Holes, Page 1Louis Sachar
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LOUIS SACHAR is the popular author of Small Steps, Stanley Yelnats’ Survival Guide to Camp Green Lake, There’s a Boy in the Girls Bathroom, Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes, and the Marvin Redpost series, among many others. He lives in Austin, Texas.
Published by Yearling, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books a division of Random House, Inc., New York
Text copyright © 1998 by Louis Sachar
Stepback illustration copyright © 2000 by Bagram Ibatoulline
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TO SHERRE, JESSICA, LORI, KATHLEEN. AMD EMILY
AMD TO JUDY ALLEN,
A FIFTH-GRADE TEACHER FROM WHOM WE ALL CAM LEARN
Part One: You are Entering Camp Green Lake
Part Two: The Last Hole
Part Three: Filling in the Holes
Preview of Small Steps
YOU ARE ENTERING CAMP GREEN LAKE
There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. There once was a very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas. That was over a hundred years ago. Now it is just a dry, flat wasteland.
There used to be a town of Green Lake as well. The town shriveled and dried up along with the lake, and the people who lived there.
During the summer the daytime temperature hovers around ninety-five degrees in the shade—if you can find any shade. There’s not much shade in a big dry lake.
The only trees are two old oaks on the eastern edge of the “lake.” A hammock is stretched between the two trees, and a log cabin stands behind that.
The campers are forbidden to lie in the hammock. It belongs to the Warden. The Warden owns the shade.
Out on the lake, rattlesnakes and scorpions find shade under rocks and in the holes dug by the campers.
Here’s a good rule to remember about rattlesnakes and scorpions: If you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.
Being bitten by a scorpion or even a rattlesnake is not the worst thing that can happen to you. You won’t die.
Sometimes a camper will try to be bitten by a scorpion, or even a small rattlesnake. Then he will get to spend a day or two recovering in his tent, instead of having to dig a hole out on the lake.
But you don’t want to be bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard. That’s the worst thing that can happen to you. You will die a slow and painful death.
If you get bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard, you might as well go into the shade of the oak trees and lie in the hammock.
There is nothing anyone can do to you anymore.
The reader is probably asking: Why would anyone go to Camp Green Lake?
Most campers weren’t given a choice. Camp Green Lake is a camp for bad boys.
If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.
That was what some people thought.
Stanley Yelnats was given a choice. The judge said, “You may go to jail, or you may go to Camp Green Lake.”
Stanley was from a poor family. He had never been to camp before.
Stanley Yelnats was the only passenger on the bus, not counting the driver or the guard. The guard sat next to the driver with his seat turned around facing Stanley. A rifle lay across his lap.
Stanley was sitting about ten rows back, handcuffed to his armrest. His backpack lay on the seat next to him. It contained his toothbrush, toothpaste, and a box of stationery his mother had given him. He’d promised to write to her at least once a week.
He looked out the window, although there wasn’t much to see—mostly fields of hay and cotton. He was on a long bus ride to nowhere. The bus wasn’t air-conditioned, and the hot, heavy air was almost as stifling as the handcuffs.
Stanley and his parents had tried to pretend that he was just going away to camp for a while, just like rich kids do. When Stanley was younger he used to play with stuffed animals, and pretend the animals were at camp. Camp Fun and Games he called it. Sometimes he’d have them play soccer with a marble. Other times they’d run an obstacle course, or go bungee jumping off a table, tied to broken rubber bands. Now Stanley tried to pretend he was going to Camp Fun and Games. Maybe he’d make some friends, he thought. At least he’d get to swim in the lake.
He didn’t have any friends at home. He was overweight and the kids at his middle school often teased him about his size. Even his teachers sometimes made cruel comments without realizing it. On hi
s last day of school, his math teacher, Mrs. Bell, taught ratios. As an example, she chose the heaviest kid in the class and the lightest kid in the class, and had them weigh themselves. Stanley weighed three times as much as the other boy. Mrs. Bell wrote the ratio on the board, 3:1, unaware of how much embarrassment she had caused both of them.
Stanley was arrested later that day.
He looked at the guard who sat slumped in his seat and wondered if he had fallen asleep. The guard was wearing sunglasses, so Stanley couldn’t see his eyes.
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.
Supposedly, he had a great-great-grandfather who had stolen a pig from a one-legged Gypsy, and she put a curse on him and all his descendants. Stanley and his parents didn’t believe in curses, of course, but whenever anything went wrong, it felt good to be able to blame someone.
Things went wrong a lot. They always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He looked out the window at the vast emptiness. He watched the rise and fall of a telephone wire. In his mind he could hear his father’s gruff voice softly singing to him.
“If only, if only,” the woodpecker sighs,
“The bark on the tree was just a little bit softer.”
While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,
He cries to the moo—oo—oon,
“If only, if only.”
It was a song his father used to sing to him. The melody was sweet and sad, but Stanley’s favorite part was when his father would howl the word “moon.”
The bus hit a small bump and the guard sat up, instantly alert.
Stanley’s father was an inventor. To be a successful inventor you need three things: intelligence, perseverance, and just a little bit of luck.
Stanley’s father was smart and had a lot of perseverance. Once he started a project he would work on it for years, often going days without sleep. He just never had any luck.
Every time an experiment failed, Stanley could hear him cursing his dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-grandfather.
Stanley’s father was also named Stanley Yelnats. Stanley’s father’s full name was Stanley Yelnats II. Our Stanley is Stanley Yelnats IV.
Everyone in his family had always liked the fact that “Stanley Yelnats” was spelled the same frontward and backward. So they kept naming their sons Stanley. Stanley was an only child, as was every other Stanley Yelnats before him.
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.
“Not every Stanley Yelnats has been a failure,” Stanley’s mother often pointed out, whenever Stanley or his father became so discouraged that they actually started to believe in the curse. The first Stanley Yelnats, Stanley’s great-grandfather, had made a fortune in the stock market. “He couldn’t have been too unlucky.”
At such times she neglected to mention the bad luck that befell the first Stanley Yelnats. He lost his entire fortune when he was moving from New York to California. His stagecoach was robbed by the outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow.
If it weren’t for that, Stanley’s family would now be living in a mansion on a beach in California. Instead, they were crammed in a tiny apartment that smelled of burning rubber and foot odor.
If only, if only …
The apartment smelled the way it did because Stanley’s father was trying to invent a way to recycle old sneakers. “The first person who finds a use for old sneakers,” he said, “will be a very rich man.”
It was this latest project that led to Stanley’s arrest.
The bus ride became increasingly bumpy because the road was no longer paved.
Actually, Stanley had been impressed when he first found out that his great-grandfather was robbed by Kissin’ Kate Barlow. True, he would have preferred living on the beach in California, but it was still kind of cool to have someone in your family robbed by a famous outlaw.
Kate Barlow didn’t actually kiss Stanley’s great-grandfather. That would have been really cool, but she only kissed the men she killed. Instead, she robbed him and left him stranded in the middle of the desert.
“He was lucky to have survived,” Stanley’s mother was quick to point out.
The bus was slowing down. The guard grunted as he stretched his arms.
“Welcome to Camp Green Lake,” said the driver.
Stanley looked out the dirty window. He couldn’t see a lake.
And hardly anything was green.
Stanley felt somewhat dazed as the guard unlocked his handcuffs and led him off the bus. He’d been on the bus for over eight hours.
“Be careful,” the bus driver said as Stanley walked down the steps.
Stanley wasn’t sure if the bus driver meant for him to be careful going down the steps, or if he was telling him to be careful at Camp Green Lake. “Thanks for the ride,” he said. His mouth was dry and his throat hurt. He stepped onto the hard, dry dirt. There was a band of sweat around his wrist where the handcuff had been.
The land was barren and desolate. He could see a few run-down buildings and some tents. Farther away there was a cabin beneath two tall trees. Those two trees were the only plant life he could see. There weren’t even weeds.
The guard led Stanley to a small building. A sign on front said, YOU ARE ENTERING CAMP GREEN LAKE JUVENILE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY. Next to it was another sign which declared that it was a violation of the Texas Penal Code to bring guns, explosives, weapons, drugs, or alcohol onto the premises.
As Stanley read the sign he couldn’t help but think, Well, duh!
The guard led Stanley into the building, where he felt the welcome relief of air-conditioning.
A man was sitting with his feet up on a desk. He turned his head when Stanley and the guard entered, but otherwise didn’t move. Even though he was inside, he wore sunglasses and a cowboy hat. He also held a can of soda, and the sight of it made Stanley even more aware of his own thirst.
He waited while the bus guard gave the man some papers to sign.
“That’s a lot of sunflower seeds,” the bus guard said.
Stanley noticed a burlap sack filled with sunflower seeds on the floor next to the desk.
“I quit smoking last month,” said the man in the cowboy hat. He had a tattoo of a rattlesnake on his arm, and as he signed his name, the snake’s rattle seemed to wiggle. “I used to smoke a pack a day. Now I eat a sack of these every week.”
The guard laughed.
There must have been a small refrigerator behind his desk, because the man in the cowboy hat produced two more cans of soda. For a second Stanley hoped that one might be for him, but the man gave one to the guard and said the other was for the driver.
“Nine hours here, and now nine hours back,” the guard grumbled. “What a day.”
Stanley thought about the long, miserable bus ride and felt a little sorry for the guard and the bus driver.
The man in the cowboy hat spit sunflower seed shells into a wastepaper basket. Then he walked around the desk to Stanley. “My name is Mr. Sir,” he said. “Whenever you speak to me you must call me by my name, is that clear?”
Stanley hesitated. “Uh, yes, Mr. Sir,” he said, though he couldn’t imagine that was really the man’s name.
“You’re not in the Girl Scouts anymore,” Mr. Sir said.
Stanley had to remove his clothes in front of Mr. Sir, who made sure he wasn’t hiding anything. He was then
given two sets of clothes and a towel. Each set consisted of a long-sleeve orange jumpsuit, an orange T-shirt, and yellow socks. Stanley wasn’t sure if the socks had been yellow originally.
He was also given white sneakers, an orange cap, and a canteen made of heavy plastic, which unfortunately was empty. The cap had a piece of cloth sewn on the back of it, for neck protection.
Stanley got dressed. The clothes smelled like soap.
Mr. Sir told him he should wear one set to work in and one set for relaxation. Laundry was done every three days. On that day his work clothes would be washed. Then the other set would become his work clothes, and he would get clean clothes to wear while resting.
“You are to dig one hole each day, including Saturdays and Sundays. Each hole must be five feet deep, and five feet across in every direction. Your shovel is your measuring stick. Breakfast is served at 4:30.”
Stanley must have looked surprised, because Mr. Sir went on to explain that they started early to avoid the hottest part of the day. “No one is going to baby-sit you,” he added. “The longer it takes you to dig, the longer you will be out in the sun. If you dig up anything interesting, you are to report it to me or any other counselor. When you finish, the rest of the day is yours.”
Stanley nodded to show he understood.
“This isn’t a Girl Scout camp,” said Mr. Sir.
He checked Stanley’s backpack and allowed him to keep it. Then he led Stanley outside into the blazing heat.
“Take a good look around you,” Mr. Sir said. “What do you see?”
Stanley looked out across the vast wasteland. The air seemed thick with heat and dirt. “Not much,” he said, then hastily added, “Mr. Sir.”
Mr. Sir laughed. “You see any guard towers?”
“How about an electric fence?”
“No, Mr. Sir.”
“There’s no fence at all, is there?”
“No, Mr. Sir.”
“You want to run away?” Mr. Sir asked him.
Stanley looked back at him, unsure what he meant.