Stanley uses the sunflower seed sack he had found to carry four unbroken sploosh jars. He and Zero walk toward God’s thumb, with Zero periodically falling on the ground retching. Using his shovel as a crutch Zero keeps on getting up and pressing on. As a diversion he asks Stanley to give him words to practice. Stanley encourages Zero telling him they can have pizza and ice cream when they get to the thumb.
They reach the far edge of the lake and climb the steep walls of the lakebed. Stanley boosts Zero up, and then Zero hauls Stanley up using the shovel to reach him. This bloodies Zero’s hands. When they make it to the top they are in the shadow of the thumb.
Notes: Zero’s strength and willpower are at their peak as is the power of the friendship that has bonded Stanley and Zero. They help each other without concern for personal benefit or safety.
Stanley and Zero climb the increasingly steep mountain up to the thumb. Weeds and gnats appear. Zero doubles over once again, vomits, and eventually falls over unconscious.
Stanley lifts Zero and carries him farther up the mountain, leaving the shovel and jars behind. The weeds Stanley is walking through have an unpleasant odor. He falls into mud and realizes that there must be water there. He digs as deep as he can and drips water into Zero’s mouth. Zero comes to. Stanley digs more and discovers an onion growing underground. He and Zero eat it.
The next morning Stanley wakes up and sees that his water hole is brown and muddy. He wants to go back down the mountain to find the shovel and jars. Zero is still very sick and in his delirium confesses to Stanley that it was he, Zero, who stole Clyde Livingston’s shoes. Stanley does not understand. Stanley sings his father’s song as Zero falls asleep.
Notes: The first part of the novel gave us tidbits of information a little bit at a time. Now the pieces of history are coming together and the story is moving faster. Stanley has stumbled upon Sam’s onion field where the water runs uphill. The puzzle is almost complete. The stories within the story have come together wit flawless detail. A descendant of Elya Yelnats has carried a descendant of Madame Zeroni up the mountain to a place where the water runs uphill and has sung the pig lullaby to him. Stanley has made good on the promise that Elya broke.
There is a brief flashback to the story of a little girl who was cured of near fatal “stomach sickness” by eating Sam the onion man’s onions.
Stanley and Zero spend the next two days sleeping and eating onions. The water they are drinking is muddy so Stanley decides to go down the mountain and look for the shovel. Zero, still weak, stays behind. Stanley walks an unusually long distance down the mountain, following his trail from two days before. When he decides that he has gone too far, because it would have been impossible to carry Zero uphill that distance, he sees the shovel and sack of jars a little farther down the mountain.
Notes: Two themes are addressed in this chapter. The story of the medicinal powers of Sam’s onions foreshadows Zero’s recovery and shows the impact of fate and history. Retracing the incredible distance that Stanley carried Zero demonstrates the power of friendship.