June 16, 2024 

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ABSOLUTE POVERTY LEVEL: The amount of income a person or family needs to purchase an absolute amount of the basic necessities of life. These basic necessities are identified in terms of calories of food, BTUs of energy, square feet of living space, etc. The problem with the absolute poverty level is that there really are no absolutes when in comes to consuming goods. You can consume a given poverty level of calories eating relatively expensive steak, relatively inexpensive pasta, or garbage from a restaurant dumpster. The income needed to acquire each of these calorie "minimums" vary greatly. That's why some prefer a relative poverty level.

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by Orley M. Amos, Jr.
Professor of Economics
Oklahoma State University
Go to: Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Chapter Twenty: The Real World

"Simple, so simple," Mark shouted excitedly. "Water, fruit, estoffe. The water comes from the fruit. When the fruit is crushed for estoffe, it makes juice. That's the water. It drains from the back of his home. It must filter through the mountain, then come out on the other side."

"Of course," Cali shrieked, "what else could it be?" She turned and looked for Professor Francis at the base of the mountain. "Did you hear?" she screamed. "All we have to do is crush more fruit. We can make as much water as we want."

The professor nodded.

Then she asked, "Did the council...?"

Her question was immediately answered by the sudden brilliance of the land.

The change was remarkable. The grayness vanished. The sparkling pink sky and blazing blue sun forced Cali to shield her eyes. Mark had to duck back into the shade of Adam's structure.

"I see that you have convinced the council," the Professor Francis smiled to the students as he strolled up the side of the mountain.

Upon reaching Adam's home, he then noted, "So this is the source of water. I would have never thought. This possibility was never considered when we created Loernia. But now we know, now we know."

"What do you mean 'when you created Loernia?'" Mark asked hesitantly, poking his head back through the opening.

"Oh, hello Mark! How are you?" the professor responded.

"You created us?" Mark asked again, not certain if he really wanted an answer.

The professor nodded.

What does an intelligent creature do when finally meeting 'the creator?' Mark slowly stroked an ear with his paw, nodded slightly, then smiled.

Professor Francis smiled back. "Leornia will be as it was before," he said. "I will see to that."

Mark looked at the professor, then at the students, before saying, "We've got work to do. Adam must make water." He turned to Leonardo, "And we need locators from the valley up to start drinking. But you will be first, Leonardo."

A small crowd of otherwise idle locators collected around Adam's structure. Among the crowd was a timid mammit that Tyler recognized.

"Aristotle!" Tyler called out.

Aristotle moved hesitantly up to the student, eyeing both the professor and Mark along the way.

"I've followed you," he said. "I knew it was you."

The professor stepped over to Aristotle. He bent down and picked up the nervous creature. "I think we have another excellent instructor candidate."

Aristotle giggled nervously.

He sat Aristotle down and turned to the students. "It's time to go," he said grabbing their hands. "Your lesson is over."

"But don't we have to go back to the path?" Cali asked.

"I think you've learned a great deal more than you would have learned on the path," the professor said. "And I am much better at retrieving students."

"Wait," Tyler walked over to his Loernian friends. "I will never forget you." He bent down and hugged each one. "And when I don't understand something in class, I'll be waiting for you guys."

Aristotle rubbed a paw across his furry face, "We'll be there."

The others nodded solemnly.

Then Tyler turned to Cali. He began to speak, but could think of no words. Instead he hugged her. "I... I'll...," he started.

"Me too," Cali nodded knowingly, moisture collecting in her eyes. "Me too."

Tyler looked up to the professor. "I guess I'm ready to go."

Tyler found himself bent over the chair, his face a few inches from the floor.

"Are you okay, Mr. Martin?" the professor asked.

Tyler straightened to a sitting position and found himself in the office of Professor Francis. His books remained where he had placed upon entering the office.

"I thought you were about to be ill," the professor said. "Do you feel okay now?"

"What?" Tyler asked, "Uh... yes... I'm okay."

"Do you have any other questions?" the professor asked.

"Questions?" Tyler asked, trying to focus his thoughts. "About Loernia?"

"Leornia?" the professor responded with a puzzled look. "No, about your final. We were discussing the exam."

The professor replaced the book he was holding back onto the shelf.

"If you have no more questions, I would say that you are ready for the final," he said with a slight, thin smile on his face. "I think you are ready, don't you?"

Tyler nodded slightly. "Yes, I think I am." Then more confidently, he said, "Yes, I am ready."

"Now if you'll excuse me," the professor said politely, "I have unfinished business."

"But...," Tyler paused, "What about Leornia?"

"Leornia?" the professor responded again with apparent confusion. "What is this Leornia?"

"But didn't I just come back from Leornia?" Tyler asked, his fading memory causing him to question recent events.

The professor glared at Tyler and shook his head slightly. "Mr. Martin. If you do not feel well, perhaps you should visit the campus hospital," he offered.

"But, I feel okay," Tyler said rising to his feet. Then he staggered slightly. "I guess maybe I don't feel so well."

"Then you should rest."

"Uhm... yes...," Tyler gathered his books. "I guess I should." He walked from the professor's office and into the hallway.

The professor seemed to be acting very strange -- as though he knew nothing about Leornia. It was obviously just an act, wasn't it? Yes of course. The secret of Leornia must be preserved.

But the professor had said nothing -- nothing about the Leornians, the water, Cali -- nothing. Did Leornia REALLY exist? Had Tyler REALLY been there? Was he really standing on the side of a mountain with several small furry pointed-eared mammits not five minutes before?

Of course, he had been to Leornia. He remembered the first test over scarcity and the second covering the market. He recalled the large umbrella tress, the red grass, the purple fruit, and Cali...

Yes, he had helped save Leornia from destruction. Of course he had.

But the memories were fading. As they faded, he grew less certain.

Upon passing a display case window, his reflection forced him to stop. It was not the reflection he expected. Over the past several days he had been covered with orange dirt and mud. His jeans had been ripped and torn. His shirt had been eaten by a hungry griffin. He had lost his glasses in the caves.

This was not the reflection he expected. The Tyler Martin standing before him had clean clothes -- no rips, no holes, and no orange dirt. Most telling of all was the he could SEE his reflection through a pair of relatively clean, and completely intact, glasses. How could this be? His broken glasses had been discarded in the caves of a mountain in....

He tried to remember the name of the place he had been. Was it Louisiana? No! Luxembourg? No that wasn't it either.

He then noticed the clock hanging above the display case. It was slightly before noon. Tyler thought for a moment. He counted up the days he had spent in... wherever he had been. Five days. But... that meant his economics final would begin -- in less than 10 minutes. Why didn't the professor say something. He did. He told Tyler to rest up. He told Tyler he had something to do.

Tyler ran down the stairs and across the grass toward his economics classroom. Only a few minutes to go. He entered the building, turned the corner of a hall, and burst into the classroom.

The anthropology professor did not appreciate this disturbance.

"Can I help you?" she asked coldly.

"Uh... I'm... uh... my economics final," he muttered.

"Finals? Finals are next week," disgusted, she shook her head, "Now if you don't mind, I have class right now."

"What's today?" he asked "Isn't this Monday?"

She shook her head, "This is Thursday. Would you please leave?"

Tyler left the classroom even more bewildered. He then heard the room erupt into laughter. How could this be Thursday? He had entered the professor's office on Thursday. But he had been in... what as the name...? for five days. It should be Monday. He counted the days on his fingers, trying to recall the events occurring in... in... that place.

He stopped several people in the hallway. Each confirmed that it was Thursday. Finals were still five days away. Now he was even more confused. Did he actually go there... to that place?

He walked from the building and crossed the street to the campus cafeteria. His mind was confused. Perhaps he had become ill in the professor's office. Maybe he remained delirious. He WAS hungry. He could sort out his thoughts over lunch.

He ordered his favorite meal, his standard lunch time fare -- cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke. While he waited, however, this particular combination seemed less appetizing than the apples, oranges, and grapes sitting on the cafeteria shelf. He plucked up a apple and added it to his order.

When the cheeseburger arrived, he reached into his pocket for money. After a brief search he pulled out the paper cash, plus something very hard. It felt like a rock.

It was bright. It was purple. It was rectangular. It was about the size of an ice cube.

"HOLY COW!" he screamed. "THE JEWELS! It DOES exist! LEORNIA! That's it, LEORNIA! LEORNIA does exist!" His screaming, as might be expected, attracted the attention of everyone in the cafeteria.

He swallowed hard, quickly paid for his meal, and with all eyes following his movement, found a secluded seat in the corner. Only then did the others return to their own business.

He examined the purple jewel. His memories of... Leornia... crystallized now that he had tangible proof. He thought about Cali. Did she have the same doubts about her experience?

Discarding his uneaten cheeseburger, Tyler grabbed the apple and darted back to the professor's office. Professor Francis was closing his door on the way out.

"Professor," Tyler said breathlessly. "You MUST do something for me."

"Mr. Martin?" the professor said, "What can I do for you? I thought we answered your questions? Did you leave a book in my office?"

Tyler pulled the gem from his pocket.

"Could you give this to Cali the next time you see her?"

"Cali?" the professor asked, apparently puzzled. "Cali who?"

"Please professor, you must," he pleaded. "I remember all about you and Leornia. I know you have Cali in your class at Franklin's Women College. Please give this to her. Tell her it's from me. Please."

The professor held out his hand and took the jewel. Then he nodded his head with a slight, thin smile.

'Leornia!' Tyler thought to himself. 'Yes!'

Tyler walked anxiously across campus to the Biology building. He approached his biology professor's office and knocked on the open door. The professor seated at the desk was a short, rotund man with a wisp of gray hair encircling an otherwise bald head.

"Uh... excuse me Professor Watson," Tyler said uneasily.

"Yes, Mr. Martin," the professor answered without looking up from his work.

"Uh...," Tyler began, "I've been having trouble in your biology class. I was... uh... wondering if you could give me some extra credit, maybe a special lesson in biology. You know, one that I would never forget..."

Go to: Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Copyright © 1997, 2002 by Orley M. Amos, Jr. All rights reserved. Not to be quoted without permission of the author.


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