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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
Go to: Chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Chapter Five: Cali O'Toole

"Am I glad to see you," she said to Tyler.

Tyler jumped to his feet and adjusted his glasses, still wondering what sort of creature he had encountered.

"Who are you?" Tyler asked. "I didn't expect to see..."

"Oww..." she moaned. "You've got to help me I'm lost. I've been walking around here for days. I can't find the next test." She sat down hard on the red carpet next to the path, a purple pouch sloshing beside her.

Tyler was still confused. He expected to be engage in a deadly battle with a hideous monster, but instead he found a moderately attractive human sitting on the side of the orange path.

"I didn't expect to see..." Tyler again tried apologetically to explain his near attack.

"I don't have any idea where I am," she continued almost frantically, oblivious of her near encounter with Tyler's mighty stick. "The professor said to stay on the path, but I can't find the test."

"Wait a second," Tyler said with a deep breath. "Let's take this slowly."

"Okay," she signed, dropping her sloshing pouch to the carpet grass. "I'm lost, I'm tired, and I haven't had any food for days. I'm starved. I don't like economics. It's stupid. I just want to go home. I don't care if I ever graduate. I'm so hungry, and all I've got is this stupid water..."

"Water? You have water?"

"Yes," the co-ed responded. "I've got plenty of water, but no food. I'm soooo hungry."

You're hungry?" Tyler asked, rushing into the trees and grabbing one of his bags. "I've got fruit"

"You do?" she asked with newfound enthusiasm. "That's great. Can I have some? Please, oh please, can I have some?"

"Sure," Tyler tossed her a purple fruit. She had it eaten in a matter of seconds. Tyler tossed her another, then sat down on the red grass next to her with his bags. When she had finished the second fruit she took a drink from her bag of water.

"Uhm... "Tyler cleared his parched throat, "Is that water? That's water in your bag there, isn't it?"

She nodded.

Tyler cleared his throat again, thinking of the fleeting drink from the instructor. "Uhm... I'm kinda thirsty myself."

"Oh I'm sorry," she apologized, offering her bag of water. "Please have a drink."

As she reached for more of Tyler's fruit, he wasted little time getting liquid into his mouth.

Tyler took a long drink, savoring the water, a pleasure that had cruelly teased him earlier. Had he forgotten the satisfaction to be had by soothing water on the back of his parched throat?

He savored another mouthful. The water had a familiar sweet taste. While the source of this taste had eluded him earlier, he now recognized it as the purple fruit. Not as powerful, not as overwhelming, but the distinctive fruit flavor nonetheless. Perhaps the sweetness he noted was nothing but the aftertaste of the fruit he had consumed in the past two days. Perhaps not.

Prompted by the lingering fruit taste, he pulled a purple orb from his bag, eating it slowly. As he munched on the fruit, he realized that, thirst or not, water was no match for the juice of the fruit. He handed the pouch of water back to the girl and watched as she quickly grabbed and devoured her fourth and fifth fruit. Then she went for more.

"Whoa, slow down," Tyler said, "Not so much. I know you're hungry, but I have only so much of this stuff. I don't know if there's any more around here."

She stopped chewing with a mouthful of suddenly sour fruit. "I'm sorry," she said. "I was so hungry I didn't realize what I was doing." She swallowed hard on the last mouthful.

Now it was Tyler's turn to remorse. "Wait, I'm the one who should be sorry. You must be starving. Please, go ahead and eat. If there's any more of this fruit around we'll find it."

She reluctantly, but thankfully, ate one more piece of fruit before stopping.

"Please," she said, "drink some more water so I don't feel bad about eating your fruit." She handed Tyler her pouch.

As Tyler took a small drink of the water, she leaned against the trunk of an umbrella tree.

"Oh I feel so much better," she said. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't shown up. I've been walking up and down this path for two or three days. The professor said to stay on the path, but I couldn't find the third test. I must have walked a zillion miles that way," she said as she pointed the direction from which she had come, "but I couldn't find the third test. I couldn't find any of those little teacher fellows anywhere."

Tyler returned the pouch. "Well... uh... thanks for the water, too. The instructor at the last test gave me a little drink, but I was pretty thirsty. Except for that little drink, I haven't had anything but fruit since I've been here."

"All I've had is water. The instructor guy gave me this pouch of water at the second test," She began, "Where did you get your fruit? At the test, too? I really didn't do well on the questions about the market. But, I was really surprised when the instructor gave me water after missing the questions about the market. Right now I really don't care about the market anyway. I just want to go home," she moaned.

"I know how you feel," Tyler said, thinking about his own situation. "I wanted to leave after the first test myself."

She gave a weak hearted laugh.

"Oh, by the way," she said to break the silence, "My name is Cali O'Toole."

"Oh... I'm... uh... Tyler Martin," he responded as they politely, but awkwardly shook hands.

A few feet away Tyler's frog-cat companion fluttered its wings and adjusted its perch slightly. Cali jumped, startled by the sound.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Oh that," Tyler chuckled, "That's my... uh... friend. I don't know if it has a name or not, but it seems to follow me everywhere I go."

"Oh wow!" she exclaimed, "It looks like a cat with wings. Or is it a frog. And look at those feathers on his head. I thought I'd seen everything in this place, but that thing is really weird looking."

"I guess it's friendly," Tyler continued, "It helped me out when I came across this fruit back up the path." Tyler explained his brief conversation with the frog.

"But I didn't see any fruit on the path," Cali said, more concerned with missing out on the fruit, than with a talking, flying feline-frog.

The frog sat silently as Tyler explained how he had deciphered the mysteries of, first scarcity, then opportunity cost. "It was really funny, the instructor gave me two bags of jewels. But, I couldn't carry both of them because my carrying capacity was limited, until I found this stick here. That's how I found out about scarce resources. Then because I missed the question on opportunity cost, he fixed it so I would have to give up my jewels in order to carry this fruit. I left behind millions of dollars, maybe billions of dollars, worth of jewels. But, then I guess I did okay on the second test, because the instructor didn't make me do anything."

"I was just the opposite," she said, sounding very frustrated, "I did okay on the first test about scarcity and opportunity cost, but my mind went blank on the market. That's when the instructor gave me this bag of water. He said I would understand why. All I know is this bag is heavy. How is this bag of water going to help me understand about the market anyway?"

Suddenly Cali leaned forward from the tree. She looked at Tyler and her faced slowly broke into an enormous smile.

"That's it," she said, "that's it. Of course, that's why you're here. You're may exchange. You're my market. Why... that clever little fellow."

Tyler could only sit and smile, quite confused.

"Of course. That's it. That must be it. I missed the questions about the market and exchange, so you came along to help me understand the market. You had the fruit that I need, and I had to work out a trade with you. You were willing to trade several fruit for my water, but when I ate too much you jumped in to stop me. According to the law of supply, the price, which is the water I was giving you, was not high enough for the amount of fruit that I was eating. You needed a higher price for a larger quantity of fruit. Yes, of course, I see how a market works now. People that have a good negotiate a trade and a price with people that want the good."

Tyler had little choice but to agree with her reasoning. Yet as he considered her explanation, he grew angry at the thought of being manipulated. He felt that his life had more purpose to it than helping this coed understand a markets.

However, he had not time to dwell on this thought. The all familiar voice of the professor echoed through the dense foliage. Only this time, it lacked the booming resonant quality of before.

"Very good, Cali," the professor said.

Tyler was also surprised that the professor spoke to this girl and not to him. But she was obviously familiar with this routine, as she spoke up towards the umbrella covering of the tree tops.

"Thank you professor," she said. "It all seems so obvious and simple now."

"No Cali, I am over here," the professor said.

Startled, both Cali and Tyler turned behind them to see the professor leaning against the trunk of an umbrella tree. He was dressed in a long black robe, with three velvet stripes on each of the blousy sleeves. On his head he wore a mortar board that stayed firmly in place no matter how he moved about. Although the professor's outfit was traditional for academicians, in the glow of this land, it gave him a mysteriously wizardry appearance.

"Boy, I am glad to see you professor," Tyler blurted out.

Cali gave Tyler a sideways glance, disturbed that he was infringing on her conversation with her professor. Then again Tyler felt the same way about her.

"You are learning your lessons very well. Both of you. And I am extremely pleased. Remain on the path, and you will learn your economic lessons." The professor spoke these words as if he had delivered them a hundred times, but now his thoughts were clearly elsewhere. "I must go now. I have other business. Please, be very careful. If you need help call for me, and I will come as soon as I can."

As the professor turned and started towards the denseness of the umbrella trees Cali said, "What about the third test? I couldn't find the third test."

But her query was too late, the professor vanished as quickly as he had arrived.

Tyler, feeling as though he was a third party in this encounter, when he should have been the main character, turned to Cali. "You know the professor?" he asked, trying to hide his disappointment.

"Why yes, of course," she said. "He's my economics professor."

Tyler laughed slightly, somewhat relieved. "Oh really, he's mine, too. I didn't realize we went to the same school. What a coincidence. But, I guess it makes sense. I just don't ever remember seeing you on campus." Tyler felt confident he would have remembered.

Now Cali laughed and said, "We don't go to the same school."

"What do you mean?" Tyler asked somewhat confused. "If he's your professor, then we must...."

"We can't... you can't..." she said with assurance. "I go to Franklin Women's College in Pennsylvania. There are no men allowed."

"Wait a second," Tyler said, trying to sort this out. "Are you sure?"

"Am I sure I go to Franklin Women's College?" she asked. "Yes I'm sure."

"But, that's ridiculous," she said. "He can't teach at Franklin Women's College. He's taught at Western State University for over thirty years. My dad took an economics class from him twenty-five years ago."

"Oh come on," Cali began to say, "he couldn't possibly teach at Western State..."

Then their eyes meet and their mouths opened wide, as they realized the seemingly impossible was undoubtedly the truth. They both had the same professor at colleges 2000 miles apart.

"This is getting strange, stranger than I thought possible," Tyler said. "But, here were are, learning economics from monkey-like creatures with long ears, eating purple fruit, and sitting on red grass. I guess anything is possible."

"But..." Cali tried to protest, then nodded in bewildered agreement.

Tyler observed, "Did you notice how preoccupied the professor was. He never acts that way in class."

Cali shook her head. "I couldn't say. I usually sit at the back of the class. When I go to class."

"It just seems kind of strange... the way he was acting."

"It's not important," Cali said, "we should move on. I want to get out of this place. I feel like I've been here for a hundred years."

This time Tyler nodded in silent agreement.

"And we can't get out of here," Cali continued, "until we finish this silly lesson."

Again Tyler silently nodded.

"Well what should we do?" Cali asked, as much to herself as to Tyler.

"I think we should stay together and try to find the third test," Tyler suggested.

"But that's not the way this lesson is supposed to work, is it?" Cali questioned feebly.

"Maybe not," Tyler continued, "but I bet we can get out of here quicker if we stick together."

"Well I really don't care one way or the other," Cali answered back . "I've been walking around this stupid place for days. And I just want to get out of here. We can stick together if you like. I guess I wouldn't mind the company." She turned and began to walk down the path.

"Uh...," Tyler said, not certain if he should follow. "I think we should go this way," he said pointing in the other direction. "You're heading towards the second test."

"What?," she said looking around her. "Oh I don't know which way to go. I'm still lost. It all looks the same to me."

The orange path was conveniently wide enough for both of them. In transit, their conversation was sparse. Both were tired, only moderated refreshed by their short stop. From the infrequent glimpses of the blue sun through the canopy of the umbrella trees and the darkening twilight along the path, it appeared to be late afternoon.

Their companion, the winged amphibious cat, continued to tag along. As before, it hopped into flight between perches on the glowing green stick plants. It usually remained on the edge of the path, but periodically slipped into the denseness of the trees.

Tyler had a strange feeling as he walked down the path. It seemed as though he knew when each turn in the path was coming -- before it was evident. It was as though he had travelled this path before. Undoubtedly his tired mind was playing tricks.

Then suddenly Tyler stopped and closed his eyes.

"The third test...," he said.

"Yes...," Cali paused, waiting for more.

"It should be 100 meters farther," he continued.

"Oh good," she said, "Let's get this lesson over with."

Tyler opened his eyes. Why did he suddenly have this feeling that the third test was a 100 meters away. Then he remembered that each of the other two tests had a sign with that particular information. His tired mind must have caught a subliminal glimpse of the sign. Seeking to satisfy his curiosity, he looked up and down both sides of the path, but saw nothing.

"Cali," he said, "Do you see a sign around here?"

"Sign?" she asked somewhat puzzled. "Oh you mean, like the first two tests?" She had no idea why Tyler was asking, but searched the sides of the path anyway.

"Nope, no sign," she said.

Tyler had a very strange feeling inside. He closed his eyes once again.

"Yes... the sign," he said, and pointed directly to his right. "It's over there."

Cali looked in the direction he pointed, but saw nothing.

"I don't see...," she started to say.

"It's over there, go look about 20 feet into the trees," he persisted.

"Into the... trees...?" Cali asked hesitantly, looking into the thick, dense, view-obscuring foliage.

"Yes," Tyler continued to point in the same direction, "Over there."

Cali walked cautiously towards the edge of the umbrella trees, but still saw nothing. Tyler motioned for her to continue.

When she had walked about 20 feet into the trees she stepped on something very hard. This was not the cushiony-soft, red, carpet grass that covered the floor of the forest, but it was familiar. It was a purple sign, much like the other two she had seen. It read:

Test #3
100 meters

Cali turned to look for Tyler on the path. He was totally obscured by the trunks of numerous umbrella trees. Tyler could not have seen the sign from the path. It was laying flat on the red carpet grass, and completely blocked by the trunks umbrella tress.

Cali slowly carried the sign back to Tyler.

"You're right," she said. "Here's the sign for the third test."

Tyler nodded slightly and knowingly. He really need no confirmation for what he knew to be true.

"Let's go, shall we?" he said opening his eyes.

As Tyler walked away, Cali looked at the sign one last time. The message was unchanged. She dropped the sign as if it had suddenly grown very hot.

"Oh wow!," she said.

Winding their way down the path to the third exam, Tyler wondered what this next test would cover. He thought about the sequence of topics in the professor's class. They covered scarcity, then the market, and then... what...? Yes of course, after the market they began to discuss macroeconomics, with unemployment, inflation, and all of that. He wondered what type of questions the instructor would ask. And if they failed the questions, what type of "task" would they face. Tyler felt very confident that he was one step ahead of the instructor.

But then, once again, Tyler was overcome by a very strange feeling. He stopped dead in the path and closed his eyes.

"This should be the third test," he said.

Cali, for want of any reason to the contrary, also stopped and waited quietly for an instructor. When none popped from the trees, she began to look around. Tyler stood motionless, eyes closed.

"No," he finally said, "I don't see any of them nearby."

"What do you mean you don't see them?" Cali asked a little perturbed. "How can you see them with your eyes closed?"

"What?" he looked at Cali, annoyed at the distraction. Then he said, "There are no instructors here. I don't know why I know, I just know."

When Tyler spoke these words, he reminded himself of the nervous little creature named Aristotle he twice encountered in this land.

"Maybe the instructor is only a little late. They do that in the real world. Why don't we rest here for awhile," Tyler said as he sat on the plush, red, carpet grass and opened his sack of purple fruit. Cali sat next to him as they shared the fruit and water. Although they shared, each was acutely aware of the other's property. Cali chewed slowly on a single fruit, while Tyler took one small drink of water.

As they sat and waited, the infrequent glimpses of pink sky grew darker and grayer. The blue sun was no longer visible through any cracks in the umbrella tree canopy. The eerie twilight grew thicker.

"What do we do now Tyler?" Cali asked, "I don't think an instructor is going to show up."

"Yeah," Tyler responded, too tired to say more. Then after a moment, he mumbled, "Maybe a little sleep. Then we can decide. In the morning."

Tyler waited for a response, but received none. Cali had already curled into a tight ball, asleep on the red carpet grass. His own exhaustion evident, Tyler had no choice but to followed her lead.

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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