The boys continue to dig around the hole where X-Ray had “found” the gold tube for the next week and a half. The Warden becomes impatient and irritable to the point of jabbing Armpit with a pitchfork, drawing blood.
The boys are also irritable. Zigzag strikes Stanley in the head with his shovel accusing Stanley of adding dirt where Zigzag has to dig. Stanley’s large gash is bleeding. Mr. Sir tapes a piece of his sunflower seed sack over it and tells Stanley to keep digging. Stanley removes “his” dirt from on top of Zigzag’s dirt.
Notes: The Warden’s capacity for cruelty seems to be growing. This cruelty is echoed in Zigzag’s unapologetic response to Stanley’s injury. Stanley, however, has hardened and is none the worse after the incident. The longer people are exposed to the inhuman desert conditions, the more inhuman they become.
The next day the boys are back to the routine of digging their holes in a different part of the lake. Stanley is relived that the task is once again finite and he does not have the Warden or the other boys swing shovels close by. He is stronger now and can almost keep pace with the other boys’ digging.
Back in the camp Stanley showers and begins to write another encouraging, though not factual, letter to his mother. Again, Zero is over his shoulder. At first Stanley did not care. He has bought into the idea that Zero is worthless. When he tells Zero not to read over his shoulder Zero tells Stanley that he does not know how to read. Stanley is cold toward Zero and refuses Zero’s request that Stanley teach him to read. Stanley feels he needs to “save his energy for the people who counted.” He sealed his letter with his tongue that is now always thirsty.
Notes: Stanley’s uncharacteristic coldness shows that he has toughened both physically and emotionally. The cruelty around him seems to have been contagious. He has hardened, like the parched lakebed.
Stanley wakes up early, sore and resenting the sun. Back on the lake he begins his second hole, trying to avoid putting pressure on his blisters and being careful to pile his dirt far away from what will be the perimeter of his hole. He protects his hands with his cap, at least until the sun comes up, and saves some of the water in his canteen.
In the middle of the night Stanley hears Squid crying. When he speaks to Squid about it Squid threatens to break Stanley’s jaw.
Out on the lake Mr. Sir comes and fills the boys’ canteens. After he leaves, Magnet calls to the other boys because he has stolen Mr. Sir’s sunflower seeds. The boys toss the sack around to share. When it comes to Stanley the seeds spill out into his hole. The boys see Mr. Sir returning as Stanley tries to bury the seeds. Mr. Sir goes from hole to hole and sees the seeds at the bottom of Stanley’s hole.
Stanley confesses that he stole the seeds from Mr. Sir’s truck and ate them all himself. The other boys go along with the story. Mr. Sir and Stanley get into the truck to go speak with the Warden. Amazingly, Stanley actually feels good in the comfortable truck, out of the sun, with the wind on his face.
Notes: Stanley exhibits his newfound toughness by taking the blame for stealing and eating the sunflower seeds. It is unclear whether his brave deed is an attempt to cover for his friends or just Stanley’s way of giving in to being at the wrong place at the wrong time.