Eric waited an hour at the campus coffee house for Lysandra to show. At ten o’clock, he gave up, paid the bill and left.
Standing outside the shop, he was torn over what to do. He’d never been stood up before; it left him feeling dissatisfied and irritable. Setting up the date had merely been a ploy to get information without arousing suspicion. Still, getting ditched stabbed at his ego. His spirits dampened, he figured he might as well go home. But after drinking two lattes, he was wired and knew if he did, he’d be bouncing off the walls for hours. Besides, it was Friday night. He whipped out his cell phone and sought help in deciding.
“Aaargh!” someone answered, shouting above a din of music and chatter.
“Where are you?”
“A Pirate Bash at Calypso Hall. Get over here! I got one eye on a pack of wenches and my hook in a barrel of grog.”
Eric felt better already. “I’ll be right there.”
Ten minutes later, he was standing on a large, wood patio, which had been decorated to resemble the deck of a ship. A mast with sails, fashioned from a fiberglass pipe and bed sheets, was mounted in the center, flying the Jolly Roger. Paper lanterns swung from lengths of thick, coarse rope around the perimeter, and wooden barrels had been rolled in to serve as seat or tables. There was even a plank, projecting into space off the bow.
Eric surveyed the scene and smiled. A scrappy vessel, but a merry one.
Close to one hundred revelers packed the deck, many outfitted as pirates or wenches for the occasion. The girls wore billowy, white blouses and peasant skirts; the guys, white shirts or tank tops, with blue or black Bermuda shorts. Almost everyone had a bandana tied around his or her head. Music filled the air, courtesy of a deejay dressed up like Captain Hook, complete with a fake parrot mounted on his left shoulder. A pack of manic dancers pounded the planks, causing them to shake underfoot.
The warning cry caused Eric to glance up in time to spot S’miller, shirtless and with a black patch over one eye, leap off a balcony one floor above. The crowd parted with a collective cry as he swung down on a rope, fastened to the railing, and landed, with a crash, flat on his back.
Eric helped his friend to his feet, who appeared dazed, but not hurt. “What were you thinking?” he scolded.
S’miller rubbed his backside. “It looks easy in the movies.”
Seeing the swashbuckler was still in one piece, the partygoers returned to their merrymaking, and Eric and S’miller were quickly swallowed up by the crowd.
“Show me where I can get a drink,” Eric said, holding S’miller up by the arm and pushing their way through the throng.
“What’s up? I thought you had a hot date?” S’miller asked once they’d happened upon a plastic trash barrel of grog, an indeterminate, potentially lethal, libation, the fumes of which burnt Eric’s nose hairs when he took a sip.
“You? Get out of here!”
“Where’s your shirt?” Eric asked in an effort to change the depressing subject.
“Somebody threw up on it,” explained S’miller, prompting Eric to toss out his cocktail over the railing. “Well, never you mind, matey, because there’s a bevy of sweet lasses here who can cure your scurvy. Now let’s see …” S’miller surveyed the crowd and pointed to a nearby redhead. “What d’ya’ think of that tasty wench yonder?”
Eric shrugged indifferently.
“Yeah, right. A tad heavy on the bow,” S’miller considered, and set his sites further. “Holy smokes! Check out them cannonballs!”
Eric followed S’miller’s goggle-eyed gaze and spotted a boisterous, busty blonde. She was dancing wildly, jumping up and down with her arms over her head one minute; the next she was flat on her face.
“Never mind,” said S’miller. “That ship is wrecked.”
The party was too far along for Eric to appreciate it. The festivities were starting to annoy him, rather than amuse. He wished now he’d gone home.
“Yo-ho-ho. Captain, I do believe I’ve found the treasure,” S’miller declared.
Eric’s heart was no longer in the hunt. “Forget it, S’miller, this pirate is pooped.”
“Seriously, dude, you have to check this one out.”
Eric blew out a sigh. “Okay, where?”
“X marks the spot.”
Eric’s eyes roamed the sea of bodies, searching for the telltale sign. Then he found what S’miller was referring to: over a girl’s bare back, two dress straps crisscrossed, forming an ‘X.’
“See? I told you. Is she hot, or what?” S’miller asked enthusiastically.
But Eric was unable to answer for he was utterly dumbstruck.