Economics 101, a Novel, ch_07 pt2 -- Getting through Winter in the Second Year

(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 five parts of the last chapter, we get to watch them get serious about life in their second semester as graduate students:

In this chapter, we watch them work through their second year.

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

And the third semester continued as more of the same.

Sort of.

The study groups were different this year, of course, with new students coming in, old students graduating and moving on, and continuing students taking different classes. New study groups formed, some of the forming around students who had been members of our four friends' study groups the previous year.

Trisha and Charles were among those who decided to join them in taking a class about traditions and laws on marriage and family in various cultures around the world, hosted by the anthropology department.

One evening around the middle of the semester, Trisha noticed a box in Charles's open rucksack as she put her books on the table and sat down beside him.

"Is that a box of Cracker Jacks?"

"Well, yeah. Do you like Cracker Jacks?"

"I'm not sure. Maybe it depends on the toy surprise inside."

The other students studying at the table were politely pretending to ignore them.

"I guess I buy them for the caramel popcorn and peanuts."

"You're not supposed to have them in the library."

"The box isn't open."

"The smell could still attract pests."

"Mmphh!" Meg couldn't quite suppress her laughter.

"No way. Do you think the smell is that strong?"

"I think we should go outside to eat those."

"I was thinking of going to the International Cinema after we're done here."

There was muffled giggling and laughter among the group.

"Oh. Okay."

"Where are Karel and Bobbie?" Janet asked, perhaps intending to distract everyone.

"Good question." Piers said, relieved to be able to say something innocuous. "If we don't get started soon," he continued without thinking, "I'm going to lose my motivation to study."

"I do not believe I said that," he backpedaled as most of the group broke out laughing, then quickly smothered their laughter.

"Sshhhhh!" said Bobbie as she came up to the table. What's happening?"

"Charles has a box of Cracker Jacks." said Pete, as if that explained everything.

"Well, of course he does, ... unless he ate the whole box in the twenty minutes since I saw him buy them at the school store."

There was a chorus of disappointed ohs and aws. The fact that it was so recently purchased turned their expectations upside down.

"Charles, ..." Trisha got up, stood behind him, and started kneading his neck and shoulders. "Can we go somewhere and talk?"

"Don't be long." Bobbie said. "Dan and Kristie can't come tonight, and Karel said we should get started without him."

"Okay. Somebody loan us your notes when we get back." Charles stood up and followed Trisha towards the stacks. As soon as they were out of sight of the study group, he took her hand, and they walked together down the stairs and out the front door.

"Sorry. I guess I wasn't really thinking. I just like Cracker Jacks, and it's been a while since I bought a box."


I guess I should explain here, for those not familiar with this meme, that some college men used to think it a great and imaginative way to propose, hiding an engagement ring in a resealed box of Cracker Jacks.

But it was already a meme then, and many university students had heard of it.

They walked out on the quad and sat down on a bench together, holding hands and not saying much.

After a few minutes, Karel came by.

Charles called out, "Karel!"

Karel turned and saw them. "Oh! You're not in the study group."

"Hard to concentrate."

"This should help." Karel grinned and handed him a small package. "Heir... uhhm," he stopped himself before he finished the word. "They don't always come perfectly clean, even in ultrasound. I did what I could with these."


"See ya inside. Or not, as the case may be." And he left, still grinning, not quite in a hurry, but also not sticking around.

"What's that?"

"Oh, it's something my aunt left me when she died several years ago."

"Really? Can I see it?"

"Well, I'm kind of shy about this."

"It's okay. It's not like I'm going to judge your family or you by it."

"Okay." And he undid the package, revealing a small, faded old-fashioned jewelry box that had been carefully cleaned. "The box itself was also a bit hard to clean. I think it needs to be re-dyed."

"It's beautiful. It has character." Trisha took the box and opened it. Inside the box was a platinum braid necklace with a heart locket. As Karel had indicated, the necklace showed small signs of having been worn, but it was clean, and shown brightly. "So does the necklace. This is really beautiful. May I?"

Charles nodded, yes, so she took it out and looked at it. She opened the locket to reveal an old wedding picture of a young man and woman.

"I guess Karel put the picture back after cleaning."

"They are truly beautiful. What were their names?"

"Josephine and Joseph Merlin. He died during the Spanish American war, and she never re-married. Said being sealed to him was good enough. Devoted herself to teaching other people's children instead of raising her own. She kind of adopted me as her favorite nephew."

"How long did you know her?"

"Either she would visit us every summer, or we would visit her. She died when I was fifteen. Before she died, she told me to find someone who would appreciate them."


"Try it on."

"May I?"

Again, he nodded.

She lifted the necklace out of the case, and he stood behind her, taking the clasps from her hands and joining them around her neck. Then he put the box in his pocket and took her to the library doors, where she could look at her reflection in the glass.

"Would you like them?"

"Uhm, on loan?"

"Well, if that's what you'd prefer, ..."

"But I couldn't just take it."

"Okay, then on loan."

"How long?"

"Until you decide to give them back."

She turned around and faced him. "That kind of sounds like, ..."

"It is kind of like, and altogether what I'm saying. Asking, I mean. We've waited long enough to talk about it."

"I've got to think about this." But she didn't give the necklace back. "Should we go study?"

"Sure." And he gave her the jewelry box. "So you have a place to put the necklace," he explained.

And they went back inside, holding hands as they climbed the stairs together.

"I don't have much money, so I can't buy you your own ring yet."

"That's okay. Let me just get used to the fact that you've asked me."

When they came back to the table, they sat down without saying much. The rest of the group were busy talking about family traditions in Asian cultures, and didn't seem to notice them return. They joined the discussion without ceremony or comment.

When the group finished their studies for the night and students were leaving, Bobbie saw the necklace. "That's beautiful."

"Charles is lending it to me."

"For as long as she wants."

"Oh." Bobbie said.

And Trisha turned to Charles and said, "Forever?"

And he nodded.

Bobbie smiled a little wistfully, and didn't say anything, just watched them walk away to talk about what they needed to talk about together.

Karel stood behind her. "Some women would not appreciate being given a dead aunt's jewelry. But that necklace and the ring that goes with it are beautiful. You probably couldn't buy anything like that for less than a couple of thousand dollars."

A thousand dollars back then was enough for a man to live on easily for a year. A couple of thousand could feed and house a family of four for a year.

"I didn't see a ring."

"I shouldn't have mentioned it."

In her room in the dorms, after her roommate was asleep, Trisha took out the jewelry case and put the necklace in it. Looking twice at the box, she was suddenly puzzled by its dimensions. The engineer in her measured the inner dimensions against the outer dimensions, and soon she had the hidden compartment open.

And her heart skipped a beat as she immediately closed it again.

"Charles!" Trisha caught up with him in the hall outside the student union cafeteria.

"Oh, Trish. I've been wanting to see you all day." He looked at her bare fingers and neck and felt a sudden feeling of qualm.

"I've been a little impatient myself. Here. You forgot something last night." And she gave him back the jewelry box.

"Huh?" He looked crestfallen. Absently, he opened the box and saw that it was empty.

"Around campus, I'm not wearing the necklace where everyone can see it. It would distract people."

He looked at her again, and saw that she was wearing the necklace under her blouse, where it wouldn't draw unnecessary attention.

"Oh." And suddenly he was happy again.

"The ring is also a little much for campus, but I'm definitely not going to wear it until you give it to me properly."

"You found it."

"Did you expect me not to?"

And he just grinned, and, standing close to her and turning so that the people around them could not see what he was doing, he removed the engagement ring from the hidden compartment. Then he pretended to produce the ring from his pocket. He held his hand out for hers and, taking her hand, slipped the engagement ring on her finger.

And then they kind of hugged and giggled and maybe they kissed, and they went inside the cafeteria for lunch.

And, basically, everyone around them ignored them as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.

Come to think of it, he was by no means the first man to give his fiancée an engagement ring there in that hall outside the cafeteria.

The next evening, in the library, the study group made appropriate fuss about their engagement.

And after the study session was over, Bobbie, Kristie, Dan, and Karel watched as Trisha and Charles left together.


Dan and Kristie were listening.

"Not now, Karel. Not yet. I need space.

"Well, okay, but I'm not superhuman. No promises."

"Your friendship is what I need most right now."

"Understood. But if we can talk about something, I'm all ears."

"It would be too much for me."

So Karel gave Bobbie a hug. She stiffened, but then relaxed and hugged him back.


And they sat down again to study more anthropology.

And Dan and Kristie exchanged some silent words of their own with their eyes.

I really have to be careful what I tell you, here, but I think it's okay to explain (again?) a little about the temple.

The ordinances, or ceremonies, consist, in part, of instruction in symbolic and literal form. Part of the instruction is in the form of something which some religions and philosophies might call a morality play.

At the time I write this, most of the ordinances are presented in a recorded format, part of that in film format. At the time in which this story is placed, however, it was all performed live.

Live means performing from memory.

At first, Bobbie was a little too dramatic. Blame it on her dance background, maybe. But she quickly got used to her parts.

The others got used to their parts, too.

Sometime before the semester was over, Karel and Dan were informed by the temple president, that, if they were themselves sealed to their wives, they could be invited to perform proxy sealings. (This part does not involve anything like a morality play.) Bobbie and Kristie were present, and Bobbie burst into uncharacteristic tears.

The temple president talked privately with Bobbie, and she was partially consoled. But she decided to refrain from temple service for a couple of weeks while she thought things out.

Have I properly explained sealings yet?

Family relationships in this world tend to be until death. The bonds we form here do partially extend into the next world, but we often misunderstand what those bonds are and how they could extend beyond death.

The temple ceremonies are designed to teach us how to develop true, eternal bonds, without the coercive elements that are so prevalent in this world. And we believe that we are given special authority to perform those sealing ordinances which establish those eternal bonds, if the individuals receiving the ordinances will obey the instruction they receive in the Gospel and in those ordinances.

Some unprepared members who participate fail to hear all the words and misunderstand things. But there is no coercion involved, if you understand them correctly.

This issue of coercion does have tangential relationship to Bobbie's distress, but it was not because she felt she was being pushed to marry Karel.

Not that at all. What it was will take some time to explain, if I can work it out correctly for you.

About the rest of the semester, we don't have enough time to give a play-by-play on everything. So I won't go into details.

Joel and Kelly continued to correspond. Kelly picked up the local dialect much more quickly than she expected. Her Portuguese improved dramatically and they started writing their letters in Portuguese.

(You were expecting, maybe, Spanish? Well, she later learned and used that, as well. And Joel helped her with that in his letters, too. He had used both on his mission, too.)

Trisha and Charles set their wedding date after winter break, to make it a little easier to move in together, and to be able to give each other more direct support during their final semester. Their families had met over the summer and were very supportive. And of course all their friends were supportive.

About ten months total is not too fast, really, from meeting to marrying.

There was another students' Saturday at the airfield, with Mike and Ruth and their friends treating interested students to experience behind the controls of gliders. Our four friends attended, and, after practicing, and some instruction, Bobbie and Karel piloted some towing runs to give the more experienced pilots a break.

Melissa and Winn's situation became a bit worse before it got better. The boss had announced his plan to the employees, and everyone had agreed to scrape by somehow for a month. But when Melissa and Winn had prayed several times about it, Winn was inspired to take a day off to visit the county offices and do a little investigation.

When he returned to work the next day, the new investors had disappeared in a puff of smoke. The information Winn brought back did not make his boss happy, but, with the new investors gone, he started to change his mind.

And, with the source of certain rumors gone, the customers came back, and the company started making payroll again.

The boss gave the police certain information, and they passed it on to the FBI. Where it went from there is not part of this novel.


Bobbie was called in to the hospital several times on weekends, delivering or helping in nine births. A few of those were pretty dramatic, but, again, we don't need to know the details. Just that this was part of what she is.

And so forth. I'll let you fill in the blanks.

Around the beginning of December, our four friends were together in the dorm cafeteria, and Bobbie said, "Say guys, I want some more flight time. You want me to fly you all back for winter holidays?"

"That's quite a lot of practice time," Karel observed.

"I haven't logged any real flying time for almost two years. Just the trip out to meet Kelly's parents."

"Isn't it cool that Kelly's mom has actually written her twice now?" Kristie said.

"Yeah, letters home do quite a lot of good," Dan commented. "I think the way Joel is supporting her is cool, too."

"Uhm." Bobbie looked at the table. "Not that I don't want to talk about Kelly and Joel, but I was kind of hoping to talk about Christmas and New Years."

"Wear and tear on the plane aside, how much would it cost in gas?" Karel asked.

"The fuel won't cost much more than the gas for all of us to go home and come back in our own cars. Maybe less."

They all thought for a moment.

"I'd rather fly someplace meaningful to log my flight time." Bobbie thought she was fighting a losing battle at this point.

Dan said, "Well, if you let us split the cost of the gas four ways, ..."

"I think it would be fun." Kristie said.

Karel wanted to say something like, "I'll fly anywhere with you anyway." But he knew Bobbie didn't need that kind of pressure, so he just grinned. "Sounds good to me." 

Then he thought a moment more and pointed out, "We'll have to have family pick us up at the airport, but I don't think they'll mind."

So early in the morning several days before Christmas, Bobbie's little brother Rick flew in with his wife, Lupe. Bobbie, Rick, and Karel checked the plane out while the others watched. Then Rick and Karel got started fueling it. Karel took a lot of notes, both mental and real.

Bobbie showed the other three how to read the weather forecast for the prevailing winds and set up the flight plan. Just for fun, Karel showed them how to use calculus instead of the flight computer. But they all agreed that took too long.

You are thinking that a flight computer is an anachronism. I know you are. So look up "E-6B flight computer" on your favorite search engine.

Oh, you knew about that already. Maybe I shouldn't pretend to know so much about airplanes, after all.

When they were finished with the flight plan, Bobbie, Rick, and Karel took it to the airport office to file it.

Then they all walked through the pre-flight checklist. Bobbie explained things to the others to refresh her own memory, and Karel took more notes.

Bobbie took the pilot's seat, and she insisted on Karel taking the co-pilot's position. Rick was happy to get to relax and talk with Lupe and Dan and Kristie.

After they had been flying for a few minutes, Lupe said, "Rick and I have been reading Lectures on Faith. We heard you guys studied it last spring, so we thought we'd take a look."

Kristie asked, "What do you think?"

"I'm not sure it's very important any more. Most of it seems to be available in the Church class manuals."

Rick agreed. "It seems to me that the primary idea in it for us is the Abrahamic sacrifice. It seems pretty extreme, if all of us have to go that far."

Karel was taking a turn at the controls at the moment, so he just listened.

Bobbie said, "Does everyone really have to face something that hard? I can't imagine how Sarah felt. I mean, even if Isaac might have been, you know, a bit backward because of her being so old when he was born, no mom is going to just say, yeah, go ahead and kill my baby."

Dan said, "I don't think we have the whole story."

Kristie asked, "What do you think really happened?"

Lupe said, "I'm sure we shouldn't assume that we all have to be willing to sacrifice our own children."

In a pause in the conversation, Karel put some thoughts together, and said, "For some, sending a child on a mission is a huge sacrifice."

Bobbie picked that up immediately. "Kelly!"

And they explained about Kelly and her family.

Lupe said, "I can handle that kind of sacrifice."

The plane was flying into clouds. Karel said, "The air feels a little rough, Bobbie, should you take over?"

"Ride it out. The big thing is not to panic."

"Be ready to take over."

"Have some faith in yourself. I'll grab the controls if you do something stupid, but you won't."

Dan asked, "What other kinds of sacrifice can we think of?"

Bobbie pointed out, "Karel is sacrificing his sense of security."

Karel suppressed an urge to turn and kiss Bobbie.

Kristie laughed a little nervously.

Dan said, "Say things like that and we all sacrifice our sense of security."

But Lupe said, "She knows what she's doing. Every student pilot has to learn how to ride out bad weather. Rick had to coach me, too."

And Rick laughed and said, "But not with a plane full of friends. Still, Bobbie and Lupe and I are keeping an eye on things. This isn't really dangerous."

"Lupe knows how to fly, too?"

"Rick taught me. He even made me fly once while I was pregnant."

"That was stupid of me. I won't do it again."

"I threw up all over the controls."

Bobbie and Lupe laughed.

"And I did the first cleanup. And then I paid to get it cleaned right and checked out and fixed. Had to replace certain parts that weren't designed for stomach acids. I think I learned that lesson."

Dan and Kristie eyes went wide.

Karel chuckled. "Sounds like you and Bobbie are related."

Bobbie laughed again, and then Lupe and Rick joined in, followed by Dan and Kristie. But Dan and Kristie looked at each other with another mutual flash of understanding as they laughed.

As the air smoothed out, Bobbie said, "Need a rest?"

"Sure. Thanks." They switched control back to the pilot's position, and Karel leaned back.

Then he said, "The Abrahamic sacrifice is a test of whether or not we are ultimately willing to trust God. Each one of us has his or her own, and we are tested more than once. Kelly and Joel both faced such tests last spring, and Kelly's mother found such a test in Kelly's mission call. And they'll have more."

Rick said, "So it's not a one-shot."

"God trains us as He sees fit, as He decides we are able to handle things."

Bobbie was glad she was at the controls, because she was more than a little inclined to hit Karel. "How you can be so entirely blasé never fails to amaze me."

That did it. Karel leaned over and, self-control partially reasserting itself mid-flight, kissed Bobbie on the cheek instead of the lips.

Everyone but Bobbie and Karel grinned.

"Maybe I'm not so blasé as I sound."

"Well, that was nice," Bobbie said, without even the slightest irony.

Which was all well and good, but Bobbie made sure she was never alone with Karel the rest of the winter vacation.

While they were visiting the Whitmers, Bobbie found herself alone with her mother.

"So, how are things coming?"

"School's great, Mom."

"That's not what I'm asking. Karel is a real jewel. One in a million. Well, Dan's another one in a million. Lightening struck twice, and you know which bolt is yours. What are you going to do about it?"

"I'm scared Mom. You know why."

"Someday, you have to give that up."

"Abraham, Isaac, and Sarah."


"Maybe this is one of my tests, but I'm just not ready."

After Christmas, the four of them flew on alone to visit Kristie's family for a day or two, then down to visit Karel's family, and back to Dan's family for New Year's.

Sheliah was really glad to see them all, teasing them unmercifully when she had the chance.

Then they flew back to the Whitmers', and Rick and Lupe flew them back to school.

The link to the next of the characterization chapters will be here when it's ready is here:

(The chapter index is here:

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