by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
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Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Chapter Seven: Crunch Water
The hideous monster, with its orange eyes and slime covered scales, continued to stare at Tyler and Cali, drooling endless streams of thick saliva onto the path.
"The professor wouldn't send us here if there was any danger," Cali said as half statement and half question.
"Surely not," Tyler tried to agree, "surely not."
Tyler shuddered as he gazed at the monster. Had Tyler be assigned the task of designing the most grotesque creature, imaginable; one that embodied his worst terrifying fears and long forgotten nightmares; this would be it. Yes, this would be the creature from Tyler's worst, awaken-in-a-cold-sweat nightmares.
"Must be part of the lesson," Tyler half-heartedly concluded -- again.
"Must be," Cali agreed.
They paused, both speechless, neither sure of their next move.
"Okay..." Cali finally said, very nervously, "okay... okay... If this is part of the lesson, then what do we do?"
Tyler shook his head, "I don't know."
"Maybe this is still part of the market test?" Cali offered.
"I thought we finished that one," Tyler countered. "Didn't the professor say that we did a good job?"
Cali nodded, thinking about how simple their lives had only a few hours earlier when the professor had paid them a reassuring visit
"Maybe we completed that test, but maybe we didn't," Cali said.
Tyler thought for a minute, recalling his conversation with the instructor at the second test. "The instructor did say every test was different. This must be part of the test."
"Yeah, sure, part of the market test?..." Cali continued.
"I knew that market test was too easy," Tyler said.
"So," Cali thought aloud, "if this is part of the test, what do we do?"
"I don't know," Tyler said again.
"Then let's think about this," Cali began to consider the possibilities. "That monster says we can't pass. But we need to pass, don't we?" she asked half hoping for a negative answer.
Tyler reluctantly nodded, "I guess we need to pass."
"And we can't go around him, not through the trees," she said, pointing out the unusual, but unquestionable denseness of the nearby umbrella trees.
"A perfect place for this confrontation," Tyler observed.
"Yes," Cali agreed. "It seems so convenient, too convenient. It must be part of the test."
Cali started to relax with the confidence that this was part of the test. In spite of her rather low regard for studying, learning, and economics, regarding this as an economics test, rather than a confrontation with a hungry, hideous, bloodthirsty monster, made her feel better. She took a few steps toward the beast. Tyler grabbed her arming, trying to pull her back, but she brushed his hand away.
"Hey you!" She called out to the monster, "Hey monster!"
The monster belched out its slow, deep answer that sounded something like, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" The trees and plants vibrated for several moments.
Cali's confidence was further enhanced when the monster neither attacked, nor showed any other obvious signs of aggression.
"Can we talk?" Cali asked as bravely as she could.
"TALK?" the monster belched. More thunderous vibration echo about.
Cali nodded with theatrical exaggeration, "Yes, talk."
The monster seemed perplexed by this type of behavior. It belched something that Cali took as a sign of agreement.
"Why can't we continue on our journey?" Cali asked.
"YOU CANNOT PASS!" the monster belched more thunderous than before, as if Cali's question had triggered some type of automatic response.
"But we have to pass," Cali pleaded, "we need to finish our lesson so we can go home."
"HOME!" the monster belched, then it boomed, "YOU CANNOT PASS!" again.
Cali turned back to Tyler and said softly, "I don't know if this is working or not."
When Tyler volunteered no alternative course of action, Cali faced the monster again.
"Listen, Mr. Monster," Cali said more sternly than before, "We are tired and hungry, and we want to go home. Why won't you let us pass?"
"HUNGRY!" the monster belched, with a reverberation that made Tyler's spleen do somersaults.
"Oh, no," Tyler moaned, "now you've done it."
Cali took a precautionary step backwards.
"HUNGRY!" the monster belched again.
"We may be onto something here Tyler," Cali whispered, without turning away from the monster. "I'm going to try something, but be prepared to run."
"Mr. Monster," she said politely to the slimy, hideous-looking creature, "What would you like to eat?"
"EAT?" the monster belched more softly, obviously confused.
"We would be happy to find you some food, if you're hungry," Cali offered.
"What are you doing?" Tyler demanded in a harsh whisper.
Again without turning away from the monster, Cali whispered to Tyler, "I'm trying to work out some type of trade. We need something to offer in exchange for it's permission to pass."
"I AM HUNGRY," the monster belched, nodding its large bulky lump of a head, "I WANT FOOD!"
As Cali readied herself to ask the crucial, possibly life-terminating, question, she whispered nervously to Tyler, "Prepare to run." Then looking directly into the bulging orange orbs that passed for monster eyes she asked, "What would you like to eat?"
Tyler took two steps backwards, then a third.
"EAT?" the monster belched thoughtfully. "I WANT CRUNCH WATER!"
"Crunch water...?" Cali said as she turned to Tyler and shrugged her shoulders.
Tyler shrugged back.
"What is crunch water?" Cali asked the brutish creature.
"I WANT CRUNCH WATER!" the monster boomed a command that caused several umbrella trees to explode. "I WANT CRUNCH WATER!" The monster stamped its two feet-like, first one, then the other. The entire forest undulated and reverberated with each step.
"What is crunch water?" Cali asked again.
She received the same horrifying response.
"Now you've really done it," Tyler said.
When the stamping and shaking had subsided, a flutter of wings at the edge of the path attracted the attention of both students. The flying cat-frog looked from Tyler to Cali, then back to Tyler. It shift its perch slightly.
"WELL?" Tyler demanded, still perturbed from the ingratitude exhibited by this winged amphibian a few moments earlier.
"Well what?" the frog responded.
"What is crunch water?" Tyler asked impatiently.
The frog looked away, surveying the pattern of bark on one of the umbrella trees.
"I'm not supposed to converse with you," the feline-frog said.
"You've done a lousy job of that, so far" Tyler countered. "Do you know anything about crunch water?"
The frog stretched its wings and blinked its eyes slowly two times.
"I shouldn't say anything," it said.
"But you know what it is, don't you?" Tyler pleaded. "Where can we find it?"
The frog, displaying an unusual degree of boredom, even for it, turned its head to one side and closed its eyes. It then said, "You don't find it, you make it."
"We make it?" Cali joined in, "How do we make it?"
The frog looked to the other side, surveying the trunk of another umbrella tree.
"Come on you silly looking thing," Tyler scolded, "how do we make this crunch water?"
"I shouldn't tell you," the frog-cat said. Then it looked down at the monster blocking the path. It stretched its wings and slowly turned its head from side to side. "But I will."
"Good," Tyler said, "I owe you one."
The frog gave Tyler another disinterested, then said, "First you need some of your fruit..."
Tyler patted one of his two bags.
"...then you need water," Cali held up her sloshing bag.
The winged cat-creature then paused for an inordinate amount of time.
"Anything else?" Tyler asked eagerly.
The frog ignored him and said, "Leaves from the tallest trees in the forest, the ones catching the light of the sun, and finally..." It paused, probably for dramatic affect and fluttered its wings. As it did the glowing, green, stick plant it used as a perch wavered back and forth slightly.
"Yes...?" Tyler prodded anxiously.
The frog repeated this wing fluttering routine and the subsequent wavering of its glowing perch.
"What else?" Tyler demanded.
Once again the frog fluttered and the glowing, green, stick perch wavered. "To give it the crunch," it said.
"What?" Tyler demanded again. "What gives it the crunch?"
Then Cali caught on and grabbed another glowing green stick. "Of course, for the crunch," Cali said. The winged-frog nodded it's cat head nonchalantly in agreement.
Cali turned back to the monster. A large pool of saliva had collected on the orange path at the feet of this beast. It was a repugnant sight.
"We can make you crunch water," she said, controlling a suddenly nauseous stomach.
"CRUNCH WATER," the monster belched.
"I sure hope this works," Cali said under her breath.
Following the frog's recipe, Cali collected several sticks and Tyler climbed the tallest umbrella tree he could find adjacent to the path. He returned exhausted and severely scratched.
"Those are tall trees," Tyler panted. "It's also really bright when you get into the sunlight at the top. It almost blinded me." He rubbed his eyes.
Emptying one of Tyler's fruit bags, they prepared the crunch water. A couple of pieces of fruit, a half dozen umbrella leaves, a surprisingly small amount of water, and several glowing sticks -- for the crunch. After pounding the tightly sealed bag with a rock, they stirred the ingredients with another of the glowing green sticks.
When through Cali opened the bag and looked inside.
"Oh yuck!" she exclaimed. "This looks and smells awful. It seems to be just the sort of thing that creature would like. I sure hope this works."
Tyler looked in the bag, then quickly turned away with an uncontrolled shudder.
"Those leaves make this stuff smell terrible," Cali concluded as she closed the bag then turned to face the monster waiting patiently a few yards away.
She walked gingerly up the path, holding the bag in front of her.
"I have crunch water, I have crunch water," she said nervously as she approached closer.
"CRUNCH WATER," the monster repeated softly, drooling several gallons of saliva onto the path in anticipation.
When Cali was just beyond arms reach of the monster -- the monsters arm reach -- she placed the bag in the puddle of thick saliva on the orange path and took a few steps back.
"For you," she said, "crunch water."
When the monster took a lurched forward to pick up the bag, Cali scurried back to Tyler. The monster opened the bag and slowly pouredthe thick sludge into its mouth. Tyler looked away, suppressing a deep-rooted desire to vomit. His efforts were unsuccessful, however, when he heard the crunching sound of the monster devouring the contents of the bag. When the beast finished it's snack, the bag dropped with a spot into the drool pool on the orange path. It then belched, "CRUNCH WATER, GOOD CRUNCH WATER!" The trees shook.
Cali once again took a few steps forward and said, "We have given you crunch water, will you let us pass?"
This time the monster thought for a moment. Then it said, "MORE CRUNCH WATER, THEN YOU PASS!" Another tree exploded in the distance.
"Great," Cali whispered to Tyler, "I think we've found his price. Two bags of crunch water and he'll let us pass."
They hurriedly prepared another bag of the disgusting sludge. Having exhausted their supply of leaves, Tyler reluctantly climbed the tree again to collect more. Tyler moaned and groaned as he climbed, his head spinning in one direction and his stomach the other.
Once the bag of sludge was prepared, Cali took it confidently to the monster. Tyler turned away again as the monster crunched on the sludge. Then he vomited, again.
"Can we pass?" Cali asked when the empty bag dropped to the path.
"MORE CRUNCH WATER," the monster said, "THEN YOU PASS."
Cali started to protest, but thought better of it.
"I hope he lets us pass with this third bag," Tyler said after he vomited a third time and before began his trek to top of the trees for more leaves. "I don't think I can climb up anymore."
"I know," Cali agreed, "Besides we don't want to use up all of our fruit and water."
Exhausted, Tyler returned with several more umbrella leaves. "That's it," he said, as he curled into a ball on the ground. He clutched his stomach. "If I have to climb up there again, I'm going to die. I'd just as soon forget the whole thing. It's not worth the effort. I'll let that thing eat me first."
Tyler moaned as Cali prepared the sludge without his assistance. She took the bag to the monster, but before placing it on the path this time she said, "Will you let us pass if we give you this crunch water?"
The monster stared thoughtfully at the young girl.
"We cannot make anymore," Cali lied, "There is no more crunch water after this."
The monster nodded as he reached for the bag of smelly sludge.
Cali took a step backwards, "Can we pass?"
"YOU CAN PASS!" the monster boomed.
Cali dropped the bag into the saliva puddle, then took only a single step back. The monster gulped and crunched the sludge. What looked to be a smile appeared on the monster's face.
"GOOD CRUNCH WATER," it belched the trees shook, "YOU CAN PASS!"
The monster edged backwards on the path, then disappeared around the bend. The path was apparently clear.
Stuffing the remaining fruit into a single bag, Tyler hoisted it onto his shoulder. Cali did the same with her lighten water pouch. They walked cautiously along the trail toward the previously blocked bend. They would soon find out if their negotiation was successful.
Cali peered around then bend. The bulky monster had pushed its way back into the umbrella trees, providing ample room for their passage. They did so with little delay. The frog-cat fluttered and leaped along beside them. Cali turned to keep an eye on the monster when they were beyond the bend.
The monster waved to Cali and belched, "THANK YOU!"
Cali, feeling somewhat silly, but with a great feeling of relief, waved back.
Once they were a safe distance away from the monster, at least several bends in the path, Tyler stopped to rest.
"Whew," was all he could say, clutching his queasy mid-section.
Cali dropped onto the red carpet grass next to Tyler and drank from her water pouch. Tyler ate one of the remaining pieces of fruit in his bag .
"I didn't think that would work," Cali said with relief, taking another drink.
Tyler, chomping on his fruit, said, "You were great back there. I don't know how you did it."
"I mean it," Tyler said with uncharacteristic boldness, "I don't know how you got that monster to let us pass."
Cali blushed a deeper shade of pink.
"It was pretty simple once you think about it," she finally said. "I just worked out an exchange. The monster had something that we wanted, and we had something it wanted. The only problem was finding an exchange that was agreeable to both parties."
Tyler shook his head in mild bewilderment.
"Just simple principles of the market," Cali continued. "The monster was supplying a service -- letting us pass -- and we had to find the right price."
"If you say so," Tyler said.
Cali continued, "It wouldn't let us through with the first two bags of that smelly sludge, but with three bags it did. We had to increase the price until the monster was willing to supply the good. A higher price leads to an increase in the quantity supply."
"Yeah," Cali thought aloud, "demand and supply. You know Tyler, you were even following the law of demand when you got the leaves."
Tyler grimaced in agony, "I don't want to do that again." Then he asked, "What do you mean I was following the law of demand?"
Cali laughed, wondering why Tyler couldn't see the obvious, "You were willing to let the monster eat you rather than climb the tree again."
"Yeah, ha, ha," Tyler said sarcastically, "real funny."
"But don't you see?" Call asked, "You were willing to buy safe passage from the monster with three bags of that sludge, but you weren't willing to pay four bags. With the higher price your quantity demanded was less."
"Don't you think you're stretching this economics stuff a bit?" Tyler asked.
"No I don't," Cali said adamantly. "Why should economics just apply to graphs and lines in the classroom. Isn't economics about how people behave? And we're people, aren't we? Even that monster can follow the principles of economics."
"Okay, okay," Tyler said holding his hands up in defense.
"I wasn't even sure I was willing to make up another bag of that sludge myself," Cali said, then chuckled.
Cali took another long drink of water, then jostled the bag to check the diminishing contents. Tyler slowly ate his second piece of fruit, savoring each bite.
As Tyler savored and Cali jostled, they heard what sounded like a large firecracker or a small bomb exploding several yards up the path. They looked in the direction of the nose, then quizzically at each other. Hearing the sound of pounding footsteps and heavy breathing coming toward them, they jumped to their feet. As they did the cat-frog disappeared into the trees.
"What now?" Cali screamed defiantly through her clenched teeth. "What now?!?"
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Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not
to be quoted without permission of the author.