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Lucius dodges the lava flow
Maita gave me a surprised and confused look. I believe he thought I was either mocking him or not quite sane. I was undaunted. I bid Maita farewell with a sharp nod of my head and immediately set out to climb the volcano and confront this Huacachella. I must admit, the journey towards the pinnacle of the volcano was not simple. The ash and soot choked me and I barely managed to dodge the lava flows. The heat singed my cotton. After a time, however, I arrived at the pinnacle. Lava spewed from the great crater and snaked down the mountain like rivers of light. The earth rumbled beneath my feet.
"Hear me Huacachella, my name is Lucius M. Monkey and I demand you stop this tantrum! These fine people do not deserve this type of treatment. Do you not understand that it is unethical to kill sentient life for nourishment? I must say, I am very disappointed in your behavior!" I exclaimed in admonishing tones.
A deep growl began to emanate from the crater. Slowly, the growl became a deep, gruff voice.
"Lucius, I am terribly sorry," the voice said, "when I get hungry and agitated the volcano erupts, I cannot control it. I only have the strength to stop the eruption after I have fed" Huacachella explained. "Nonetheless, I do not believe that it is too much to ask to be fed once every four years. I provide these people with a place to live and resources so that they may flourish. Quite frankly, as a landlord, I am very easy to please."
"I agree that some payment in return for all you provide is not unreasonable. However, accepting human sacrifices is patently unacceptable" I retorted.
"Lucius, you must believe me, I was unaware of what they fed me. All corporal life forms look the same to me. They could have fed me lamb or goat, I would not have known the difference. I've never asked for human sacrifice, in fact, no one has ever talked to me or inquired about my needs. I do need to be fed, but certainly, I do not need to consume people."
I began to see a different picture unfold before me. Evidently, at some time in the distant past, these people's ancestors had begun the human sacrifice. No one had thought to try a different sacrifice for fear of reprisal, nor had anyone thought to communicate directly with this spirit.
"I believe an open dialog will correct this problem. I will communicate your needs to the people below" I explained. "In the meantime, perhaps this offering will quell your hunger, I know it is one of my favorites."
I remembered that I still had the box of chocolate truffles that had been meant for Amelia. I felt bad that I had not had the opportunity to present her with the gift due to the emergency, but it now appeared that the gift would serve a greater good. I threw the box into the glowing crater. I could faintly smell the aroma of melting chocolate over the scent of sulfur.
"These are really quite excellent" Huacachella stated delightfully. "They are much more satisfying than past offerings!"
Almost immediately, the eruption began to abate.
"Lucius, thank you for taking the time to straighten this matter out. I would be grateful if you would inform the people that I would much prefer a box of truffles in the future. And please let them know that I am always here to discuss issues should they arise."

Lucius hurls the box of truffles into the volcano
"Huacachella, I apologize for jumping to conclusions and being cross with you. I have always thought that most problems can be alleviated through tolerance, keeping an open mind, and striving for a better understanding of others. It is always beneficial to remind one's self of this lesson as we confront life's issues."
With that said, I said goodbye to Huacachella, retraced my steps down the volcano, and rejoined the people below. By that time the lava had stopped flowing and the ash clouds were just beginning to dissipate. The people were joyful. I explained the situation to them.

Off into the sunset towards Santiago
Maita shook his head. "The things we do because custom dictates. We never thought to compromise or converse with the god of the volcano. We were all weaned on the idea that Huacachella must be appeased and that there was only one way to do so. Lucius, thank you for opening our eyes. Surely, there is something we can do to repay you."
"Well," I said, "I do seem to find myself without a Christmas gift for my dear friend Dr. Gutierrez . . ."
The next evening, after a quite enjoyable day-long celebration, I returned to my helicopter, bid my new friends adieu, and began the journey back to the mainland.
With the crisis averted, Amelia now had time to share with me. It was quite nice visiting with her and trading anecdotes from our respective adventures. I presented Amelia with the gift that the islanders had given to me to replace the truffles.
"Lucius, what an exquisite lapis lazuli necklace. It's beautifully wrought in a unique Araucanian style. This is a very thoughtful gift, especially given my interest in native Chilean cultures."
"Amelia," I responded, "it is but a small bauble in comparison to the gift of your friendship . . ."
I must say, the islanders were quite generous with their replacement gift and I was more than happy to pass on their generosity to Amelia. I was equally pleased to have been of service to them as a mediator.
Dear reader, it is here that my story ends. After my visit, I returned home where I have been enjoying the holiday preparations and reflecting on my most pleasant, if unexpected, voyage to South America. I wish you the most joyous of holidays, filled with compassion, understanding, and, of course, chocolate.