by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
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Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Chapter Sixteen: Mark Twain
Cali was not sure how the pieces of information floating through her mind fit together, but she was sure they did. She felt it. Unemployed locators, instructors kicked out of the trees to join the locators, an evil professor trying to stop them for some unknown reason. It made no sense. And how this plump little creature might help was equally unclear.
Mark broke the short silence as he turned to Cali and asked, "I trust you completed the market test satisfactorily. Seeing you with Mr. Martin, I presume that you understand market exchange."
Cali nodded quietly, recalling their unintended 'market' confrontation with the hideous monster from Tyler's nightmares.
"Well..." he paused, eyeing the pair, "Why have you asked to see me? This is a highly unusual request. You should be on the economics path."
"We were. We tried," Cali began, somewhat apologetically, "but we couldn't find the third exam."
It was Mark's turn to apologize, "I'm afraid that is my fault. My services were required elsewhere, and I could find no one to replace me. However, that makes no difference. You should have remained on the path. We can't have learners running all over the place."
"The professor told us to go to the end of the path," Cali explained. "And Tyler pointed out a shortcut. That's where we were headed when we met Leonardo."
"Ah, yes," Mark recalled some unfinished business, and turned to Leonardo. "You have the two pouches?"
Leonardo handed him the requested estoffe payment, started to protest, then thought better of it.
"Very good, very good," Mark said. He turned back to the students. "Now, what can I do for you? I trust this is not an attempt to buy special treatment for your lesson. We don't do that. Your professor has already taken care of all necessary fees. And if you are seeking a short cut on your lesson, we don't do that either. You must return to the path to complete your lesson."
"No we don't want to finish our lesson," Cali said, "we just want to find out what's happening."
"I'm afraid I do not understand," Mark feigned ignorance. "There's nothing happening."
"Then why have a bunch of monsters tried to eat us?" Tyler interjected.
"You must be mistaken," Mark said. "Monsters are relegated to duty on the psychology path. Monsters are most assuredly not part of your lesson." But his voice trailed off when he noticed Tyler's bloodied legs protruding from his tattered jeans.
"Why are the locators so upset?" Cali jumped in, catching Mark off guard. "And why was Leonardo banished from of the trees?"
Mark thought for a long moment, "I can't say why the locators are upset. I don't know. That's really none of my concern. But as for Leonardo... well... he could not remain in the trees. He had to go." This thought pained him noticeably. Mark was clearly battling the feelings for an old friend and the requirements of his profession.
"But why?" Cali asked.
"I'm sorry," he said softly, "There is nothing I can do." He turned to Leonardo. "I wish you could come back Leonardo, but you can not."
"Can't you give him another chance," Tyler pleaded.
"NO WE CAN NOT," Mark said through clenched teeth, avoiding Leonardo's saddened gaze.
"Why not?" Tyler continued.
"Because," Mark lost some of his instructor's composure, "he is no longer an instructor. He has lost all ability to teach. He can't send information to real world learners He can't instruct learners on the paths." He turned to Leonardo again, forcing himself to face a painful moment. "I'm sorry Leonardo, but you knew this didn't you? You knew why you had to leave the trees."
Cali recalled the circular flow and the locator's unemployment problem. Somehow she knew these were related to Leonardo's predicament.
"But, why send Leonardo into the valley when most of the locators there aren't being use?" She asked.
"The locators are not our responsibility," he said curtly.
"Not your responsibility!" Tyler said heatedly, taking a step at Mark.
"Calm down Tyler!" Cali grabbed Tyler.
"The locators are free to do as they please," Mark said, "They provide us with services and we pay them appropriately. They construct useful items, for which they are also paid. And for a small fee, we provide them with valuable information on the fabrication of this items. We do not owe anyone an explanation, Mr. Martin."
"But you keep selling them the same information over and over again," Cali interjected.
Mark shook his head, "Unfortunately, locators have very short memories and they are not terribly bright. They have a great deal of difficulty retaining and transferring information to others. We frequently provide them with the same information more than once. We have had to teach Adam how to make estoffe over twenty times. It becomes tiresome after a while, providing the same information over and over again."
Then Cali tried, "Okay, but why haven't you used locators' services recently?"
Mark slowly stroked his ear, then politely said, "I should not be talking about this."
"Please," Cali pleaded, "It's very important. We must know."
"It's not something that I am at liberty to discuss," he said slowly.
"But we paid you," Cali noted.
"Well..." the instructor pondered.
Then Cali asked, "Is it because you don't need them any more? Is it because instructors aren't producing and selling as much output?"
"Okay..." he continued stroking his ear. "I'll tell you. I shouldn't, but I will. You paid your estoffe and you will get your information." He collected his thoughts. "You are correct in saying that we have less need for locators' services. The reason that we do not need their services is because the professors do not require our services. In your words, we are not producing as much. I'm afraid that the professors have been quite upset with our efforts. They claim that we are not sending sufficient learning to the real world."
Cali was confused. "I don't understand," she said, "if the professors want you to send more learning to the our world, then you should use more locators, not less?"
"THAT is not the problem...," he started, then paused again,.
Cali shook her head. She looked into Mark's sorrowful eyes. Then she understood. "I see. You don't have enough instructors to provide the information. Of course. So the professors are upset. They're so upset that they aren't using your services, so you don't need the locators."
Mark nodded. "We are doing our best," he said with a deep breath, relieved that others could now share his burden. "The few of us are, or I should say were, kept very busy. There has been less to do recently."
"Then you should give Leonardo another chance," Tyler offered. "If you need instructors, take Leonardo back."
Mark noted, "It is not only Leonardo. We have sent other instructors away. Like Leonardo, they could no longer do their job. We had no choice."
"But why?" Cali demanded.
Mark clenched one paw and struck his other paw fiercely. "I DO NOT KNOW," he said slowly, but emphatically. "It is frustrating. We, the instructors of Leornia, are supposed to have all information, but we simply do not know."
They fell silent with Mark's pained admission. What could be worse than an instructor without knowledge?
Then a thought slowly crossed Cali's mind, "This is probably a long shot," she said turning to Tyler. "But maybe, just maybe you can help solve this problem, Tyler. I don't know how and I don't know why, but maybe you are the key."
Tyler was taken aback with center stage. He felt very awkward as the two Leornians looked up to him -- literally and figuratively.
Mark's expression simply asked 'How?'
"I... I.... don't know how I can help," Tyler apologized. "One of the locators I met on the path said I was the key to solving Leornia's problems" he explained, "but I don't how."
Mark paced along the orange path between two large umbrella trees, deep in thought. He finally said, "There's no reason to put you on the spot Mr. Martin. It's time we, the instructors, face this problem. We can not, with all due respect Mr. Martin, leave it to a learner to solve our problems. We have been avoiding this for too long. You must come with me."
The pair of students and the former instructor followed Mark as he left the orange path and headed deep into the umbrella trees. Working their way through the trees, Cali noticed that the yellow trees were not nearly as bright as they had been near the economics path. The red of the carpet grass, and the orange of the path were also significantly less distinct than she recalled. Perhaps the hazy appearance was only the dark of the night. But still....
The farther they went the denser the umbrella trees became. While it was easy for the two Leornians to pass through, Tyler and Cali, with their baggage, found it increasingly difficult. They finally came to a thick wall of trees, passable by neither Leornian nor learner.
"Our village lies on the other side," Mark explained. "The barricade is to keep learners from inadvertently wandering in."
He moved over to a spot of the red carpet grass that looked no different from any other spot. Then he reached down and lifted up a chunk of the grass that resembled a manhole cover in both appearance and function.
"Please, follow me," he motioned, then jumped into the uncovered hole.
The passage was much like the tunnels that they had journeyed through earlier. For Tyler, it was thankfully shorter. In little time, they exited a similar opening on the other side of the wall.
Even in the dullness of the night, the students were startled by the impressive sight of the instructor's village. In one sense this village was like the locators' villages. The center was occupied by a large, purple, domed-shaped structure with several smaller purple structures of varying sizes surrounding it. But here the similarities ended.
Each of these purple structures had precise, geometric lines, unlike the hodge-podge, lumpy construction in the instructors' villages. Some were square, boxlike structures, while others were perfectly symmetrical domes. Each structure was much larger than it's locator counterpart. The structures were also lit with soft green lights, something totally absent in the other villages. Cali recognized these as the glowing, green stick plants from the path.
Numerous statues were scattered about the village. Some were placed between the structures, while others were on tops or built into their walls. The largest of the statues was in the middle of a large circular basin that looked to be a decorative water fountain -- except for the lack of water.
As they moved into the village Cali notice that most of the walls contained detailed carvings, much like Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Mark led them up to the basin with the largest of the statues. "Please wait here," he said, "I will notify my colleagues." He scurried away.
In a moment, Tyler, Cali, and Leonardo were joined by a half dozen, sleepy-eyed Leornian instructors. Mark arrived with a seventh instructor, and climbed onto the edge of the basin.
"What is this all about, Mark?" one of the older instructors demanded.
"Why are these learners here?" another one asked indignantly. Then seeing Leonardo he said, "And why is HE here, we don't need the services of a locator."
"Let me explain," Mark began, "They are here to help us."
The seven sleepy instructors chuckled.
"We need no help," the older instructor said. He turned to leave.
"Wait, Plato," Mark shouted. "I think we do need help. We cannot avoid our problem any longer. These learners have prompted me to force the issue. We all know that the professors are dissatisfied with our services."
"We are doing our best," Plato countered. "We can find other professors. We have the learning. They need us."
"Plato, when was the last time you had a learner on the physics path?" Mark asked.
Plato reluctantly nodded.
"And Julius," Mark pointed toward the last instructor to arrive. "You've handled both the sociology and psychology paths, but the professors have sent only one learner in the last month."
Mark paced the basin's edge.
"Now gentlemen," he continued, "We do have a problem. And we know what it is." He turned to Tyler and Cali and said, "Perhaps now it is obvious to you the cause of our problem." He spread his paws towards the seven other instructors. "This is it. There are only eight of us. There was once dozens of instructors. But the others are gone. At first, we shared the duties, but then we were unable to satisfy the professors' demands. Now there are no demands."
The instructors hung their heads almost as one.
"These learners," Mark broke the silence, nodding directly at Tyler, "can help solve our problem."
"No, Mark," Plato protested, "we do not need learners. We can correct our problem. We are instructors." Plato moved over to the basin and stepped up next to Mark, facing the others. "I suggest we look into this situation. Can I have volunteers to form an ad hoc committee?"
Two of the other instructors reluctantly raised their paws.
"Very good," Plato said, "If there are no objections, I will chair the committee." He singled out the two volunteers, and said, "Let's have a meeting in one week to set an agenda." The two nodded.
Plato stepped from the basin and gathered the two volunteers to discuss specifics of the meeting.
As the small group broke up, Mark stepped sat down on the edge of the basin with a sigh of relief. He said, "Plato is a competent instructor, he'll get to the bottom of this."
"That's it?" Cali protested, "Is that all you're going to do?"
"Plato will take care of it," Mark said again, reassured that the problem was well in hand.
"But what about Tyler?" Cali continued, "Aristotle, that locator, said Tyler was the key to solving Leornia's problems."
Once again Tyler felt compelled to apologize. "I don't know how I can help in all of this." He grabbed Cali's hand. "You're the one that's doing all of the work. You've figured out the circular flow and the unemployment. You're the key to this problem. Aristotle must have been wrong."
Then Mark said, "I've worked with Aristotle before. If he located you, and said you are the key to solving Leornia's problem, then I'm certain you are. But, Plato will get to the bottom of this. For now, let's find you some place to rest. I think I have just the spot for you," he said, nodding toward the central dome.
But Cali stopped, compelled to ask one last question. She pointed to the basin Mark had used for his stage. "What is this?"
"That was once a lovely fountain, the highlight of the village," he answered.
Cali touched the inside of the fountain. It was dry.
"Has it been used recently?" she asked.
"Not for many months," he responded. "We have had a small water shortage. Nothing serious, I'm sure."
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Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not
to be quoted without permission of the author.