The evil vampire Count Straud was out to kill us. We spent the whole night and the next day running, thumbing our way into the countryside, until we arrived at a scrappy trailer home in the desert.
“Zell, where are we?”
“Oasis Springs, as far away from the Count as possible! We can hide out here until he stops coming after us.” Zell introduced me to a man with slicked-back hair. “Benji, this is my friend Johnny. We go way back-“
“We shore do,” the man drawled. “Zell helped me back when ah was kicked outta mah parents’ house, and now ah’m returnin’ the favor. “Mi trailer es su trailer, for as long as y’all need…”
Ugh, far away was right. There was nothing but desert, slipshod homes, and a single tap house for miles in this remote town.
But, at least we were safe from the murderous Count. For now.
Johnny got Zell a bartending job at the one bar in town. (Side note: he might be a small-town hick, but Johnny’s stand-up there isn’t half-bad.)
But there wasn’t any work for me. I missed my woodworking table.
“Don’t worry, Benji!” Zell assured me. “It’ll all work out. Think of this as a vacation-“
“-except you’re not usually in danger of being murdered when you return from vacation,” I replied glumly.
“Chin up, roomie! With my job, I’ll provide for the both of us. Plus, I’m working on something that could solve all our problems…”
In fact, Zell was thriving as a barkeep, and he found another gig making protein shakes for the local gym rats.
He must’ve befriended the entire town at this point. I rarely saw him anymore.
Meanwhile, I spent my days alone and slept on the couch. We didn’t have enough money for a bed. Our food budget was scarce. Nor did we have any privacy in the trailer home.
It was miserable, but what choice did I have?
Maybe it was the anxiety of running away from a murderer, or maybe it was the fact that I couldn’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time on that couch,
-but I was exhausted, all the time. I felt like I was constantly on the verge of a panic attack.
Zell came to me one day. “How’re you holding up, roomie?” he asked.
“I’m…” I sighed.
“…I’m not, Zell.”
Silence fell upon us. An uncomfortable silence.
Then, a rap on the door.
“Caleb!” Zell exclaimed, greeting our old neighbor. “You got my text! How are things back home? Better?”
But Caleb’s face didn’t exactly exude good news. “I’m afraid not,” he said. “The Count’s staking out your house, Zell, day and night, waiting for you guys to return… it’s dangerous. I probably shouldn’t even be here.”
“It’s been over a month, when is this guy gonna give up?” I snapped.
Caleb hung his head. “The Count doesn’t exactly ‘give up’ on revenge. It could take years. I’m sorry.” And then he blurred before my eyes and zipped away.
Years? I couldn’t last another week in this hellhole.
“Ah well, I guess we’ll have to stay here a bit longer, Benji-” said Zell.
I groaned. “Zell, I can’t live like this-“
“-in the middle of nowhere, nothing to do, no bed to sleep in, no job, no money-“
“What about holding on just a little bit longer?” Zell urged me. “I think I’m on to something with bartending, all I need are 2500 simoleons to make this drink-“
“Zell, we don’t have 2500 simoleons! We have nothing, and I’m miserable, don’t you get it?”
Zell was quiet.
I continued. “I know you’re happy here, Zell, but I’m not.”
Zell gave one last hopeful smile. “Aw, c’mon, just trust me Benji- it’ll be ok. Just stay with me a bit longer. Besides, we can’t go back home, not with the Count waiting for us-“
“No, you’re right,” I sighed bitterly. “Whatever.”
No, we couldn’t go back to the house. But that didn’t mean I had to stay here.
Later that night, I was lying on the couch, eyes closed, as Zell was about to leave for his bartending job.
“Hey, Benji, you awake? I’m heading to work-
-oh, you’re napping, I’ll see you later then…”
And then I went home.