Life at the spa was a pretty good situation for Paul. He’d got himself into a routine of waking up and going for a jog or swim before breakfast. Then having a shower before performing his maintenance jobs for the day. It was basically just cleaning up after the guests, and a lot of the spa employees tidied their own rooms anyway, so there wasn’t much for him to do. It felt a bit strange that he should be given free room and board for so little effort on his part.
Things were almost a bit too good, and Paul couldn’t shake the feeling there was more going on than first appeared at the spa. His survival instincts told him he needed a back-up plan. He needed two things. First, another way to make money. Second, another place to live if things went wrong at the spa.
He decided to pay a visit to the local library to check the internet for job listings. When he arrived he noticed the cute librarian who seemed to be a little bit flustered about something. He gave her a charming smile as he pretended to browse the books.
‘Everything ok?’ he asked in amusement.
She sighed and sat down on the futon in frustration, tears welling in her eyes. ‘I’m sorry, this is so unprofessional of me, I’ve just had a really bad morning. And to make it worse, the computers keep crashing!’
‘I can take a look at that for you,’ Paul shrugged casually, ‘I know a bit about programming.’
‘Oh, would you,’ the girl exclaimed enthusiastically, ‘that would be fantastic! I’m worried I did something wrong when I was rebooting the system. If it’s my fault I’m sure they’ll fire me!’
Paul sat down at one of the computers and tapped away for a few minutes. The librarian kept hovering anxiously. He only really had a basic knowledge of programming, but he could see the problem straight away. He just needed to run a patch.
He yawned and stretched ostentatiously, ‘Well, the good news is that you didn’t break anything…’
‘Oh, thank goodness for that!’ The librarian sighed gratefully.
‘The bad news,’ Paul continued slyly, ‘Is that I’ll need to write a bit of code, a small plug-in to stop the computers from crashing again. I’d do it for free, you know, it’s only a little thing and it won’t take long. Only, there’s a one-off licence fee for using the programming tool that’ll need to be paid.’
The librarian looked at him in confusion and Paul shrugged in false sympathy. He could tell she didn’t have a clue about computers, and she didn’t understand anything he’d said. He waited patiently while she came to a decision.
‘How much is the fee?’ she asked worriedly.
‘Oh, it’s only a small charge. Just fourteen simoleans. I could use another programming tool but this is the cheapest option.’
Paul tapped nonchalantly at the keyboard, ‘I mean, you could call in a professional but they’d also charge you for their service and time…’
‘I think we have enough money in petty cash to cover it,’ she said suddenly, jumping to her feet, ‘But you’ll have to write me a receipt.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ Paul agreed, grinning to himself. He ran the patch and then spent some time browsing for jobs. Every time the girl walked past he pulled up a simple code-writing window and typed random bits of code into it to look like he was doing something important. When the patch completed and the system reset itself he yawned, stretched and cracked his fingers. The girl hurried over with his money and he made up a random receipt that he was sure nobody would bother to check the details of.
Paul didn’t feel bad about what he’d done. The girl had been worried and he’d fixed the problem. She felt better and he’d earned a little money for his trouble. Everyone was happy.
Paul felt pleased that he had a bit of money in his pocket, but he still needed a regular income and somewhere else to live. He stopped back at the park to check if there was any more junk to find, and secretly he was hoping he’d run into that girl again… Danni.
Sadly, there was no new junk but Paul decided to hang around for a bit anyway. He was exercising on the basketball court when he spotted the gardener again. He jumped up and strolled over, hoping he’d be able to offer him some gardening work. He seemed friendly enough, and said he still had his number, but unfortunately he didn’t have any extra work just yet.
Feeling frustrated, Paul walked around the park for a while. The he spotted a homeless guy sleeping on a bench and decided to go and befriend him. Paul knew from experience that this was the type of person to talk to if you wanted to find out the best spots for collecting free stuff, finding shelter for the night, or knowing here to pick up casual cash-in-hand work. Paul figured this guy had cleared out the junk before him! The problem was that they were often naturally distrustful of strangers, and Paul would have to earn his trust.
‘Why are you sitting so close to me bro?’ the guy demanded irritably as Paul sat down next to him.
Paul shrugged with feigned disinterest and stared off into the distance quietly. The guy wobbled and seemed to be falling back to sleep.
‘Look,’ Paul said suddenly and the guy’s head jerked back up, ‘I just want to know if you know of any good places to crash, aright? I’ve been kicked out of my flat and my mate has hooked up with some new girl and won’t let me sleep on his sofa.’
‘Why would I help the likes of you?’ the guy snapped belligerently. ‘Look at me, I’m sleeping on a park bench. Do you think I have a spare room at the Dixon Hotel?’
‘Yeah, sorry mate,’ Paul hunched his shoulder and tried to look forlorn, ‘Do you know where I can grab something to eat then?’
‘Try the diner,’ the man said sarcastically.
Paul laughed good-naturedly, ‘I guess you can’t tell me if there’s any work going either then? I need cash-in-hand.’
The man looked at him a bit more closely, ‘I’m sure you won’t have trouble finding work, a strong-looking lad like you. When I was younger I used to be a champion body-builder. Fighting the girls off, I was, and I was never short of work.’
The guy stood up and flexed proudly.
‘Yeah, I’ve been working out,’ Paul admitted then he thought for a minute, ‘Look mate, I earned a bit of money earlier, why don’t you let me buy you a coffee?’
The guy’s eyes brightened up suddenly but he tried to keep his surly demeanour, ‘Alright, but don’t expect anything in return.’
The guy said he needed to clean himself up a bit first and went to the public restroom, ‘Gotta look good for the ladies,’ he joked.
Paul went ahead and bought himself a pastry. A girl approached him and they chatted for a few minutes, she seemed kind of sporty which he liked. Then his new friend wandered in, not looking much cleaner to be honest, but he seemed to know the gardener and they started chatting and joking together like old friends. Paul smiled to himself but the girl huffed.
‘Urgh, who let the old farts in?’ she sneered, ‘They shouldn’t let them eat here unless they have a wash first.’
Paul scowled and chewed his pastry quietly. The girl got up to get another coffee and his new friend joined him.
‘Thanks for the grub, mate,’ the guy said cheerfully.
‘No worries,’ said Paul casually, ‘someone did the same for me when I was skint.’
‘Who said I’m skint?’ the guy cried, but Paul could tell he wasn’t really offended.
Then the girl wandered past, screwing up her nose. ‘You’re in my seat,’ she said rudely.
‘Oh, sorry miss,’ the guy said moving as though he was going to let her sit down.
‘Don’t bother,’ she snapped, ‘I don’t want to sit there now you’ve got dirt all over it.’
‘Oh, I’m sorry, Your Royal Marvellousness,’ he replied angrily, ‘I’m sorry I don’t have anyone following me around to wipe my butt for me!’
‘You can’t wipe yours yourself?’ she retorted.
‘Of course he can,’ Paul interjected calmly, ‘but then how would he upset snobby little princesses like you?’
The girl looked surprised, she’d expected Paul would take her side and was shocked that he’d sided against her.
‘You know…’ he added slowly, ‘…just because you are more fortunate than others, that doesn’t mean you get to treat them like dirt.’
The girl stalked out in a huff and the men chuckled to themselves.
‘You’re aright, you know,’ his friend said wiping a tear from the corner of his eye in amusement, ‘look, I wasn’t going to tell you this but I can tell you’re a good guy… There’s this place where you can crash safely for the night. It’s down in the old part of Newcrest by the canal. There’s this warehouse and couple of old shops that have been abandoned, nobody bothers with them any more.’
‘Thanks mate,’ said Paul gratefully. He’d definitely check that out.
The gardener wandered over too, ‘I saw what you did there, lad. It was good of you to stick up for Old Pablo like that. I’ll see if I can rustle up some work for you.’
Paul was pleased, it appeared he’d found work and a possible place to stay! And to end a good day on a higher note, he found an abandoned guitar in the junk pile! It seemed to be in good condition, it just needed a bit of tuning. Maybe he could practice and earn some tips from it if he got any good.