Zero is getting better. Stanley, to his own surprise, never got sick from the sploosh. The boys are living on onions, and their water hole, though murky, it quite large.
Zero explains his childhood to Stanley, how he went to the same homeless shelter as Clyde Livingston once in a while. It was there that he saw the sneakers and took them for his own. He did not realize he was stealing; he just needed shoes. When everyone made a fuss Zero took the shoes off and left them on a parked car. He was later arrested for trying to steal a new pair of sneakers from a shoe store. “If I had just kept those old smelly sneakers, then neither of us would be here right now.”
Notes: The conclusion to Zero’s story about stealing Clyde Livingston’s shoes demonstrates that it was beyond coincidence that a Yelnats and a Zeroni were brought together. Had the series of events that led to each of their arrests not occurred, they could not have enacted the scene that was supposed to have taken place generations before. (See Notes Ch. 37-39)
Zero recovers and digs their water hole deeper, lining it with rocks. They now have clear water and eat about twenty onions a day. Stanley feels happy on the mountain with Zero. He was never a happy child before, but now he has a new sense of himself and he likes it. He remembers thinking that the sneakers that fell from the overpass were destiny’s shoes and believes that destiny brought him and Zero to the mountain.
Stanley thinks through some crazy alternatives to returning to Camp Green Lake. Finally, he decides that it is his destiny to dig up Kate Barlow’s treasure. He asks Zero if he wants to dig one more hole.
Notes: Stanley has completely changed. He is no longer the weak, fat, picked on, unhappy boy introduced in Chapter 3. He is strong, happy, and likes who he has become. He even has a real friend. True to the novel’s predominant theme, Stanley feels he has found his destiny.
Stanley and Zero pack water and onions and make plans for their return to Camp Green Lake where they will try to find the treasure, and then escape up the dirt road. Zero tells Stanley more about his childhood and how his mother sang a version of the same song that Stanley had sung. Stanley thinks about his parents and wonders what they might have been told.
They head down the mountain and Stanley takes a tumble. He is all right and they are able to recover the jars of water and the onions that had dropped. Stubbornly, they each refuse to take the first drink until their throats are raspy and they have to.
Zero spots the Mary Lou and continues with stories of his childhood as they walk. He tells of how he stayed in a park where his mother told him to wait, but she didn’t return for over a month. After passing the Mary Lou, Zero directs their path to Camp Green Lake. Soon they hear the sounds of the camp. They hide in holes near the one Stanley had found the lipstick tube in.
Notes: Stanley and Zero have taken their situation into their own hands, temporarily undermining fate. It is their friendship that has brought them this far. Perhaps their friendship has even broken the curse on Green Lake as suggested by the appearance of clouds in this chapter and the next.