Economics 101, a Novel, ch_12 -- Tentative Exploration

[JMR201609111939: Moved the link to the abandoned almost-final draft to the bottom. ]

(The story starts here:
The previous chapter is here:

In the previous chapter, we saw Wycliffe behaving as if money did not matter.

How can we talk about economics if the characters of our story don't think money matters?


Well, let's think about such questions as we go back to see what Karel and Bobbie have been doing while Wycliffe was finding that even an eternity in hell can have an end, of sorts.

Karel and Bobbie separately closed their eyes and offered silent prayers of thanks for their food.

Karel took a bite of his sandwich and drank some water from his canteen. "What kind of sandwich have you got?" he asked.

"Egg salad, with some of the native wild lettuce. How about you?" Bobbie said between bites.

"Ham, with some of the native mustard greens. Try it?"

Bobbie looked at him doubtfully. He dug into the emergency kit and found a knife and wiped it with his handkerchief. Bobbie reached over and covered his hand and the knife.

"That's okay." Then she took his sandwich. "I trust your saliva more than that knife until we can wash it." She took a bite and handed it back, chewing thoughtfully and swallowing. "Not bad. Have a bite of mine?"

Karel blinked. "Sure." He took the sandwich she offered, took a bite, and handed it back. "Nice, especially without mayonnaise."

Bobbie said, "It's been a while since we treated ourselves to American style food, hasn't it?"

"Mmm, well, yeah. Focusing on the local cuisine and all." Neither of them wanted to put into words the questions being begged about how long until they might be eating American style food again. Instead, Karel asked, "What should we do next?"

"Start exploring the island for real, maybe?"

"I'm thinking I want to make sure the water filter works."

"Good idea. Have you read the instructions?"

Karel dug in the emergency kit, but could only find the filter tank and a pack of paper filters that looked more like coffee filters.

"Can that actually filter water?" Bobbie said when he showed her the paper filters.

"For short-term, drink-or-die emergencies, I guess."

"We'll have to be careful with the drinking water Wycliffe gave us, and use sea water to wash."

"Maybe we can find something to make a real filter with." Karel thought for a minute. "Let's wash the utensils from the emergency kit so we don't have to worry about that for dinner."

So they went down to the beach to look at the water. The sea was clear and blue, and looked inviting. Karel asked, "Want to go in for a swim?"

"Is that preparing? What about the dishes?"

"Part of exploring -- Gotta check out the water source."

They walked back up the beach to get their swimming suits. "No place to change." Bobbie pointed out.

"Well, we need to put up the tent, anyway. Give me a hand?"

Sure, let's do it."

He opened up the canvas bag with the tent in it and they pulled out the ground sheet, the canvas tent, and the tentpoles and stakes, and starting setting it up.

"Should I trust you with that big hammer?" Bobbie joked as she held the stakes while Karel pounded them into the dirt. Fortunately, the ground under the grass was firmer than beach sand.

"You want to swing it?"

"Just be careful." 

When they had the tent up, Bobbie changed into her swimsuit inside the tent while Karel pulled out the dinghy and looked it over. "There's a canvas tarp in with the dinghy." he reported, and started inflating the dinghy with the hand pump.

"That'll be useful," Bobbie said as she came out in her swimsuit. "Your turn."

While Karel changed, Bobbie took over inflating the dinghy. When he was changed, they traded turns until the dinghy's frame was tight. Then they threw the oars in and carried it to the water.

Leaving it on the sand, they waded into the water. The water was clear, and Bobbie bent down and dipped her hand in and tasted it.

"Mmm. Salty."

Karel followed suit. "Tastes okay, other than the salt. Properly filtered and boiled, it would probably be pretty good. Maybe the filter will work for a few pints of water."

The beach sloped gently down into the water and continued more or less the same below the water line for quite a distance. They were only to their knees about thirty yards out.

So they went back, put the dinghy in the water, pulling it to where the water was deep enough to float. Then they rowed out about fifty yards, pushing and probing the bottom with the oars as they went.

"Faster to push it," said Karel, and he climbed out in water that was now to his waist and started to push the dinghy ahead of him. Bobbie continued to paddle on one side.

About a hundred yards out, with Karel up to his chest in the sea, they hit the edge of the first shelf in the sea floor and he slipped under the water.

"You okay?" Bobbie asked, readying to jump in after him. 

Karel got his feet back on the shelf and stood up again. "Sudden dropoff here." He dove underwater to see how deep the dropoff was.

"How is it?" Bobbie asked when his head broke the surface.

"Not bad. About ten, maybe fifteen feet deep beyond the shelf edge. There are lots of fish and seaweed out here. Both look edible. And I'm not seeing any jellyfish or other nasties."

So Bobbie sat on the side of the dinghy facing in, and dropped backwards into the water, and Karel hung onto it while she explored. Then she held the dinghy while he explored. After about twenty minutes of exploring the shelf and shallows, they climbed in and rowed a bit further out to get a good look at the island. From maybe three hundred yards out, they could see where the beach curved away from them to the north and the south.

"The water's really nice." Bobbie said, almost to herself.

"Clean enough to wash the eating utensils in, I'd say."

"How big do you think the island is?"

"If the island is a simple oval, I'd say about two miles across, north to south. Can't tell anything about east to west from here. What do you think?"

"Looks like about three miles of beach. It'd be fun to live here."

"Lots of adventures, and a lot of hard work, too."

"We're daydreaming. We need to get some dishes cleaned up."

So they brought the dinghy back to the beach, washed the bottom in the surf, and carried it back to the grass.

Bobbie dug the mess kit out of the emergency supplies. Karel looked at it and said, "You know, we don't have a good place to dry these, yet, so lets just wash the two plates and the food knife for now."

"Aren't you feeling domestic?" Bobbie asked in a mocking voice.

Karel laughed. "Two plates could even wait until just before we eat."

"Should we eat now?" Bobbie asked. "It's about six o'clock isn't it. I want to look into the woods a bit before it gets dark."

"Me, too. The plates can wait."

"Let's get something on our legs before we go wandering through any tall grass."

After changing back, they hung their swimsuits on tentlines and walked into the woods, sighting on the camp as they went.

Karel stopped at a tree with a spiked fruit and asked Bobbie, "Do you think this might be breadfruit?"

Bobbie looked at it and said, "Can you break the stem easily? We could take it back and open it up."

Karel picked one, and they kept going. When they lost sight of the camp, Bobbie backed up a bit and Karel went in until he lost sight of her.

"Finding anything?" Bobbie called.

"Not yet. I don't think we've seen any signs of rats or other small animals at all."

"Me neither. Just birds and insects."

Shortly, he came back, and they walked parallel to the camp for a bit. Then Bobbie went deeper in.

"Here's something that looks like jackfruit. I'll bring one back."


"This looks like boxfruit."

"Don't take one of those. Well check it later."

She came back, and they proceeded, parallel to the camp.

"Oh, look at this. It looks like hemp."

"Rope, paper, ...." Karel thought outloud.

"The seeds are supposed to be edible, too."

It was beginning to get dark, so they returned to camp, laying out the samples they had taken on Karel's trunk. Then they went down to the water and washed their hands.

Coming back, Bobbie opened the food boxes, which they had set on her trunk in hopes of avoiding attracting insects, and they got out the bread and sausage.



"I just realized we could have brought some seaweed back. We don't have any salad here."

"I'll go back in and get some."

"I'll go with you. Let's take those tin plates and the food knife."

And they changed back into their swimsuits again and waded into the water and washed the plates and knife, then waded in further and collected some seaweed that they recognized as edible, washing it in the ocean water, and carrying it back.

Leaving the seaweed on the plates, they changed again and turned their attention to dinner.

"I'm having fun."

"Me, too. Do you want to say the blessing?"

"Sure." They bowed their heads, and Bobbie said, "Heavenly Father, we are having fun. It's scary, but we are having fun. Thank you for letting us do this, and it was nice of Wycliffe to take us here, in a strange sort of way. We forgive him. We aren't sure the seaweed is safe, but please bless us that, if it's poisonous, we can tell quickly enough that we can stop before it makes us really sick. And please bless the bread and the sausage and the cheese and the seaweed. And bless Wycliffe, too. We pray in the name of Jesus, amen." And Karel echoed the amen.

After eating, they put the food boxes and emergency supplies box in the tent, setting the samples they had taken on the emergency supplies box. Then they spread the tarp from the dinghy on the ground by the tent and moved the trunks and suitcases around it to form a barrier.

"I could just sleep under the stars, really," said Karel.

"Let's be safe this time. I think you need a roof, too." Bobbie replied, indicating the dinghy.

Karel didn't like this idea. "The corners of the trunks could tear holes in it."

So they moved the trunks beside the tent and leaned the dinghy upside down on the trunks, setting the suitcases up as barriers on the ends. Karel was still not satisfied, but it kept the corners away from the fabric of the dinghy.

Then they retired for the night.

"I feel like a queen." Complained Bobbie inside the tent.

"That's okay," replied Karel from under the dinghy.

"I could get used to it."

"No, you won't. I know you well enough now."

Silence. Then, "I mean, I could get used to you being nice to me."

"I wouldn't mind. Really."

More silence.

Karel said, "You know, for two people who are polar opposites, we seem to get along together all right."

"Hah. There's nothing to argue about, here."

"I guess we have really good reasons not to argue right now. But we haven't, really, disagreed all that much over the last four months."

"My mom keeps telling me that opposites are supposed to attract. She approves of you."

"How about your dad?"

"He keeps asking if you are blind or something."

Karel chuckled. "I think I like your dad, too."

"Do your parents talk about me?"

"They tell me they don't want to push me one way or the other, but I know they like you."

(This was about the point in the conversation wheere Wycliffe showed up and started listening.)

"My roommates asked me why we didn't just get married before we came. She said it would solve so many problems, and, since we had both gone to meet each others' families, it was obviously going to happen anyway."

"My roommates have said similar things."

Again, silence.

"Harvard has invited you to go for a year of teaching and research. The reports you've sent back have been making impressions there."

"And Berkeley has invited you. Your work gets a lot of approval, too, from what the Professor says."

"Can we resolve that?" Karel asked.

"Neither of us has actually made any promises."

"We could find a school that would take us both."

"Or try, and, if we don't, live poor the first few years like most Mormon newlyweds."

"We're serious about this."

"We'll talk more about it in the morning. Excuse me, I'm going to pray and go to sleep. Goodnight."


And both of them did exactly that.

Doesn't this sound romantic?

Are they talking about money?

Look carefully. Even though money is not a high priority with these two, economics is a deep undercurrent in their actions and words.

And it's not a bad thing, really, since it clearly takes lower priority than the more important things.

(The next chapter will be linked here when it is done. The next chapter is here:

(The chapter index is here:

The above is where I am currently re-working and rewriting this chapter.

An abandoned almost-final draft of this chapter is here:

Popular Posts