Zero and Stanley head towards God's thumb, periodically giving each other the thumbs up sign for reassurance as they walk. They carry Zero's shovel and four of the unbroken sploosh jars in the burlap sunflower seed sack. Zero often has severe attacks of stomach pain. Stanley spells words for Zero to keep him occupied. They climb up towards the thumb. At one point Zero uses the shovel to help Stanley up part of a cliff. This causes Zero, who is already weak and sick, to get big cuts in his hands.
Stanley and Zero continue towards the thumb but Zero throws up along the way.
Zero has passed out and Stanley leaves the shovel and jars on the ground so that he can carry Zero up the mountain. There is a bitter smell in the air and mud on the ground when Stanley reaches the top of the mountain. Stanley realizes that mud means there is water nearby and this renews his strength. He digs an onion out of the mud and he and Zero both eat half of it.
Stanley wakes to find himself in the middle of a giant meadow. Zero is still very sick but tells Stanley that it was he, Zero, who stole Clyde Livingston's shoes from the homeless shelter. He apologizes to Stanley and Stanley sings Zero the song that Madame Zeroni taught his great-great- grandfather.
Stanley digs up another onion and the narration shifts back to one hundred and ten years ago when Sam was selling onions. A woman thanks Sam for an onion remedy that saved her daughter's life. The narration shifts again to Stanley and Zero who spend two days eating onions and drinking dirty water from pools of mud. Stanley heads back down the mountain to find the shovel and jars he left behind. He is stunned at the distance that he covered while carrying Zero.
Zero gets better and tells Stanley that he was homeless before he came to Camp Green Lake. He often went to the homeless shelter that Clyde Livingston's shoes were in. Zero took the shoes because he thought it was better to take a pair of old shoes than to steal a pair of new shoes. He couldn't read the sign explaining whose shoes they were. Zero was wearing the shoes when people at the shelter discovered they were stolen. Everyone was so upset about the stolen shoes that Zero ran outside and places the shoes on top of a parked car. The next day Zero was arrested when he stole a new pair of shoes.