The next day, Zigzag declares that it's July 8, his birthday. He sleeps in and cuts in front of Squid in the breakfast line. Stanley doesn't even know what day of the week it is, but he attempts to figure out how long he's been at Camp Green Lake. Zero does the math for him; if it's indeed July 8, Stanley has been there 46 days and has dug 44 holes. Surprisingly, Mr. Sir gives Zigzag an extra carton of juice when Zigzag says it's his birthday.
It's worth noting that Mr. Sir's kindness to Zigzag may appear at first glance to be real kindness. However, this is likely incorrect, especially given that Stanley seems surprised at this turn of events. This illustrates how such a cruel environment makes even these small favors seem monumental.
As Stanley digs his shovel into the dirt, he thinks that the 45th hold is the hardest. However, he knows it's not true: he's stronger now and better adapted to the heat, Mr. Sir isn't depriving him of water anymore, and Zero digging part of his hole helps. He still feels awkward about it, though. As the sun rises, Stanley looks for God's Thumb in the distance. He realizes that he's probably close to where Kate Barlow robbed the first Stanley.
Stanley's realization suggests that the cabin where the Warden lives now is possibly the same cabin where Kate Barlow lived when Trout Walker found her. Again, this allows the reader to make these connections that are satisfying and seem to make sense, which helps Sachar develop the way that destiny helps move the plot forward.
When Zero takes his turn in Stanley's hole, Zigzag, X-Ray, and Armpit again suggest that Stanley get a whip to hit his slave with. They ask Stanley if he's better than them and discuss that, since he is, they should all be digging Stanley's hole for him. Stanley does his best to deflect and play along. When Mr. Pendanski arrives for lunch, X-Ray makes Stanley get in line first, insisting that Stanley is better than them. Stanley hurries away to eat in peace and wonders if he should stop letting Zero dig for him.
The reader is aware that, as far as Zero and Stanley are concerned, they're both behaving kindly towards each other, but to the other boys their arrangement reads as a rejection of a carefully curated social structure. This shows that true kindness is simply not something that can happen in a place like Camp Green Lake, which thrives on selfishness and cruelty.
Stanley looks up as Zigzag and Squid approach. Zigzag tries to make Stanley take his cookie and then begins pushing Stanley while telling Stanley not to push him. Stanley insists he doesn't want trouble as he carefully steps backwards around the holes. He's relieved when Mr. Pendanski walks over, but is shocked when Mr. Pendanski tells him to hit Zigzag to "teach the bully a lesson." Stanley makes a halfhearted attempt to hit Zigzag and suddenly, Zigzag grabs Stanley and begins actually punching him. Stanley falls and Zigzag continues punching, even after Mr. Pendanski yells for him to stop.
Again, the events surrounding the beginning of this fight suggest that, while there's some belief in justice or deserving justice, the fact that Mr. Pendanski facilitates this kind of violence and strife suggests that it's not in his best interest to have the boys treat each other kindly. Essentially, he and the other adults can maintain their power as long as the boys don't band together to stage an uprising.
Suddenly, Zigzag is lifted off Stanley. Stanley looks up to see Zero with an arm around Zigzag's neck, choking him. Zero refuses to stop, even when Mr. Pendanski shouts. Armpit runs into the fray as Mr. Pendanski fires his pistol, and the boys fall apart. The counselors and the Warden hurry over and Mr. Pendanski explains that there was a riot. Armpit and X-Ray attempt to play down the seriousness of the situation, but Zigzag lets slip that the fight began because Stanley wasn't digging his hole.
Though Zero's behavior is undeniably violent, it's also extremely important to note that he's standing up for Stanley—something that seems unheard of given the way Camp Green Lake functions. Armpit and X-Ray's desire to downplay the situation is more evidence that this sort of thing may not be an everyday occurrence, but it's still relatively normal for them.
Stanley calmly explains his deal with Zero to the Warden and suggests that Zero learning to read is building his character, just like digging holes. The Warden turns on Zero and asks him to share what he learned yesterday. Mr. Pendanski laughs and suggests that it'd be easier to teach a shovel to read, though Zero answers that he learned the "at" sound. The Warden spells several words for Zero and he's able to sound them out, but Zero pronounces "hat" "chat." The counselors laugh, though Stanley reasons that Zero's answer was perfectly logical, given the way the letter "H" sounds.
Stanley's ability to see how Zero got to "chat" from "hat" suggests that, even though he began to become more callous and cold, his friendship with Zero is helping him remember to be empathetic and understanding of others. Mr. Pendanski's horrible words about Zero again reinforce how cruel Camp Green Lake is, as this kind of abuse from an authority figure would be unthinkable in most other circumstances.
The Warden says that nobody will dig anyone else's hole and that Zero's reading lessons must stop. Zero answers that he's not digging another hole, which the Warden ignores. Stanley asks why he can't teach Zero to read anyway, and the Warden and Mr. Pendanski insist that the reading leads to trouble and that Zero is too stupid to learn to read. Mr. Pendanski hands Zero a shovel but instead of returning to his hole, Zero swings it at Mr. Pendanski's head. Mr. Pendanski is unconscious before he hits the ground. Zero says he hates digging holes and begins backing away. Stanley notices Zero's abandoned canteen. The Warden assigns counselors to act as guards for when Zero inevitably returns for water, and tells Group D she still expects seven holes.
Mr. Pendanski and the Warden's reasoning closely mirrors what Trout Walker said about Miss Katherine poisoning kids with books; it admits that there's power to be had through education, power that would be dangerous for them if Zero had it. Similarly, though whacking Mr. Pendanski with a shovel is objectively horrible, within the system of Camp Green Lake, it's not that far-fetched: Zero lashed out the only way he knows how and the only way he's been shown how in this system.