Stanley was not a bad kid. He was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted. He'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!
He smiled. It was a family joke. Whenever anything went wrong, they always blamed Stanley's no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.
All of them had something else in common. Despite their awful luck, they always remained hopeful. As Stanley's father liked to say, "I learn from failure."
But perhaps that was part of the curse as well. If Stanley and his father weren't always hopeful, then it wouldn't hurt so much every time their hopes were crushed.
"I see you're looking at my gun. Don't worry. I'm not going to shoot you. "He tapped his holster. "This is for yellow-spotted lizards. I wouldn't waste a bullet on you."
He wasn't afraid of the curse. He thought that was a lot of nonsense. He felt bad because he knew Madame Zeroni had wanted to drink from the stream before she died.
Stanley waited for him to drive away, then took another look at his hole. He knew it was nothing to be proud of, but he felt proud nonetheless.
He sucked up his last bit of saliva and spat.
A lot of people don't believe in curses.
A lot of people don't believe in yellow-spotted lizards either, but if one bites you, it doesn't make a difference whether you believe in it or not.
The more he thought about it, the more he was glad that he agreed to let X-Ray have anything he might find. If he was going to survive at Camp Green Lake, it was far more important that X-Ray think he was a good guy than it was for him to get one day off.
"That's your dirt," Zigzag said. "You have to dig it up. It's covering up my dirt."
Stanley felt a little dizzy. He could see a small pile of dirt. It took him a moment to realize that it was the dirt which had been on his shovel when he was hit.
He scooped it up, then Zigzag dug his shovel into the ground underneath where "Stanley's dirt" had been.
"Sorry," Stanley said again.
His muscles and hands weren't the only parts of his body that had toughened over the past several weeks. His heart had hardened as well.
Stanley kept his mouth shut most of the time. He didn't talk too much to any of the boys, afraid that he might say the wrong thing. They called him Caveman and all that, but he couldn't forget that they were dangerous, too. They were all here for a reason. As Mr. Sir would say, this wasn't a Girl Scout camp.
A lot of men in town were not educated. This didn't bother Miss Katherine. She knew they'd spent most of their lives working on farms and ranches and hadn't had much schooling. That was why she was there—to teach them.
But Trout didn't want to learn. He seemed to be proud of his stupidity.
Everyone in town had seen—and heard—the Walkers' new boat. It made a horrible loud noise and spewed ugly black smoke all over the beautiful lake.
Miss Katherine jerked her hand free. As she hurried to the door, she heard the sheriff say, "The law will punish Sam. And God will punish you."
These are the facts:
The Walker boat smashed into Sam's boat. Sam was shot and killed in the water. Katherine Barlow was rescued against her wishes. When they returned to the shore, she saw Mary Lou's body lying on the ground. The donkey had been shot in the head.
That all happened one hundred and ten years ago. Since then, not one drop of rain has fallen on Green Lake.
You make the decision: Whom did God punish?
Fortunately, Mr. Pendanski delivered the water more often than Mr. Sir. Mr. Pendanski was obviously aware of what Mr. Sir was doing, because he always gave Stanley a little extra. He'd fill Stanley's canteen, then let Stanley take a long drink, then top it off for him.
Zero wrote the letters as Stanley said them. "Zero," he said, looking at his piece of paper. His smile was too big for his face.
Stanley watched him write it over and over again.
Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero Zero...
In a way, it made him sad. He couldn't help but think that a hundred times zero was still nothing.
"He's a genius, all right!" said Mr. Pendanski. "He's so stupid, he doesn't even know he's stupid."
Stanley didn't know why Mr. Pendanski seemed to have it in for Zero. If Mr. Pendanski only thought about it, he'd realize it was very logical for Zero to think that the letter "h" made the "ch" sound.
He knew he never should have let Zero dig part of his hole for him. He still could've taught him to read. If Zero could dig all day and still have the strength to learn, then he should have been able to dig all day and still have the strength to teach.
What he should do, he thought, was go out after Zero.
But he didn't.
"I don't think I can erase him completely from all the state files, said Mr. Pendanski. "Too many cross-references. But I can so make it so it would be very difficult for anyone to ever find a record of him. Like I said, though, no one will ever look. No one cares about Hector Zeroni."
"Good," said the Warden.
He kept walking toward it, although he didn't know why. He knew he'd have to turn around before he got there. But every time he looked at it, it seemed to encourage him, giving him the thumbs-up sign.
Higher and higher he climbed. His strength came from somewhere deep inside himself and also seemed to come from the outside as well. After focusing on Big Thumb for so long, it was as if the rock had absorbed his energy and now acted like a kind of giant magnet pulling him toward it.
"I didn't go to the homeless shelter very often," Zero said. "Just if the weather was really bad. I'd have to find someone to pretend to be my mom. If I'd just gone by myself, they would have asked me a bunch of questions. If they'd found out I didn't have a mom, they would have made me a ward of the state."
"What's a ward of the state?"
Zero smiled. "I don't know. But I didn't like the sound of it."
"Then later a boy asked me if I wanted a piece of cake, but then that same mother told me, 'Go away!' and she told all the kids to stay away from me, so I never got the piece of cake. I ran away so fast, I forgot Jaffy."
"Did you ever find him—it?"
For a moment, Zero didn't answer. Then he said, "He wasn't real."
"It's got his name on it," said Zero.
Stanley's lawyer pushed past the tall man to have a look.
"See," Zero showed her. "Stanley Yelnats."
Stanley looked, too. There, in big black letters, was STANLEY YELNATS.
"Will you do me a favor?" asked Squid.
"I guess," Stanley agreed, somewhat hesitantly.
"I want you to—" He turned to Ms. Morengo. "Hey lady, you have a pen and paper I can borrow?"
She gave it to him, and Squid wrote down a phone number which he gave to Stanley. "Call my mom for me, okay? Tell her...Tell her I said I was sorry. Tell her Alan said he was sorry."