You can find my excuses for writing this novel here:
"Your doctoral thesis plan looks good, but you'll need to do some on-location research."
Karel Pratt nodded his agreement. "I guess I should have said that in the plan? Should I revise the plan to say something about needing the fieldwork, but not yet knowing when and where?"
Professor MacVittie tilted his head. "Well, you could, but I think you know enough to be somewhat specific already. You should even be able to name several islands as possibilities."
Karel scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Sure, I can say I'm looking at a few locations, but don't know which, yet, I guess."
"Sounds reasonable." MacVittie paused. "Say, do you know Roberta Whitmer"?
"Not really. I think I've met her. She calls herself Bobbie, right? And she's in the anthropology program, too?"
"Yes. Her thesis seems like it might complement yours. Professor White and I were thinking you might want to talk with her. Just a suggestion, of course, but it often helps to have someone you can work with."
"Okay. I'll talk with her and see."
"You two never seem to get together anywhere but in my office."
"We meet at the library, too." Bobbie looked a little taken aback.
"Once a month?"
"Once a week."
"Was my suggestion about backing each other up during the fieldwork phase a bad suggestion?"
"No. It's a great idea. We're working together on the plans for traveling. But our theses are different enough that we really don't have that much to talk over besides the schedule, flight plans, and such." Karel shrugged.
"We actually went to the airport together to find the closest planes," Bobbie volunteered.
Karel continued: "And we've written to some consulates and gotten names of some charter companies and independent pilots. We've even talked with travel agents who have put us in touch with people in New York who handle tours of our islands."
"People keep asking us if this is our honeymoon. Silly people." Bobbie grinned.
"Not so silly if they've never met you twp. Okay, so you're ahead of me on setting up your plans."
"Not very far ahead," said Karel. "We needed to talk with you about what we've found so far, and we would definitely appreciate it if we could have someone check our tentative plans over. Which is why we are here, now."
In the end, the faculty and Sister MacVittie decided it would be best for Professor MacVittie to accompany them for the first two weeks. That way he could help them solve the early problems they would find.
Sister MacVittie was especially excited to go along, and to take their youngest son, who was preparing to go on his mission.
(Sister MacVittie is Professor MacVittie's wife, if you are wondering. God is the Father of us all, so everyone in the Church is a brother or a sister.)
Bobbie and Karel chose four islands for their fieldwork, and they lengthened the schedule to allow a month on each of four islands. They wanted to give themselves time to find opportunities for volunteer service work, in the expectation that the service work would help them get to know the islanders better. Good relationships with the islanders would be essential for obtaining meaningful research results.
Ultimately, things went well for the four months, and we are not interested in the details. At least, not at this moment. If this were a normal novel, we would be interested, but it's just the framing story for our experiment.
Besides, I'd have to do more research, okay? The whole purpose of this story is to set up a simple economic system for thought experiments.
Where things get properly interesting for us again is towards the end of the last month, on the island they were scheduled to fly out from, in the office of Wycliffe and Zedidiah, the charter pilots who had taken them around from island to island.
Wycliffe looked at the schedule on his desk. "Hey, Zed. Look what we got here."
Zedidiah looked up. "Yeah, I see that. Those two grad students from that Marmon school. Come to study ant rope loggies. Native culture and all that. And do busybody serve ice pro jets. Straight as two rulers. Even the natives are laughing behind their backs."
"Yeah," agreed Wycliffe. "You know, I think they need help studying natural island nature, way up close. And help seeing just how Marmon they are. And help growing up."
"Heh heh. Hey. Wait. Don't do anything stupid on me, okay? Just fly in and get them and fly them back here."
"What, me? Would I deliberately sabotage my own plane to strand them on a desert island to test their morals?"
"Depends on how drunk you've been this week."
"Okay, that does it. I own half of that plane. I'm flying this one."
"Ten hour flight? The longest you've flown is four hours. And you accuse me of plotting to strand them. Naw, I'm just kidding around. I'll bring them back safe and sound."
I really hate to tell stories about bad people.
Now, Wycliffe really wasn't a bad person, just a little mixed up. He had been converted to Mormonism at some point, in love with a good Mormon woman. And maybe she was insecure, or maybe she just didn't realize what a great guy he was. Or maybe she knew she wasn't strong enough to be his wife, in particular. Anyway, she ditched him.
And that was part of the reason he was in the islands, trying to escape from himself, blaming the Mormon religion for his sorrows.
About three hours after picking our two heroes up, already way off the flight plan, he started deliberately running the engine lean.
"What's wrong?" Karel asked.
Wycliffe shook his head. "Engine trouble, I guess. Sometimes engines get finnicky."
"Are we in trouble?"
"Well, if we have to ditch in the water, I do pack a dinghy. But it should be okay." And he ran the mixture back to normal.
About an hour later, in a lull in the conversation, he asked, "Well, you know something? I was bettin' my partner that you two would be, like, an item by this time. I guess I lost?"
Bobbie said some things to show her disgust for the idea. "Everyone seems to think that a single woman and a single man who work okay together and get to be good friends should jump into bed with each other. You don't have to get married to everyone you love."
"You love each other?"
Karel nodded. "Like brother and sister. You know, we believe we are, because of our religion, if not just by being human."
"Well, what have you got against each other?"
Bobbie answered: "Nothing in particular. But we don't want to spend all of our evenings the rest of our lives talking shop at home."
Karel added, "Professional interests can sometimes get in the way of other kinds of interests, besides."
"Okay, you don't want to be arguing about work at home. I guess I could see how that wouldn't necessarily be so great."
Then he leaned out the engine again and pretended to nurse it. "C'mon baby keep with us." And returned the fuel mix to normal again.
"There you go." And, turning back to his passengers, "So, this wonderful, romantic view up here is just wasted on you two?
Bobbie leaned back. "I wouldn't say that. It's beautiful. And romantic. But you know, romance is about adventure. There are other kinds of adventure than getting married kinds of adventure -- many kinds of adventures that friends can share."
Wycliffe almost found himself persuaded, but he was too far off the flight plan and into his own plan to back out. Gone too far to back up and an admit to them that he was taking them away from their destination, or to admit to himself why it was wrong.
He repeated the game with the engine just as a desert island came into view over the horizon.
"Maybe we'd better put down on that island and look at the engine."
Put yourselves in Karel's and Bobbie's shoes. What would you have them do? Pray? Of course pray.
But how were they supposed to know that Wycliffe was planning to leave them on an uninhabited island for a few days?
Well, both of them prayed in their hearts, but God, for some reason, didn't tell them one way or the other.
"Well, if that's the safest route, then go ahead," Karel said. "Maybe I can help with the engine."
"Do you know anything about engines?"
"I know a little about car engines. But at least I can use a wrench or hold things for you or something. Bobbie is no stranger to engines, either, I think?"
"Actually, I'm certified to fly. I should have mentioned that earlier, but sea flight is not something I've done yet. I've worked on airplane engines, too, but not this kind. It does sound like something is making it run lean. Let's put it down."
And Wycliffe put the plane down on the beach and radioed Zedidiah and told them they were on an island they were not on, several hundred miles away.
To get at the tools, they had to unload the luggage and the emergency supplies.
After an hour of fiddling with the engine, Wycliffe said, "I need to take her up and see how she's running. It'll take me about ten minutes of circling the island, and if there aren't any problems, we can fly on."
They both volunteered to help with the test flight, but Wycliffe made an excuse about needing the plane to be light. Once up, he circled twice, brought the airplane down as if to land, and then shouted out at them, "I'll be back when you two have had a chance to grow up!" and flew out.
Neither Karel nor Bobbie heard what he said over the engine noise. So they sat on the beach, said a prayer together for Wycliffe, for the airplane, for themselves, and for getting home, and waited for him to come back.
Now, remember, I'm just setting up this simplified experiment in economics. If this were a regular novel, we would want to know why Wycliffe never came back.
We would want to know that he was intending to put down on another island back in the regular traffic lanes where he and Zedidiah had a cache of fuel, and just wait a few days to see what would happen. We would want to know that his games with the engine had fouled it, and that there were winds he did not plan for, and that he ran out of fuel trying to make it to his cache. If he ended up ditching the plane in the water without his own emergency supplies, we would want to know that, too.
We would want to know things like, when he left the airplane behind him, to try to swim to the cache island, did he run out of strength? And after he ran out of strength and sank in the water and passed across the veil, did he keep going back in time, trying to contact himself and Karel and Bobbie and Zedidiah and others, thousands of times, to prevent this one stupidity.
Fortunately, this is a made-up story, so we don't have to grieve for him. But I think we might know people like him in the real world who need our pity and our help. And we can and should grieve for the many who have been unable to escape such snares, having been caught as he was, as well as for innocent bystanders who get entangled in the aftermath of their mistakes.
Time on the other side of the veil is different. Don't kid yourself. An eternity in hell is an eternity in hell. But eternities end when hearts soften and hear these words of truth:
Trying to change the past is not the way to repent.And we would want to know about it if Bobbie and Karel's families, and their friends, and volunteers from the Church and the university, and lots of other people came searching for them.
Put the regret behind and do the good that you can do now.
And we would want to know about it if Zedidiah spent all of his remaining money looking for them, and would have committed suicide by starvation in the middle of the ocean, but for both Karel's and Bobbie's parents telling him they would not forgive him if he did that, and bringing him back.
And, if the police suspected Zedidiah of being complicit in some kidnapping scheme, because the plane was empty when it was found, we would want to know about that. And we would want to know why no one pressed charges. And we would want to know it if Zedidiah ultimately went back to New Zealand where he was originally from, to face up to the problems he had been running away from when he went to the islands to be a charter pilot.
And we would think we want to know whether the island Bobbie and Karel found themselves on was still uncharted at that time, whether it was close enough to either Wycliffe's flight plan or to regular flight routes to be found by accident or by random search attempts, and whether the searchers would have enough resources to cover the vast, mostly empty ocean there.
Let's see what Bobbie and Karel do when they discover that Wycliffe has deliberately left them on the island alone, together: http://joel-rees-economics.blogspot.com/2016/06/econ101-novel-ch100-bobbie-karel-priorities.html.
The table of contents can be found here:
[JMR20160614: The initial (rough) draft of this chapter is here: http://free-is-not-free.blogspot.com/2016/03/economics-101-novel-ch00.html.]