For Carl Homeless, a so-so week last round was a vast overstatement.
Winter had set in in earnest and he worked long days, every day, sometimes squatting on benches, which for him was actually a step up.
That is, from his previous job as a Dumpster Diver.
The majority of his visitors were the wolves that dug holes on his lot.
"Gol durn dogs..."
and the occasional passerby, unfortunately when he was too exhausted to notice.
His nights were spent skilling and trying to keep from freezing.
His was a solitary existance, and if Carl didn't have as much company as he would have liked, well, he would take it where he could find it.
Even an army of snowmen could not make up for a lack human companionship and Carl decided it was time to skip the skilling and go on his once-weekly excursion to a community lot.
The catch (aka Homeless Challenge rule) was he could only stay for twelve hours.
After settling himself in the hot tub, Carl could almost believe he didn't have a care in the world, however temporary.
"I remember you, you live out by the military base. You were out cold, pardon the pun."
Carl was paying more attention to the welcome heat soaking into his bones than the woman who had joined him.
"Winter's almost over," she continued, "have you ever considered growing your own food?"
"Don't have no time for gardening."
"At the Garden Club we have a saying: Nothing beats home grown. If you ever change your mind, call and ask for me, Tiffany Zarubin."
Carl returned home fully refreshed after an Outing with that nice Garden Club lady, and it was easier than usual to get two more Charisma points.
Just that little change in the normal drudgery, and Carl easily got promoted to a Soup Kitchen Scrounger.
"There you are," Marie murmured into the cooler. "Better get more eggs too."
"Have you opened yet?" Kerie asked.
"Not quite, I have a few more berry pies to bake and a contest to enter first."
"The berries I get are pretty good," Kerie said, "but I don't have time to grow them myself. I just got a seed delivery if you want to try to grow your own."
"That'd be awesome, I'd definitely like to try that."
"I'm really sorry, I thought they would have sent strawberry seeds."
"That's fine, I'll practice with tomatoes."
"And I'll be sure to order the strawberries for you."
"It's going to be handy having you next door."
"I can't wait 'til you open. I just hope you aren't too good or I and the rest of Mesa Vista will be in serious need of a gym."
"Oh, this town won't know what hit it! Someone else can worry about that."
Marie was a little skeptical about growing a garden in a desert climate, so she started out with just four.
"Be a good kitty and leave my plants alone, Moonshine."
Marie's head was full of plans for her bakery when she retired for the night.
Dundun dundun dundun dundun
Marie was out her sofa, the wall art above it and a TV. On the bright side she still had her computer, so at least she could continue blogging about Cuisine.
She heard rustling out back by her garden and went out to investigate.
"Oh, it's you!"
Hmm, maybe it would be nice to have some company...
Marie tried to adopt Moonshine, but he had other ideas and left about two relationship points too soon.
Poor Marie was too upset to sleep for the rest of the night.
The next morning...
"Hello, I've been waiting for you!"
"I'm Sharlene Royce, sorry it took so long to track you down."
"When's the next cooking contest?"
"Oh, we have them all the time."
Marie thought the competition would be a cake walk, that is, until she saw Sharlene next to her with a much fancier entry.
Steam poured out of Marie's berry pie as the judge took a slice, and she prayed the filling wouldn't burn his mouth.
"Michelle Tse, your entry was... I have no idea what you were going for with hotdogs, unless it was comic relief."
"Julien Cooke, while your spaghetti was good, I would expect something a little more... unexpected from you."
"Sharlene, a good entry if it weren't for the slightest singe on your meringue."
"And Marie Sims..."
"I hope your bakery is open soon, because I for one must have this delectable berry pie on a regular basis. We have a winner!"
"I can't believe it, Sharlene! I thought your Baked Alaska would win for sure."
"Why didn't I go for the simplicity of a berry pie?"
"Okay, I admit the hotdogs were a sham, a ruse. Sue me, I just wanted in from the cold!"
Marie had met all her goals and returned to Just Desserts. She was a little concerned about the chilly weather with her outdoor seating, but not nearly as much as going back to her house alone after the burglary.
Yup, it was finally time to open!
Everyone in town was understandably thrilled about the bakery and her fresh-baked goodies practically sold themselves.
"The cookies are cute, I bet Noah would like those."
"And are delicious for kids of all ages, Uncle Brandon."
Carl's Charisma skilling was paying off because the pretty owner of the new bakery started autonomously flirting with him! (Eek!)
He couldn't afford to buy any of the desserts she was selling, but when she brought him a couple of sandwiches, he did give her a loyalty star.
Spring had finally sprung, and while love wasn't quite in the air yet, Camryn Lee was another indication that things just might be looking up for Carl Homeless.
Stay tuned for Part 4, hopefully coming soon!