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 stationary 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 seemostly
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
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 his 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 of 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
He smiled. It was a family joke. Whenever anything went wrong, they
always blamed Stanley's
Supposedly, he had a great-great-grandfather who had stolen a pig from
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 moooooon, "If only, if
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
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
Stanley's father was also named Stanley Yelnats. Stanley's father's full
name was Stanley Yelnats III. 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 learned
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 lastest project that led to Stanley's arrest.
The bus ride became increasingly bumpy because the road was no longer
Actually, Stanley had been impressed when he first found out that is
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
The bus was slowing down. The guard grunted as he stretched out his
"Welcome Camp Green Lake," said the driver.
Stanley looked out the dirty window. He couldn't see a lake. And hardly
anything was green.
Excerpted from "Holes" by Louis Sachar. Copyright © 2000 by Louis Sachar. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.