Holes, p.10Part #1 of Holes series by Louis Sachar
“Good,” said the Warden. She turned to Stanley. “You know why you’re digging holes? Because it’s good for you. It teaches you a lesson. If Zero digs your hole for you, then you’re not learning your lesson, are you?”
“I guess not,” Stanley mumbled, although he knew they weren’t digging just to learn a lesson. She was looking for something, something that belonged to Kissin’ Kate Barlow.
“Why can’t I dig my own hole, but still teach Zero to read?” he asked. “What’s wrong with that?”
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that,” the Warden said. “It leads to trouble. Zero almost killed Zigzag.”
“It causes him stress,” said Mr. Pendanski. “I know you mean well, Stanley, but face it. Zero’s too stupid to learn to read. That’s what makes his blood boil. Not the hot sun.”
“I’m not digging another hole,” said Zero.
Mr. Pendanski handed him the shovel. “Here, take it, Zero. It’s all you’ll ever be good for.”
Zero took the shovel.
Then he swung it like a baseball bat.
The metal blade smashed across Mr. Pendanski’s face. His knees crumpled beneath him. He was unconscious before he hit the ground.
The counselors all drew their guns.
Zero held the shovel out in front of him, as if he were going to try to bat away the bullets. “I hate digging holes,” he said. Then he slowly backed away.
“Don’t shoot him,” said the Warden. “He can’t go anywhere. The last thing we need is an investigation.”
Zero kept backing up, out past the cluster of holes the boys had been digging, then farther and farther out onto the lake.
“He’s going to have to come back for water,” the Warden said.
Stanley noticed Zero’s canteen lying on the ground near his hole.
A couple of the counselors helped Mr. Pendanski to his feet and into the truck.
Stanley looked out toward Zero, but he had disappeared into the haze.
The Warden ordered the counselors to take turns guarding the shower room and Wreck Room, all day and all night. They were not to let Zero drink any water. When he returned, he was to be brought directly to her.
She examined her fingernails and said, “It’s almost time for me to paint my nails again.”
Before she left, she told the six remaining members of Group D that she still expected seven holes.
Stanley angrily dug his shovel into the dirt. He was angry at everyone—Mr. Pendanski, the Warden, Zigzag, X-Ray, and his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. But mostly he was angry at himself.
He knew he never should have let Zero dig part of his hole for him. He still could have 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.
None of the others helped him dig Zero’s hole, and he didn’t expect them to. Zero had been helping him dig his hole. Now he had to dig Zero’s.
He remained out on the lake, digging during the hottest part of the day, long after everyone else had gone in. He kept an eye out for Zero, but Zero didn’t come back.
It would have been easy to go out after Zero. There was nobody to stop him. He kept thinking that’s what he should do.
Maybe they could climb to the top of Big Thumb.
If it wasn’t too far away. And if it was really the same place where his great-grandfather found refuge. And if, after a hundred years or so, water was still there.
It didn’t seem likely. Not when an entire lake had gone dry.
And even if they did find refuge on Big Thumb, he thought, they’d still have to come back here, eventually. Then they’d both have to face the Warden, and her rattlesnake fingers.
Instead, he came up with a better idea, although he didn’t have it quite all figured out yet. He thought that maybe he could make a deal with the Warden. He’d tell her where he really found the gold tube if she wouldn’t scratch Zero.
He wasn’t sure how he’d make this deal without getting himself in deeper trouble. She might just say, Tell me where you found it or I’ll scratch you, too. Plus, it would mean X-Ray would get in trouble, too. She’d probably scratch him up as well.
X-Ray would be out to get him for the next sixteen months.
He dug his shovel into the dirt.
By the next morning, Zero still hadn’t returned. Stanley saw one of the counselors sitting guard by the water spigot outside the shower wall.
Mr. Pendanski had two black eyes and a bandage over his nose. “I always knew he was stupid,” Stanley heard him say.
Stanley was required to dig only one hole the next day. As he dug, he kept a constant watchout for Zero, but never saw him. Once again he considered going out on the lake to look for him, but he began to realize that it was already too late.
His only hope was that Zero had found God’s thumb on his own. It wasn’t impossible. His great-grandfather had found it. For some reason his great-grandfather had felt the urge to climb to the top of that mountain. Maybe Zero would feel the same urge.
If it was the same mountain. If water was still there.
He tried to convince himself it wasn’t impossible. There had been a storm just a few days ago. Maybe Big Thumb was actually some kind of natural water tower that caught and stored the rain.
It wasn’t impossible.
He returned to his tent to find the Warden, Mr. Sir, and Mr. Pendanski all waiting for him.
“Have you seen Zero?” the Warden asked him.
“No sign of him at all?”
“Do you have any idea where he went?”
“You know you’re not doing him any favors if you’re lying,” said Mr. Sir. “He can’t survive out there for more than a day or two.”
“I don’t know where he is.”
All three stared at Stanley as if they were trying to figure out if he was telling the truth. Mr. Pendanski’s face was so swollen, he could barely open his eyes. They were just slits.
“You sure he has no family?” the Warden asked Mr. Pendanski.
“He’s a ward of the state,” Mr. Pendanski told her. “He was living on the streets when he was arrested.”
“Is there anyone who might ask questions? Some social worker who took an interest in him?”
“He had nobody,” said Mr. Pendanski. “He was nobody.”
The Warden thought a moment. “Okay, I want you to destroy all of his records.”
Mr. Pendanski nodded.
“He was never here,” said the Warden.
Mr. Sir nodded.
“Can you get into the state files from our computer?” she asked Mr. Pendanski. “I don’t want anyone in the A.G.’s office to know he was here.”
“I don’t think I can erase him completely from all the state files,” said Mr. Pendanski. “Too many cross-references. But I can 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.
Two days later a new kid was assigned to Group D. His name was Brian, but X-Ray called him Twitch because he was always fidgeting. Twitch was assigned Zero’s bed, and Zero’s crate.
Vacancies don’t last long at Camp Green Lake.
Twitch had been arrested for stealing a car. He claimed he could break into a car, disconnect the alarm, and hot-wire the engine, all in less than a minute.
“I never plan to, you know, steal one,” he told them. “But sometimes, you know, I’ll be walking past a real nice car, parked in a deserted area, and, you know, I’ll just start twitching. If you think I twitch now, you should see me when I’m around a car. The next thing I know, I’m behind the wheel.”
“Hey, Caveman,” said Twitch. “Do we really have to get up at 4:30?”
“You get used to it,” Stanley told him. “It’s the coolest part of the day.”
He tried not to think about Zero. It was too late. Either he’d made it to Big Thumb, or …
What worried him the most, however, wasn’t that it was too late. What worried him the most, what really ate at his insides, was the fear that it wasn’t too late.
What if Zero was still alive, desperately crawling across the dirt searching for water?
He tried to force the image out of his mind.
The next morning, out on the lake, Stanley listened as Mr. Sir told Twitch the requirements for his hole: “… as wide and as deep as your shovel.”
Twitch fidgeted. His fingers drummed against the wooden shaft of his shovel, and his neck moved from side to side.
“You won’t be twitching so much after digging all day,” Mr. Sir told him. “You won’t have the strength to wiggle your pinkie.” He popped some sunflower seeds in his mouth, deftly chewed them, and spat out the shells. “This isn’t a Girl Scout camp.”
The water truck came shortly after sunrise. Stanley got in line behind Magnet, ahead of Twitch.
What if it’s not too late?
He watched Mr. Sir fill X-Ray’s canteen. The image of Zero crawling across the hot dry dirt remained in his head.
But what could he do about it? Even if Zero was somehow alive after more than four days, how would Stanley ever find him? It would take days. He’d need a car.
Or a pickup truck. A pickup truck with a tank of water in the back.
Stanley wondered if Mr. Sir had left the keys in the ignition.
He slowly backed away from the line, then circled over to the side of the truck. He looked through the window. The keys were there, dangling in the ignition.
Stanley felt his fingers start to twitch.
He took a deep breath to steady himself and tried to think clearly. He had never driven before.
But how hard could it be?
This is really crazy, he told himself. Whatever he did, he knew he’d have to do it quickly, before Mr. Sir noticed.
It’s too late, he told himself. Zero couldn’t have survived.
But what if it wasn’t too late?
He took another deep breath. Think about this, he told himself, but there wasn’t time to think. He flung open the door to the truck and climbed quickly inside.
“Hey!” shouted Mr. Sir.
He turned the key and stepped on the gas pedal. The engine revved. The truck didn’t move.
He pressed the pedal to the floor. The engine roared, but the truck was motionless.
Mr. Sir came running around the side of the truck. The door was still open.
“Put it in gear!” shouted Twitch.
The gear shift was on the floor next to the seat. Stanley pulled the lever back until the arrow pointed to the letter D, for Drive.
The truck lurched forward. Stanley jerked back against the seat and tightly gripped the wheel as the truck accelerated. His foot was pressed to the floor.
The truck went faster and faster across the dry lake bed. It bounced over a pile of dirt. Suddenly Stanley was slammed forward, then instantly backward as an airbag exploded in his face. He fell out of the open door and onto the ground.
He had driven straight into a hole.
He lay on the dirt staring at the truck, which stuck lopsided into the ground. He sighed. He couldn’t blame his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather this time. This time it was his own fault, one hundred percent. He had probably just done the stupidest thing he had ever done in his short and miserable life.
He managed to get to his feet. He was sore but didn’t think he had broken any bones. He glanced back at Mr. Sir, who remained where he was, staring at Stanley.
He ran. His canteen was strapped around his neck. It banged against his chest as he ran, and every time it hit against him, it reminded him that it was empty, empty, empty.
He slowed to a walk. As far as he could tell, nobody was chasing him. He could hear voices coming from back by the truck but couldn’t make out the words. Occasionally he’d hear the revving of the engine, but the truck wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
He headed in what he thought was the direction of Big Thumb. He couldn’t see it through the haze.
Walking helped calm him down and allowed him to think clearly. He doubted he could make it to Big Thumb, and with no water in his canteen, he didn’t want to risk his life on the hope that he’d find refuge there. He’d have to return to camp. He knew that. But he was in no hurry. It would be better to return later, after everyone had a chance to calm down. And as long as he’d come this far, he might as well look for Zero.
He decided he would walk as long as he could, until he was too weak to go any farther, then he’d turn around and go back.
He smiled as he realized that wouldn’t quite work. He would only go halfway—halfway as far as he thought he could go, so that he’d still have the strength to return. Then he’d have to make a deal with the Warden, tell her where he found Kate Barlow’s lipstick tube, and beg for mercy.
He was surprised by how far out the holes extended. He couldn’t even see the camp compound anymore, but he still kept passing holes. Just when he thought he’d passed the last hole, he’d come across another cluster of them, a little farther away.
Back at the compound, they had dug in a systematic order, row upon row, allowing space for the water truck. But out here there was no system. It was as if every once in a while, in a fit of frustration, the Warden would just pick a spot at random, and say, “What the hell, dig here.” It was like trying to guess the winning numbers in a lottery.
Stanley found himself looking down into each hole he passed. He didn’t admit to himself what he was looking for.
After more than an hour had gone by, he thought he had surely seen the last hole, but then off to the left he saw another cluster of them. He didn’t actually see the holes. He saw the mounds of dirt that surrounded them.
He stepped over the mounds and looked into the first hole. His heart stopped.
Down at the bottom was a family of yellow-spotted lizards. Their large red eyes looked up at him.
He leapt back over the mound and ran.
He didn’t know if they were chasing after him. He thought he might have seen one leap out of the hole.
He ran until he couldn’t run any farther, then collapsed. They hadn’t come after him.
He sat there awhile and caught his breath. As he got back to his feet, he thought he noticed something on the ground, maybe fifty yards away. It didn’t look like much, maybe just a big rock, but in a land of nothingness, any little thing seemed unusual.
He walked slowly toward it. The encounter with the lizards had made him very cautious.
It turned out to be an empty sack of sunflower seeds. He wondered if it was the same one Magnet had stolen from Mr. Sir, although that didn’t seem likely.
He turned it inside out and found one seed stuck to the burlap.
The sun was almost directly overhead. He figured he could walk for no more than another hour, maybe two, before he had to turn back.
It seemed pointless. He could see there was nothing ahead of him. Nothing but emptiness. He was hot, tired, hungry, and, most of all, thirsty. Maybe he should just turn around now. Maybe he’d already gone halfway and didn’t know it.
Then, looking around, he saw a pool of water less than a hundred yards away from where he was standing. He closed his eyes and opened them to make sure he wasn’t imagining it. The pool was still there.
He hurried toward it. The pool hurried away from him, moving as he moved, stopping when he stopped.
There wasn’t any water. It was a mirage caused by the shimmering waves of heat rising off the dry ground.
He kept walking. He still carried the empty sack of sunflower seeds. He didn’t know if he might find something to put in it.
After a while he thought he could make out the shape of the mountains through the haze. At first he wasn’t sure if this was another kind of mirage, but the farther he walked, the clearer they came into a view. Almost straight ahead of him, he could see what looked like a fist, with its thumb sticking up.
He didn’t know how far away it was. Five miles? Fifty miles? One thing was certain. It was more than halfway.
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.
As he continued walking, he became aware of a large object on the lake. He couldn’t tell what it was, or even if it was natural or man-made. It looked a little like a fallen tree, although it didn’t seem likely that a tree would grow here. More likely, it was a ridge of dirt or rocks.
The object, whatever it was, was not on the way to Big Thumb but off to the right. He tried to decide whether to go to it or continue toward Big Thumb. Or maybe just turn around.
There was no point in heading toward Big Thumb, he decided. He would never make it. For all he knew it was like chasing the moon. But he could make it to the mysterious object.
He changed directions. He doubted it was anything, but the fact that there was something in the middle of all this nothing made it hard for him to pass up. He decided to make the object his halfway point, and he hoped he hadn’t already gone too far.
He laughed to himself when he saw what it was. It was a boat—or part of a boat anyway. It struck him as funny to see a boat in the middle of this dry and barren wasteland. But after all, he realized, this was once a lake.
The boat lay upside down, half buried in the dirt.
Someone may have drowned here, he thought grimly—at the same spot where he could very well die of thirst.
Holes by Louis Sachar / Young Adult have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes