Zero continues to improve. Stanley digs the water hole to about the size of the holes at Camp Green Lake. The hole is full of murky water. Stanley is surprised that he hasn't gotten sick from something, as he used to get sick all the time. Zero begins to tell Stanley about his life before Camp Green Lake. He says he didn't go to the homeless shelter often but when he did, he had to find someone to pretend to be his mom. Otherwise, they would've made him a ward of the state. Zero says he isn't sure what that means, but he doesn't like it. Stanley wonders if Zero knows that he's now considered a ward of the state.
Zero's declaration that he doesn't want to be a ward of the state suggests that more than anything, Zero wants to be able to control his own life. That is, notably, something that he wouldn't be able to do as a ward of the state, as that would give the government power to likely put him in foster care. However, it's also worth noting that had that happened, Zero may have had a better chance at an education than he did on the streets.
Zero says he liked sleeping outside because he wanted to be a Cub Scout. He notes that his mother was once a Girl Scout. Zero says that he and his mother always had to steal, but it took him a long time to realize it was wrong. He and his mother took just what they needed, so when he saw Clyde Livingston's shoes at the shelter, he took them. Zero says he reasoned that it was better to take old shoes than new ones. He says he was wearing the smelly shoes when everyone realized they were missing. Nobody noticed him. He just left them on the top of a car. Zero says he should've kept the shoes; he was arrested the next day for stealing a new pair of sneakers.
Zero's logic when he stole Clyde Livingston's shoes makes perfect sense and reveals that even though Zero has technically lived his life as a criminal, he still has a very finely tuned sense of what's right, what's wrong, and how to commit "wrong" acts that do the least amount of damage to others. This offers another side to Zero and suggests that, instead of a traditional education, he's received an education in morality and justice.