Economics 101, a Novel, ch_06 pt_1 -- The Second Semester Starts

(The framing story starts is here: If you haven't read that, you might want to. Otherwise, the rest of this may not make much sense.

Introductions and characterizations begin here:

In the previous chapter, we got to see more of the group date activities that Bobbie and Karel and Dan and Kristie participated in together:

And the trip back to school for the second semester was important, too. Don't skip that:

If you don't care about characterization, you might want to jump ahead:

Important things happened during the second semester, too, and I guess I should tell you about some of them.

"How was your first day?" Bobbie set her books on the kitchen table.

Kristie looked up from her books. "Lots of homework already. But, good news, too."

"What kind?"

"Dan and I were in the department office, and we were both invited to apply for teacher's assistant work."

"That's great! How did it happen?"

"There was a PhD candidate who had the job last semester, but he decided to focus on his off-campus job and his thesis this semester."

"That sometimes happens, I guess."

"And the teacher remembered us leading study groups in the graduate classes last semester, so when he saw us in the office, he invited us to apply."

"Do you think you'll get it?"

"We'll find out tomorrow. I'm excited, but it's going to be a lot more work."

"Yeah, it will. But it's a great opportunity!"

"Hey guys!"

Karel looked up from his books. "Dan! Kristie! What's up?"

"We got the TA job. We get to work together on a couple of undergraduate classes this semester." Dan looked happy.

Bobbie did not look up. "Wonderful!" she said distractedly, and continued working on a diagram.

"We aren't going to have much time to play this semester." Kristie sounded a little sad.

Bobbie stopped to erase a section she didn't like. "We're grad students for real this semester. But we still have the folk dance class to have fun in."

Kristie asked, "Can we keep up the study groups?"

Karel turned back to the book he was reading. "We have to. It's what keeps us in the game."

Dan agreed. "Teaching others is the best way to make sure you understand things," he said as he sat down.

"And letting them explain it back is good review for everyone." Bobbie added.

"We'll squeeze some time in for something," Karel said. "All play and no work, hey?"

"I wish." Kristie sat down, too.

"Yeah. For sure."


"Now that I think of it, it would be nice," Karel leaned back and laughed.


"I can't believe Professor Trilemma actually admits to expecting four hours a day of study time for a religion class!" Kristie was not showing a happy face as they left the classroom.

(Okay, I'm really going to have to apologize for the professor's name. Sorry, see? No hard feelings?)

"And the grading scale. The work has to show inspiration, in addition to being correct, to receive an A+" Bobbie was a bit non-plussed, as well.

"Well, he didn't say that everyone would have to work that hard, just that some may. And he did point out that we still have time to drop the class." Karel was being blasé.

"We'll help each other, and Karel can always get inspiration for us!" Dan was joking again.


"Go, Karel!"

"I don't think that's quite what he had in mind. But are we all okay about Lectures on Faith getting only a week?"

"That week's definitely going to be four hours a day." Dan laughed.

Bobbie suggested, "We can study ahead."

"So we're not going to drop the class?"

"No way!"


During the second week of the semester, Karel and Bobbie went to talk with their professors again, and Melissa told them how things were going.

"We've been talking with your missionaries, and they're suggesting I get baptized."

Karel was slightly blasé. "That's not surprising, I guess."

Bobbie asked, "How do feel about that?"

"I feel pretty good about it, really. The home teachers are sitting in on the lessons, and we've been going through some of the teachings I grew up with -- you know, comparing my catechism with what Mormons believe."

Karel said, "I wonder if that's really a good idea."

"Well, the home teachers tell me how, in your church, instead of having hard rules handed down from the clergy, you usually pray and apply basic principles and pray some more and see what feels right. And sometimes you take one approach and sometimes another. And what they say seems right to me."

"Well, great!" Bobbie enthused.

"But there's a little bit of a problem."

"What's that?"

"My husband wants to baptize me, but the bishop wants him to wait."

Bobbie said, "Well, that also happens sometimes."

And Karel added, "And then you have to decide whether you can help your husband more by being baptized first, or by giving him a reason to do whatever he needs to get ready to baptize you."

Bobbie looked at Karel and frowned. "You are treating this too lightly. Too  blasé."

"Okay, I'll shut up."

"But that is basically what the home teachers are saying, that I should pray and decide for myself which way to go."

Bobbie opened her mouth to ask "What do you think?" but Karel beat her to it. And they challenged each other with their eyes, grinning slightly.

"I'd kind of like him to baptize me. That's part of what I like about what you guys believe."

"That priesthood can be part of family life?" Bobbie asked, giving Karel a "Beat you to it!" look. Karel rolled his eyes towards the ceiling.

"Yes. Well, you two are having fun today."

Grinning, they said, "Sorry," in unison. Karel scratched his head embarrassedly.

"No problem. I've found myself having a little fun with Winn like this, too. It's like we read each other's minds sometimes." And she paused to think.

Bobbie nodded. "Being able to agree on what you believe really changes things."

And Karel agreed.

"Can I ask you guys a kind of personal question?"

"Should I leave?" Karel offered.

"No, actually, I'd like to hear both of your opinions, and I think I could get honest answers from you two."

"Okay, shoot."

"Uhm, ..."

Bobbie said, "Go ahead. Anything. We're feeling adventurous today."

"I can tell you are. Uhm, it has to do with, well, sex."

Karel said, "Ouch. Maybe I should leave."

But Bobbie turned to him and said, "No need." Then she turned back. "Ask away."

"Maybe I shouldn't ask."

"It doesn't bother me. I'm not sure why it should bother Karel."

"Well, if you're sure. Is it okay with you, Karel?"

Bobbie was giving him a "Don't you dare run away from this!" look.

And Karel was looking quietly at the floor. Suddenly he wasn't feeling very adventurous after all. "Well, errm, I guess it's okay, but I don't know whether I'll have anything helpful to say."

"Don't worry about him. He'll be all right." She patted him on the knee.

Melissa looked from one to the other. Bobbie was open to talk, but she couldn't read Karel's expression. But he didn't seem to unwilling to talk about it, so she decided to go ahead anyway. "Would you be worried, Bobbie, if your husband masturbated sometimes?"

And Bobbie answered, "I wouldn't think it's a problem."

Karel didn't say anything.

Bobbie asked, "Well, do you disagree, Karel?"

"Uhmm," Karel was feeling anything but comfortable. "It's not a simple question."

So Bobbie shrugged and said, "Oh, ignore him."

"Well, for instance," he continued, "reading, I mean, looking at pornography is not good. If it includes pornography, I would think that would be a problem."

"Playboy or that kind of thing?" Melissa asked.

"Matthew 5: 28. If a man looks at a woman to lust after her he has committed adultery with her in his heart. I'm pretty sure that covers pornography, too."

"When I met Winn, I know he sometimes read Playboy. I think he got it from a friend. But I told him I didn't want to feel like I had to compete with those air-brushed pictures of impossible physically ideal women, and he promised he wouldn't look at it any more. I've never seen it in the house since we got married."

"That's good."

Bobbie nodded in agreement.

Karel continued. "I think what you just said is a big part of the problem with pornography. The images are artificially altered to match artificial ideals. It's sharing things that shouldn't be shared, and, to ease the discomfort people naturally feel, they airbrush out the individuality. So it ends up very similar to worshiping a false god. Or becoming fanatical about a false ideal."

"Nicely put, if wordy." Bobbie said. Then she teasingly asked, "How is it that you know so much about this?"

"Uhm," Karel turned slightly pink. "Well, I guess I've thought about it a bit. A bit more than I think I wish I had. Sometimes football players bring stuff into the locker room, and you end up seeing things you wish you hadn't."

"Sorry." She looked away, realizing that she was pressing into areas Karel might not be ready to talk about with her and Melissa both present. "I shouldn't tease about this." And Bobbie turned back to Melissa. "But that isn't really about your question, is it?"

"No. The bishop wants him to abstain for a month before he performs a baptism."

"Abstain from sex?" asked Bobbie.

"No, just doing it by himself."

Karel said, "I'm not sure Winn is going to be happy about being talked about behind his back. Some guys are kind of sensitive about it."

But Bobbie asked, "Is his abstaining from it going to cause problems for you?"

"I don't think so. I mean, I think I would rather he get a little relief by himself than pressure me for sex when I'm not interested. But I just wonder why it's a big deal."

Bobbie said, "I can't say I know why." And, forgetting his discomfort, she asked, "What do you think, Karel?"

He sighed. "It is my understanding that a guy who doesn't try to control himself is more likely to try to force someone else, for example."

"Hmm." Melissa had to think about that. "So it's kind of like emotional endurance training or something?"

Bobbie said, "I don't think that's guaranteed. I knew a bishop who was really strict with the guys in the Aaronic Priesthood, and his son was one of the guys who couldn't keep his hands off of me."

"Ouch." was all Karel could say.

"Then this isn't a general rule?" Melissa was surprised.

"Which?" Karel asked.

"His son was definitely doing things he shouldn't have been doing, if that's what you're asking." Bobbie replied to what she thought Melissa was asking.

Then Karel replied to his interpretation of her question. "A bishop is responsible for getting revelation on how to interpret many parts of Church policy. Sometimes bishops get it wrong, and sometimes members of their wards suffer for it. But that's also part of what Jesus' atonement helps us with. Otherwise, we could never dare take part of the burden of the Church. God would have to do it all."

Bobbie was not happy with what Karel was saying, but she kept quiet.

"Not a general rule ..." Melissa wanted a bit of confirmation.

Karel nodded and continued. "Maybe your bishop thinks your husband needs to develop some personal strength through this. Maybe it will help him have the courage to talk with you about it. And not just joke or make demands, if he tends to do that."

"Maybe I can see that. Up until now, we just really haven't talked about it very much, left it up to our moods." She smiled a little shyly. "Maybe we need to talk about it more." Then she apologized. "Maybe I shouldn't have asked you guys about this."

"It's okay." Karel said.

And Bobbie said, "Yeah. What we think doesn't really matter. What matters is what you and Winn and God think."

"And your bishop. He's supposed to be able to help you help each other, and help you figure out what God wants."

Again Bobbie was unhappy with what Karel was saying, but again she kept her own counsel.

About this point, the conversation stalled, and the silence dragged a bit.

As I mention later on, back around the 1950s and '60s or so, there seemed to be a bit of disagreement among some of the leaders of the Church on the topic of how strictly the Church should treat masturbation. For those who might have questions on the subject, I suggest discussion with your nearest bishop.

"Did someone forget to turn on the heat today? This room feels a little cool." Professor White asked at the door.

"Don't give up. Talk with Winn about it and do what you think is right." Bobbie said as she stood up to leave.

And Karel nodded as he followed suit. "Hang in there. And pray about it."

After talking with their professors, Karel and Bobbie walked to the library to meet Dan and Kristie. But there was a wall between them now.

"I didn't think you were a Pharisee."

"Huh? What did I say?"

"Not entering in yourself, and keeping others who would enter from doing so. Or something like that."

"Uhm, taking away the key of knowledge, towards the end of Luke 11. But we don't know that their bishop is doing that. He may have good reason for wanting her husband to practice a little self-control."

"That guy told me he wasn't allowed to masturbate by himself, and then he threatened to tell his father I was trying to make him disobey the law of chastity."

"Oh, man. Badly, badly confused. Did you talk to his father?"

"He called me in to his office and asked me to tell my version of things, so I did. And then he disfellowshipped me. Said I had tried to seduce his son."

"Oh, ..." Karel winced and searched for words. "Ouch! Crud. I mean, woops. Sorry to swear."

"Say 'shit' if you mean 'shit'."

"Crud has a little broader use, although I probably should have said, 'What a terrible mess.'"

"If you had said that, I wouldn't have believed you meant it."

Karel grimaced. "Anyway, I'm sorry to hear about it. Maybe it's too late to suggest now, but did you take it to the stake president?"

"Nobody told me I could. But that guy's dad was released from being bishop about three months later, and he ended up excommunicated. Apparently he couldn't keep his own hands off of one of my friends. Like son, like father. I don't hold it against the Church, but my father did for quite a while."

"I'm sure that didn't help the ward, either."

"The next bishop called me in practically immediately after he was called. Apologized, and told me the whole disfellowshipment thing had been erased from my Church records. And the ward quit being so Pharisaical after that. Eventually my father quit complaining about it, but I think it still bugs him."

"What happened to their family?"

"They joined a baptist church, and raised a fuss about evil Mormons."

"That's too bad."

"Yeah. But they were only welcomed there until the members of that church figured out what was going on. After about a year of warnings, they asked them to find another church to attend. I heard the family divorced about then."

"It's too bad he wouldn't repent. Must have been hard on the ward, too."

"At first, but the ward recovered. And it actually helped the relationship of the ward with the rest of the community. Members of that church and our ward had to talk about the problems they were causing, and we ended up making a lot of friends. Then they warmed up to us participating in a lot of community activities -- Scouting, Lion's Club, candy striping, .... Overall, our relationships in the community improved a lot after that."

"Seems like a lot of things worked out okay, then. Do you ever hear how things are going with their family?"

"The father started his own church in another town and regularly publishes anti-Mormon stuff that most people ignore."

"That's too bad." Karel paused. "It's good that you can talk about it like this."

"I learned somewhere along the line that I had to just let it go and forgive him, or it would tear me apart."

"That's good." He paused again. "I still don't think trying to exercise self control is a bad idea."

"I'd agree, but those are powerful forces. Innocent people can get hurt."

Karel didn't know what else to say, so he said nothing for a while. As they entered the library, he finally said, "I think we're going to have to agree to disagree about this."

"Fine by me."

Towards the end of January, the four of them were walking to the gym for the folk dance class, and Dan said, "Let's go snowshoeing this Saturday."

"Can we rent snowshoes?" Kristie asked.

"Same place we rented the skis."

Bobbie said, "Well, you two go ahead. I have a date for Saturday."

"Karel!" Dan exclaimed, giving him a nudge.

"Uhm, I have a date, too. I'm taking the sister of one of the guys in the dorm to the art museum. She's an engineering student."

Kristie exclaimed, "Bobbie?"

"One of the students in the class I'm TAing for wouldn't take no for an answer. He's not really my type. But, I guess, if I'm going to meet other guys on campus, I have to start somewhere. He found out I have the master's in dance, so he asked me to a modern dance performance."

Dan and Kristie looked at Karel and Bobbie with an expression like they were traitors.

Bobbie said, "I have to do this."

And Karel said, "Bobbie needs our support. Besides, if we're supposed to be patient, maybe we should all still be meeting other people, too."

Kristie said, "Dan, you and Karel go ahead without us. I need to talk with Bobbie."

Dan looked at Karel, and Karel shrugged. "Okay." And they went in ahead of the girls.

"What are you doing?" Kristie didn't hide the urgency in her voice.

"What do you mean?"

"I know that there is no guy better for either of us than Karel and Dan. What is happening here?"

"For you, maybe. And maybe just now. I'm not getting that answer for myself."

Kristie looked at Bobbie, but she would not meet her eyes.

"Bobbie, if you're still worried about what I said last fall, about taking Karel away from me, please, don't worry about it. I was feeling insecure then. Hanging around together has, well, shown me that I don't need to be insecure."

"Maybe that's all God wants of us. To learn we don't have to be scared of people when He is our Friend."

"I know I can't receive revelation for you, but I don't believe it. We weren't meant to be broken up."

"But that doesn't mean we have to get together. I mean, seriously. Four-way marriage sure isn't allowed."

"Don't joke about this. Don't run away from happiness."

"I'm not. But I need room. For now." Bobbie looked up with pleading in her eyes.

"Well, ..." As they met each others' eyes, something passed between them that you and I would not be able to put into words. "... it's not like I really can tell you what to do. But if you need to talk, remember, I can be here for you just like you've been here for me."


And they exchanged hesitant smiles and hugged each other and went inside the gym.

More of the second semester will be linked here when it's ready is here:

(The chapter index is here:

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