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AFC: The abbreviation for average fixed cost, which is fixed cost per unit of output, found by dividing total fixed cost by the quantity of output. Average fixed cost is one of three related cost averages. The other two are average variable cost and avarage total cost. Average fixed cost decreases with larger quantities of output. Because fixed cost is FIXED and does not change with the quantity of output, a given cost is spread more thinly per unit as quantity increases. A thousand dollars of fixed cost averages out to $10 per unit if only 100 units are produced. But if 10,000 units are produced, then the average shrinks to a mere 10 cents per unit.

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by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
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Chapter Ten: The Purple Village

With the yipes of ferocious puppy-snakes fading in the distance, the student twosome hastened their pace. Even though they had been travelling in this expansive red valley for most of the morning, they were not quite half way to the destination Tyler had identified as 'the end of the path.'

"What do you think those purple things are?" Tyler pondered aloud in obvious reference to the dozen or more patches of purple randomly dispersed around the red valley. One such patch, perhaps two miles away, lay directly in their path.

Cali squinted and shaded her eyes from the brightness of the blue midday sun overhead. "I don't know," she answered. "They look like purple beehives."

This comment induced Tyler's on again, off again apprehensions of ravenous creatures devouring his bloodied carcass. Perhaps he and Cali were bumbling directly into a nest of large, hungry insects. He recalled old science fiction films with large insects eating major metropolitan cities.

Surely not!

Tyler tried to alleviate his own seemingly ever-present and expanding anxiety, but their recent encounters with cute, but hungry, puppy-snakes; the hideous drooling monster; and a mythical griffin the size of a bus, did not help. Who knew what peril the unnamed evil professor would next place in their path.

It took Tyler and Cali no more than thirty minutes for them to approach within a hundred yards of the purple beehive. Cali's initial comparison was not far off. In the center of the purple patch was a relatively large domed structure, marked by several randomly placed holes. The structure appeared to be constructed from some type of purple mud or clay. Several smaller similar structures, congregated around the periphery of the larger dome were. They were made from the same type of purple substance. Each of the smaller structures, of varying sizes, contained a few openings. The entire complex of purple structures was about the size of city block.

Slowing their pace, but approaching closer, they saw movement in and around the structures.

"What are those?" Tyler asked, "Rabbits or something?"

Cali laughed, then said, "No, silly. Those are probably Leornian instructors."

"Of course," Tyler eagerly agreed, then chuckled in relief. Given that his experiences with the Leornian instructors were, so far, not life threatening, his monster-devouring anxiety faded. "I guess I didn't expect to find those instructor-guys anywhere but on the path."

When they were about twenty yards from this purple village, Tyler noticed something else that he had not expected.

"Say... uh Cali...," he cleared his throat, "What are those purple balls over there..."

Cali stopped.

"They look a lot like your purple fruit," she gave Tyler the response he was hoping not to hear.

"It can't be," Tyler protested. "The instructor said there was no other fruit along the path. There must be thousands of those pieces over there." He spun around noting the dozen or so purple patches spread across the valley. "And I bet all of those also have fruit."

He plopped both his bag and himself onto the red foliage.

"But we're not ON the path, Tyler," Cali tried to console him. "There probably isn't any more fruit ON the path."

"But my jewels," Tyler cried, as if mourning a newly deceased relative. "All of those jewels, just laying there." Tyler felt as though his worst fears had come to pass. "It's not fair. I left two bags of... so I could... and there is all of... Awwhhhh... I could just..."

"It was part of the test," Cali tried to console Tyler. But the consolation was of no help.

"I think I'm going to be sick," he said weakly. Then remorse turned to anger. "Where is that frog? That mutated amphibian. It was the one that told me to take the fruit. That's probably why it's not with us -- so I wouldn't strangle it when I found out what they had out here."

Tyler sat quietly at Cali's feet. She patted his head.

"I'll be okay," he muttered, "just let me... suffer for a moment."

As Tyler sat and suffered, Cali scanned the village more closely. Unlike a beehive in the real world, there seemed to be very little activity. Although there was an abundance of pointed-eared creatures, they weren't doing much.

Tyler slowly got to his feet. "We'd better get going," he finally said with little enthusiasm.

Cali grabbed his arm.

"Wait a second," she said, "We can't just waltz in there like we own the place."

Tyler nodded. He was so caught up in his unnecessary loss of wealth that he forgot they were in a strange and hostile land. The instructors were friendly in the trees, but no telling what they were like out here.

"What should we do?" Tyler queried.

Cali considered a strategy, but stopped when activity around the complex increased. Several creatures had gathered on the periphery of the purple village, pointing in the students' direction.

"I don't know if we have a choice now," Cali said, "They've seen us."

"Uh-oh," Tyler muttered, "I hope they're friendly."

Cali tugged on Tyler's arm and said, "Let's go meet them."

They walked slowly toward the Leornian group that grew larger as others joined. All were dressed in varying shades of purple clothes. While they resembled the instructor from the trees, these creatures tended to be on the thin side. Tyler was more reminded of the timid fellow called Aristotle than of the know-all instructor.

As they approached the group they hoped it was a welcoming party and not a hunting party.

With a few yards separating the students and the Leornians, one purple-clad creature stepped forward. He hesitated and retreated back to the group. They urged him forward with little pushes and words of encouragement. Tyler was reminded of the time his young niece had been enticed to recite a newly memorized poem.

Then the timid creature spoke, "I am Issac Newton. Everyone calls me Issac. Welcome to our village," he scurried back the others. They all waited meekly.

"Well... uh... Thank you. I am... Cali O'Toole and this is Tyler Martin," Cali said, nodding her head and smiling. Then she said, "Issac Newton, that's an interesting name. Were you named after the physicist?"

Issac gave a blank look, "Physicist?"

"Yes, your name. Are you named after the physicist?"

Issac shrugged his shoulders. "My name is Issac Newton," he repeated. "Welcome to our village."

She saw no reason to ask again, but once more nodded her head and smiled. This prompted the group of Leornians to cluster around Tyler and Cali. They gently escorted them into the purple village. Cali looked at Tyler and shrugged her shoulders.

The Leornians politely maneuvered Cali and Tyler in and around the various structures of the village complex. The paths between the structures were just wide enough for a single person or two of the creatures. The group formed a long line following Issac, the apparent and reluctant leader, with Cali and Tyler near the front.

After a short walk, they stopped near one of the larger structures next to the main beehive. Issac smiled and motioned with his paw toward the structure.

Cali smiled politely, then nudged Tyler to do the same.

"Learners?" Issac asked, then motioned again to the structure.

Tyler gave Cali a quizzical look.

Issac repeated, "Learners? You are learners?" and motioned again to the structure.

"Learners?" Cali asked back. "What do you mean learners?"

"You are learners from the trees?" Issac asked.

Cali nodded, "Yes... uh we went to the trees to learn. But now we're looking for...."

Not allowing Cali finish, Issac motioned to the structure again. "Please, you can learn here, too."

"Oh, I see," Cali said softly to Tyler, "They're trying to teach us something." Then turning back to Issac she asked, "Are you instructors?"

Issac gave an embarrassed chuckled, "Oh no, no, no. I think... the instructors... yes instructors... live in the trees," he paused in thought, then said," Yes, I'm certain they live in the trees. We are locators."

"Locators?" Cali asked, "What are locators?"

"We locate learners for the instructors," Issac responded proudly.

It was Tyler's turn to nudge Cali. He whispered, "I bet Aristotle, the fellow I met on the path, was a locator. He said it was his job to find people."

"Please," Issac continued, "please learn about our village," then he motioned again to the adjacent structure.

Cali whispered back to Tyler, "They think this is part of our lesson. I guess we should do as they ask, at least for now."

She moved closer to the structure and peered through one of the openings. She motioned for Tyler to do the same.

"What do you make of this?" Tyler asked.

"It looks like a small factory," Cali responded. "Look over there. Aren't those the test signs like we saw along the paths?"

Tyler nodded, and whispered, "But from the looks of things, they haven't made any signs in here for quite awhile."

Cali turned and smiled at Issac, "This is very nice."

Encouraged by this response, Issac then guided them to another structure. The learners looked through the openings. Inside was another small factory. It was obvious that this 'factory' had also been idle for quite some time.

"Looks like they made clothes in this one," Cali observed.

"Yeah," Tyler agreed, "but, I see only two colors, purple and green."

Cali turned away from the opening and casually observed the crowd of creatures around her. All were dressed in various shades of purple. She whispered softly to Tyler, while smiling at the throng of Leornians. "Do you recall what color your instructor wore?"

"Let's see," Tyler strained to remember. "I had the same instructor for both tests, and he was wearing green, I think. No, wait. Yes, it was green. I'm sure... I think... It was green."

"Mine too," Cali agreed. "I bet all instructors wear green. But these 'locators' are dressed in purple."

"That's right," Tyler vaguely recalled Aristotle, "I think... no I'm sure... I think.. the one I met near the fruit patch was wearing purple."

"Interesting, isn't it?" Cali whispered to Tyler as she smiled at Issac.

"I guess," Tyler agreed without quite understanding.

The Leornians escorted Cali and Tyler to several other structures, each used to make some sort of good. But it was clear that none of the factory structures had seen any activity recently.

"Learning?" Issac asked them eagerly.

Cali nodded, "Yes, we're learning all right." She readjusted the bag of water on her shoulder. It sloshed.

Issac fell silent, his eyes widened as he stared closely at the bag. He touched it.

"Water?" he questioned meekly.

Cali nodded, somewhat surprised. "Would you like a drink?" she asked.

Issac nodded his head vigorously. Cali removed the bag of water from her shoulder and gave Issac a drink. He drank it slowly and deliberately. The other Leornians watched his satisfied reaction. Cali offered him another drink.

He shook his head, and said, "No, I can't drink all of your water. Not without paying. Let me give you estoffe."

He scampered into a small nearby structure. In a short time, he returned with a small purple pouch that he offered enthusiastically to Cali.

"I know this is not enough, but it is all that I have," Issac said. "It's real estoffe, not tokens."

Cali shook her head and pushed the estoffe pouch away with her hand. "I can't take this, if that's all that you've got."

"Please," Issac said, "I am glad to give it to you for the water."

Reluctant to offend the Leornian leader, she took the pouch and said, "Then please, take a big drink."

He did, accompanied by words of encouragement from the others.

As he drank, Cali looked into the pouch. It was filled with a purple paste-like substance.

"What is this... this estoffe?" she asked politely.

With a slight smile, Issac glanced at some of the other Leornians.

"It is estoffe," he said, as if she should know.

Growing frustrated, but remaining diplomatic, she asked, "What can I use it for? Is it good to eat?"

Issac nodded and answered, "Eat? I guess." He paused as if a new realization had dawned on him, then continued, "We use it for many things in our village." He moved his arms in a sweeping fashion. He then tapped the side of one of the structures. "We use estoffe for our homes. We use it for clothes. We use it for everything. Yes of course, we use estoffe for everything."

"That's interesting," Cali said thoughtfully as she closed the pouch. "Thank you very much. I will treasure it."

Several other Leornians reached toward Cali and her bag of water, but Issac stopped them.

"We have no water in the village," Issac apologized. He motioned to his companions. "They all would like a drink. But, I'm sure you don't have enough for everyone." He clearly hoped she would deny his statement.

instead, Cali clutched the water bag closely with the sudden realization of it's obvious value. She, like Tyler, had thought fruit was the more valuable of the commodities.

"Perhaps some can drink later," she said. With the blue sun sinking behind the mountains, Cali weighed her exhaustion with the professor's command to reach the end of the path. Exhaustion won. "Is there a place where we can sleep tonight?"

Issac sized up the humans who were easily twice his stature.

"We've never had learners here before," he said apologetically, but surprised at his own recollection. "Our homes are all full. We have many locators in the village and few homes."

He paused to consider alternatives, then said, "I know what. Yes, of course. Come with me," excited by his solution, he scampered down a path between the structures. The students, accompanied closely by the pack of Leornians, followed. They stopped at one of the largest of the smaller structures surrounding the domed beehive.

"Our meeting room," Issac said. "It's big enough inside, but..." he paused to size up the opening. "We will need to make a bigger entry."

He scampered back through the curious, but easily parted, crowd. A moment later, the crowd parted again to let Issac and four other Leornians through. The four new Leornians carried various crude purple tools that resembled hammers, chisels, and pick axes. They vigorously attacked the small entry hole with their tools. Even though the task could have been accomplished easier and quicker by only one, they quartet soon made the entry large enough for Tyler and Cali.

Issac responded to obvious excess of workers and said, "We are all very eager to work. We have little to do without the instructors." He then pointed to one of the four workers. "The instructors recently taught George Washington how to make structures. He's eager to work."

Cali thought to herself, 'George Washington?' but said nothing.

The students followed Issac into the structure.

He said, "Let this be your home while you learn."

When Issac turned to leave, Cali said, "Thank you, you are very kind. If there is anything we can do for you before we leave, please do not hesitate to ask." While Cali felt compelled to make this offer, she hoped it was but a mere formality.

Issac, however, paused to consider her offer, but left without responding.

Bumping into several other Leornians crowded around the opening, Issac scooted them away. A few pointed ears and young furry faces peaked through the 'window' openings, but they were quickly pulled away.

The students were suddenly alone.

"Some place, eh?" Cali said surveying the structure's interior.

It was clearly a large structure for the locators, probably averaging ten feet in diameter. However, the ceiling was barely six feet at its domed peak. Both students had to stoop anywhere but the middle of the room. While the interior had been completely empty, a handful of locators brought some purple cloth-like bedding after a brief period. It wasn't home, but it was a place to sleep. Best of all for Cali, she was finally out of the bright sunlight of the valley that had been her nemeses all day.

Tyler peered through one of the many window openings in the side of the structure as Cali fluffed her bedding material.

"What do you make of all this?" he asked.

"An interesting setup they have here," Cali spoke, trying to sort out their brief stay in this village. "I wonder what Issac meant when he said they locate learners for the instructors," Cali continued. "I'm sure that's why they call themselves locators. But how or why do they locate learners? I thought the professor sent learners like us, if that's what we are, to this place. What do the locators have to do with it?"

Edging away from the opening, Tyler noted, "You're awfully curious, aren't you?"

Cali instinctively blushed. No one had EVER accused her of being curious. "Well," she realized, "there's a lot to be curious about in this place." She took a drink water.

"It seems to me," she continued excitedly, "that these locators make products that the instructors use on the lesson paths. But why? And what is this estoffe stuff?" she held up the pouch given to her by the leader and shook it. "These locators think it's very valuable. But it looks like purple goo to me. I don't understand. I have to know what's going on!" She nearly screamed.

"Whoa," Tyler said, "don't get so excited."

"I'm not getting excited," she said becoming somewhat less excited.

"Well, you ARE acting a little strange," Tyler observed.

"ME? I'm acting strange?" she exclaimed incredulously, "You're the one who's acting strange, what with your pointing in this direction and that direction. Saying 'go this way' and 'go that way.'"

"I just get a feeling," Tyler said defensively. "But you're standing there acting like the professor with your 'why this?' and 'why that?'"

"Awwwhhh," she tried to control a scream, "why don't you just go back home."

"I'm trying to," Tyler screamed.

This struck Cali as distressingly funny. She laughed until tears came to her eyes. The laughter became infectious and Tyler joined along.

"This is stupid," Cali said with a smile, "Why are we arguing?"

"I don't know?" Tyler answered, with his own smile, "You started it."

"I started it?" she responded, severely overacting her degree of hurt. She took a few sprinkles of the precious water and splashed him.

He countered with one of his fruit, bouncing it softly off her forehead.

She pick the fruit from floor and lunged at him. After a well-executed headlock, she bopped him on the head several times with the fruit. He twisted from her hold and moved around behind her, his glasses falling off in the process.

"Now you've had it," he warned once his spectacles had been retrieved.

Their confrontation was cut short by a horrendous sound at one of the openings. Then dove to the floor, recent encounters with the assorted Leornian monsters keeping them instinctively apprehensive. With nighttime blanketing the room with darkness, they could see nothing but shadowy outlines.

And there -- in the opening -- was a shadowy outline.

"What is it?" Cali screamed.

The shadowy outline fluttered its wings, then croaked a meow.

Tyler laughed, "That's the cat-frog."

"What?" Cali exclaimed. Then realizing it was their companion from the trees, she also laughed.

"Did you decide to join us?" Tyler asked.

The frog-cat said nothing, clearly bored, yet satisfied with its perch on the edge of the opening.

"You know," Tyler continued, "I have a score to settle with you over this fruit business."

Still silence.

Tyler threw his hands in the air. "It's no use," he said, "I'm going to sleep."

Cali, also exhausted, silently agreed.

Before he dozed off, Tyler said to the frog, "Keep a watch out for us, will you?"

The frog blinked its eyes and assumed a slightly more comfortable perch.


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Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not to be quoted without permission of the author.

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