This kid sure does a lot of thinking.)
- When Stanley gets back to the tent, Mr. Pendanski (looking pretty bad from his recent encounter with a shovel), Mr. Sir, and the Warden are all waiting for him. Dun dun dun. They ask if he's seen Zero or if he knows where he might have gone.
- The Warden tells Mr. Pendanski to erase all traces of Zero from the camp's records, and to hack into the state files so no one in the Attorney General's office will know that he was at the camp.
- Well, it turns out Zero was a ward of the state: he was living on the street when he was arrested.
- In super threatening action-movie style, Mr. Pendanski says that he can make it very difficult for anyone to find any record of Zero. Besides, he says, "no one will ever look. No one cares about Hector Zeroni" (31.42).
- Two days later, a new kid takes Zero's place in D Tent: his name is Twitch, and he was arrested for stealing cars. That's a big time crime.
- Stanley keeps thinking about Zero, wondering if he made it to God's thumb and if he's even still alive. He pictures Zero crawling across the ground, dying of thirst. (We'd rather not think about it.)
- The next morning, Stanley is still thinking about Zero when Mr. Sir comes by with the water truck. In a moment of desperate inspiration, Stanley has the idea to steal the water truck and go out to find Zero.
- Wasting no time, Stanley jumps into the truck and turns it on. He's never driven before, but with Twitch shouting some advice at him, he manages to drive it a short distance. That is, until he drives straight into a hole.
- Stanley thinks that, for once, he can't blame his dirty-rotten-no-good-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather, because this time it was completely his fault that things went wrong. We can't help but smile when he says this.
- With Mr. Sir staring after him in shock, Stanley runs off, his empty canteen slapping against his chest.
- Stanley continues to run – and then walk – away from Camp Green Lake. No one follows him. He doesn't think he can make it to Big Thumb, and without any water, he knows he'll have to return to camp soon. But he decides to wait until everyone's had a chance to calm down a little.
- In the meantime he'll look for Zero.
- As he walks, he keeps seeing holes, although the farther he gets from camp, the more haphazard and random the holes seem to be. Curious, indeed.
- Every time he passes a hole, he glances in, both hoping and not hoping to find Zero there.
- In one hole he sees a family of yellow-spotted lizards looking up at him. Eek! He runs away, terrified.
- When he stops running, he sees something off in the distance. It turns out to be a sack of sunflower seeds, with only one seed left in it.
- Stanley keeps walking, wondering if he's already gone too far to make it back alive. He thinks he sees a pool of water in the distance, but it turns out to be a mirage. The heat is really getting to him.
- After a while, he thinks he sees the shape of the mountains in the distance, and he walks toward the Big Thumb.
- Trucking along, he sees an object in the distance. It's a bit to the right of the Big Thumb, but he decides to walk toward it anyway and see what it is. When he reaches the object, he thinks, he'll turn around and go back to camp. It's a plan.
- But as he approaches, he realizes the thing he's walking toward is an overturned boat, half buried in the dirt. The boat's name is painted on its side: Mary Lou.
- Are you thinking what we're thinking?
- Stanley notices a tunnel leading underneath the boat, and he hears a noise coming from within. He shouts, hoping to scare whatever is under the boat and keep it from coming out. He doesn't need another lizard encounter, that's for sure.
- "Hey," a weak voice answers, and a hand emerges from under the boat.
- Zero comes out from under the boat, looking pretty bad. Stanley tries to convince him that they have to go back to camp (in order to, you know, survive), but Zero refuses.
- Stanley crawls under the boat with Zero. It's cooler under there, and Zero has survived by drinking what he calls "sploosh": jars of a sweet, tangy, nectar-like substance that must have been in the boat when it sank way back when.
- Zero shares the last jar with Stanley, who thinks it "might have been some kind of fruit at some time, perhaps peaches" (35.25).
- (We readers are starting to put the pieces together, but remember that Stanley doesn't know the whole story about Katherine and Sam. We're totally ahead of the curve.)
- Stanley is a little worried about drinking something that's so old, because of the bacteria that might be living inside it. And sure enough, Zero, who has had fifteen jars of the sploosh in all, is suddenly doubled over with pain.
- Once again, Stanley encourages Zero to head back to camp, but Zero won't have any of it.
- While he's sitting there, Zero tries to read the name on the side of the boat, and our tutor friend Stanley helps him out.
- Stanley tells Zero to look at the mountains in the distance and tell him if he sees anything that looks like a familiar shape. Zero looks, and slowly forms his hand into a thumbs-up sign. Nice: he sees it, too.
- After putting four of the empty sploosh jars in the sunflower seed sack, Stanley and Zero head off toward the mountain. Zero is weak and suffering from stomach cramps (ick), but he uses the shovel he took when he ran away from camp to help him walk. Determined and resourceful to boot!
- As they walk, the boys think about who Mary Lou might have been, and they work on Zero's spelling skills. They're a pretty encouraging team, that's for sure.
- Stanley wonders when he'll start to feel sick from the sploosh that he drank. He worries about his parents, and how they'll never know what happened to him if he dies – how worried and sad they'll be.
- As the two boys get closer, the terrain gets more difficult. At one point, Stanley has to lift Zero up onto a ledge, and Zero helps Stanley climb up after him, bloodying his hands on the shovel in the process.
- This is no leisurely day hike.
- Zero and Stanley continue up the mountain, getting closer and closer to Big Thumb. They see weeds growing in the area, and there are gnats biting at their skin. Blech.
- Suddenly, Zero doubles over in pain and vomits up the sploosh. Then, trooper that he is, he gives Stanley a thumbs-up and they keep walking.
- Stanley realizes that the presence of weeds and bugs means that there must be water nearby. Zero smiles happily at this idea and then passes out.
- Stanley can't wake him up.
- Unable to rouse an unconscious Zero, Stanley picks him up and slings him over his shoulder. He has to leave the shovel and the sack with the empty sploosh jars behind, but he carries Zero step by step up the mountain.
- Now this is what we call heroic.
- After a while, Stanley starts smelling something pretty nasty. It gets stronger and stronger as he goes up the mountain.
- Finally, exhausted, Stanley drops Zero, falling face-down into a muddy ditch.
- And at that moment, he realizes that in order to have mud, you have to have water. Water!
- He crawls to the muddiest area he can find and digs a hole with his hands. He scoops out the muddy water at the bottom of the hole, drinks some, and pours some into Zero's mouth.
- As he continues to dig, Stanley finds an onion growing in the dirt.
- (Yep – we're on the same page, Shmoopers.)
- He and Zero each eat half of the onion. Things are starting to look up.
- Stanley wakes up the next morning and finds that he and Zero are lying in a flower-filled meadow at the base of the Big Thumb. Whoa.
- Zero is still very sick.
- Stanley walks to the Big Thumb formation and touches it. He thinks about going back down the mountain to get the shovel and the jars, but he doesn't think he can make it.
- Zero, lying on his side in pain, says he has to tell Stanley something. Weakly, he makes his confession: "I took your shoes." (39.20).
- At first, Stanley doesn't understand, but then Zero explains that he was the one who stole Clyde Livingston's shoes from the shelter.
- This doesn't make any sense, and Stanley just figures that Zero is delirious.
- As Zero drifts off to sleep, sensitive Stanley sings him the lullaby his father used to sing to him when he was young.
- Stanley sits there, looking at Big Thumb and all the flowers in the meadow around him. Pretty peaceful moment in an otherwise pretty violent book.
- Before long, he realizes that there are probably more onions like the one he found the night before. He digs up one of the flowers, roots and all; and although the narrator doesn't say what the root is, it's pretty clear that he's found another onion.
- Suddenly we find ourselves back in long-ago Green Lake – a hundred and ten years ago – sometime before the horrible events that led to the beginning of Kate's career of crime.
- Sam and Mary Lou are hawking their onions in the street when a woman comes running out of her house in her nightgown. She's there to thank Sam. For what? Well, the woman's daughter had eaten some bad meat, and Sam's onion tonic had saved her life.
- And that's all for the flashback. Back in the present, the boys live on onions and muddy water for the next two days. Zero is still sick, but he's definitely feeling stronger: nothing a little onion and rest combo can't cure.
- Stanley decides to go back down the mountain to get the shovel and the jars. It's a long walk down, and Stanley is totally amazed that he was able to make it all the way up the mountain considering how tired and thirsty he had been – with Zero on his back, to boot.
- Didn't he hear us call him heroic?
- The two boys continue to live on the mountaintop, resting and eating onions. Not the tastiest diet, but hey, they're doing their best. Zero is still weak, but he's getting better every day.
- Now Zero tells Stanley the story of how he came to steal Clyde Livingston's shoes. Get cozy because a story is coming at you:
- The poor guy was living on the street by himself, and he would sometimes stay at the homeless shelter. It's a super sad tale, especially the details he recounts about pretending to be a Cub Scout when he was sleeping outside.
- When Zero's mom was around, he says, they used to steal things they needed to get by. But they would take only what they needed, never more.
- So when Zero saw the old shoes in the display case at the shelter, he just took them. But when people realized they were missing, there was such a big fuss that Zero got scared. He left the shelter, took the shoes off, and left them on top of a parked car.
- He was arrested the next day while trying to steal some sneakers from a shoe store.
- Zero is back up to one hundred percent. The boys have eaten a lot of onions since climbing up the mountain, and they no longer notice the nasty odor of the place. (They're probably pretty stinky themselves, though.)
- While Zero sleeps, Stanley thinks about how he and Zero came to be here. He's happy, and he realizes that – for the first time that he can remember – he likes himself. That's definitely a good feeling.
- In the end, he's glad that the shoes fell from the overpass and hit him on the head, because it's what brought him here. It was his destiny, he thinks.
- Stanley knows that he and Zero will have to eventually return to Camp Green Lake. But he wonders if they might be able to steal food and water and live as fugitives for the rest of their lives.
- But as he thinks about this, "an even crazier idea" pops into his head (42.34). He remembers the lipstick tube he found and then thinks about Kate Barlow's missing treasure.
- We see a treasure hunt on the horizon, dear readers.
- He wakes Zero up and asks him if he wants to dig one more hole.
- The boys prepare to walk back to Camp Green Lake. They gather as many onions as they can carry in the sack and fill their glass jars with water. They're ready for anything. Or they're ready for a trek down a giant mountain at least.
- While they spend their last night in the onion patch, Zero and Stanley share some pillow talk. Zero tells Stanley that when he was very little, he and his mother lived in a house: he even remembers a yellow room with a crib where he slept. He's not even sure why they became homeless. Sigh.
- The next morning, the boys start walking down the mountain. Onward!
- Zero is amazed at how far Stanley carried him on the way up.
- In a quick scare, Stanley slips on a patch of weeds and falls a little way down the mountain. They lose some onions, but their water jars are okay. Oh, and Stanley's fine, too.
- As they walk, they playfully compete to see which of them can go longest before drinking any of the water. Well that's one way to make the thirst more bearable, we guess.
- When they reach the Mary Lou, they take a break to eat some onions. Zero continues talking about his past and tells Stanley about the last time he saw his mother.
- She used to have to leave him places, he says, and tell him to wait there until she came back. Once, she left him in a park and never came back, although Zero waited there for over a month.
- Talk about heart-wrenching.
- Finally, the boys reach the outskirts of the camp (thanks to some great navigation from little Zero), and hide in some holes until dark. (Um, Shmoop is a little worried about the whole lizard thing, but we'll let it slide.)
- Once it's safe, they plan to dig for the treasure as long as they can and then head up the road away from camp before it gets light.
- The boys rest in their hiding holes until the camp is asleep. Then they make their way to the hole where Stanley found the lipstick. Stanley begins to dig while Zero goes to refill the water jars at the spigot in the shower: they only have the one shovel, after all.
- Zero returns with fresh water and some boxes of cereal. Then he takes a turn digging.
- When they switch places again, Stanley wonders how much more time they have. They still haven't found anything.
- (Sorry, we just wanted to make you wait for it.) Stanley uncovers something that feels like the side of a metal box (!). He has to dig very carefully so the hole doesn't cave in, and as he uncovers more of it, he thinks it may be some kind of metal suitcase.
- Finally, he's able to pry it loose and hand it up to Zero, who's waiting just above the hole.
- But before Stanley is able to pull himself out of the hole to join Zero, a bright light shines in his face.
- Uh oh.
- "Thank you," he hears the Warden say. "You boys have been a big help" (44.51).
- The Warden, Mr. Pendanski, and Mr. Sir are all gathered around the hole, each with a flashlight. Zero is sitting at the edge of the hole with the suitcase on his knees.
- Suddenly, everyone notices that there's a yellow-spotted lizard on top of the suitcase. A second lizard crawls over the suitcase and up Zero's arm.
- Mr. Pendanski shines his flashlight onto Stanley, revealing a nest of lizards in the hole: there are several on the ground, a few on Stanley's leg, and one crawling up the back of his neck.
- The Warden says that now, they just need to wait. It won't be long.
- "At least we'll have a body to give that woman," Mr. Pendanski says (45.20).
- As readers, we don't know who "that woman" is, but Mr. Sir says that next time she comes she'll have a lot of questions – and she'll have the Attorney General with her.
- The Warden says that she doesn't care about the questions, as long as she has the treasure. Turns out our not-so-beloved Warden has been digging holes ever since she was a little girl.
- Zero and Stanley hold perfectly still while the lizards crawl over and around them. Mr. Pendanski, on the other hand, isn't quite as stoic. He screams as a lizard leaps at him, but lucky for him, Mr. Sir shoots the lizard in midair. Nice aim.
- The counselors continue to joke about the kids dying. And yes, Stanley and Zero can hear everything they're saying.
- The Warden says that they all need to get their story straight. Here's the plan: they'll tell "that woman" and the Attorney General that Stanley tried to run away, fell in a hole, and was bitten by a lizard. Zero, on the other hand, they'll just bury and forget about – no one is looking for him anyway.
- The counselors and the Warden talk some more and reveal that Stanley was supposed to be released the day before. What?
- Turns out they covered up the fact that he was missing by saying that he was delirious and couldn't be released. They also start talking about his lawyer, which is super confusing because Stanley knows his family is too poor to afford that kind of support.
- Stanley refuses to die while looking at the Warden and the counselors, so he chooses to think about his mother instead: he conjures up a memory of a time the two of them played in the snow together. Sound pretty nice to us.
- It's getting close to wake-up times, so the Warden sends the counselors back to their tents with instructions to keep the kids inside and tell them not to talk to anyone. Warden McScary and Mr. Sir stay behind with the boys.
- The lizards are still crawling all over the boys, but Zero manages to give Stanley a thumbs-up.
- Suddenly Zero, still squatting with the suitcase on his lap, unexpectedly says the word "Satan." Then: "Sa-tan lee" (47.3, 10).
- A tarantula crawls by, and one of the lizards leaps onto it and eats it. (Hey, at least it's not eating the boys.)
- As the sun comes up, the yellow-spotted lizards slowly move downward into the shade. Stanley figures this would be a good time to climb out of the hole, but he stops when he feels a lizard digging its claw into his ankle.
- In the midst of all this, Zero asks Stanley if his last name is the same as his first name, just spelled backwards. Stanley is amazed by the question: how could Zero have known that?
- Suddenly, they hear the sound of approaching cars: a tall man and a short woman approach.
- This is where things get good: the woman threatens the Warden with legal charges if anything happens to the boys.
- The Warden responds with lies (surprise, surprise): she tells the two newcomers that Stanley snuck into her cabin and stole her suitcase the previous night, then ran away and fell into the lizard's nest. Quick thinking, crazy lady.
- Stanley denies the Warden's story, but the woman – who says she's his lawyer – tells him not to say anything more.
- The lawyer, apparently, came with a court order to have Stanley released the previous day, but the Warden refused.
- Stanley very slowly manages to climb out of the hole, as the lizards climb downward into the shade. He helps Zero to his feet, and the last of the lizards scurry away.
- The Warden hugs Zero, faking happiness that he's still alive (nice try, lady!). Really, she's trying to take the suitcase away from him. But Zero holds onto it, saying that it belongs to Stanley.
- Sure enough, on the side of the suitcase, in big black letters, it says "Stanley Yelnats."
- The Warden is speechless.
- So are we.
- They walk back to camp. Stanley learns that the man is the Texas Attorney General, and the woman is his lawyer, Ms. Morengo.
- Stanley has the suitcase. (Woo!)
- The Warden desperately tries to change her story, saying that although the suitcase is Stanley's, the things inside it are hers. She tells Stanley to open the suitcase, but Ms. Morengo tells him not to. You tell her, Ms. M.
- Finally, Stanley is free. But wait – there's no way he's leaving without Zero. The Attorney General tells him not to worry: Zero will be safe. But Stanley still refuses to leave, so Ms. Morengo asks to look at Zero's file.
- Mr. Pendanski pretends to look for the file, but if you remember, he kind of destroyed it after Zero ran away. So yeah, he claims he can't find it.
- The Attorney General places a phone call to his office and then goes inside to talk to the Warden. Someone's about to get a smack down.
- The boys from D Tent come out of the wreck room; they're excited to see Stanley and Zero, and Zigzag even apologizes to Stanley for their fight. The only one who doesn't come talk to the runaways is X-Ray.
- Squid writes down a phone number and asks Stanley to call his mother for him. Aw.
- Since there's no record of Zero to be found anywhere – even in the files at the Attorney General's office – Ms. Morengo insists that they have no authority to hold him at Camp Green Lake. She takes his hand and says he's coming with her and Stanley.
- One last time, we're back in Green Lake in the time of Sam the onion man.
- There were no yellow-spotted lizards in the town then, the narrator tells us, but they did live in the hills beyond the town.
- One afternoon, three men come to Sam and ask for some of his "lizard juice" – they're going rattlesnake hunting in the morning, and they know that Sam's juice will keep the lizards away.
- The lizard juice, it turns out, is made from pure onion juice – if the men drink it, they'll be protected from lizard bites. Lizards, Sam tells them, "don't like onion blood" (49.13).
- Aha! Now it makes sense.
- Back to Stanley's story: as they drive away from Camp Green Lake, Ms. Morengo explains that she's a patent attorney (a lawyer who works with inventors). She's helping Stanley's father patent a new product he's invented, and when she heard about Stanley's arrest, she started looking into it.
- Her investigation uncovered evidence that proved that Stanley couldn't have stolen the sneakers.
- That's when Zero tells Ms. Morengo that <em>he</em> was the one who stole the sneakers. Earmuffs, Ms. Morengo: she tells him not to mention it to her again.
- Looks like everyone's off the hook.
- We finally find out what Stanley's father's invention is: a spray that eliminates foot odor. And guess what? It smells of peaches.
- The exhausted boys fall asleep in Ms. Morengo's backseat. As the car speeds away, rain falls – for the first time in over a hundred years – into the dried-out lakebed behind them.
- The final chapter is also the only chapter of Part 3: "Filling in the Holes."
- It opens with a few thoughts about the curse. Stanley's mother thinks there was never a curse to begin with.
- But think about it: Stanley's father invented his foot odor spray the day after "the great-great-grandson of Elya Yelnats carried the great-great-great-grandson of Madame Zeroni up the mountain" (50.1).
- Yep, that's right, Shmoopers: when Stanley carried Zero up the mountain, it looks like he broke that stubborn curse.
- Tying up some loose ends: the Attorney General closed Camp Green Lake. The Warden, desperate for money, had to sell the land, and word on the street is it's going to become a Girl Scout camp.
- When Stanley and Zero opened the suitcase, they hit the jackpot: inside were lots of jewels and some very valuable stocks. In the end, they each received about a million dollars from the sale of the stocks. Stanley bought his family a new home (with a laboratory for his father, naturally), and Zero (now going by Hector) hired a team of private investigators.
- We've got one last scene for you: we're at a party at Stanley's house. Everyone has gathered to watch the premiere of a TV commercial for Stanley's father's foot-odor spray, which is called none other than Sploosh. Sploosh!
- Clyde Livingston, who stars in the commercial, is also at the party.
- Zero's there, too, and the woman with him has a huge smile: he's found his mom. She softly sings a song to him, a song her grandmother used to sing her when she was little.
- In fact, it sounds a lot like the one Stanley's father used to sing to him.
- And that, Shmoopers, is the sappy, lovely, and tear-jerking end.