If Chad is reticent to drop in on Dr. Fortescue's big annual holiday bash without a date, imagine his horror when he arrives to discover the party revolves around a city-wide scavenger hunt with a two-to-a-team policy stricter than Noah’s. Worse, his efforts to pair up with his hunky doctor crush are thwarted, and he winds up being assigned the doofus with an elbow in the punch bowl as a partner.
It turns out scavenger hunts are hard -- were they really supposed to dognap the doctor's neighbor's dachshund and carry it around the mall all night? But running around with Jarek is easy. And kinda fun.
Even with help from an unsuspecting celebrity and Santa’s sexiest elf, it’s starting to look like a participation trophy might be the best they can hope for prize-wise, but Chad starts to wonder if losing alongside Jarek might not be its own kind of win.
I scanned the crowd for signs of Dr. Sabroso. I’d left my apartment specifically to come drool over him; I could at least wring a goodbye out of him. Maybe he’d walk me out. Maybe there’d be a mistletoe between here and the door ...
There he was. With Dr. Fortescue. Perfect. Goodbye and thanks for everything, I could go home and make love to the hand that had shaken Dr. Sabroso’s without having to scavenge for more than a couple squirts of lotion. A victory for introverts everywhere.
I nodded an excuse me, goodbye in Jarek’s direction and lit out for Dr. S and our evening’s host, who raised his hands high and called for quiet just as I reached his side. Someone turned the music down, for which Dr. Fortescue called out a thank you, and then he took hold of the hand I’d left hanging in front of me when he thwarted my leave-taking.
“Does everybody know Chad?” he surprised me by asking. There were a few murmured pleasantries from among the assembled, which seemed to the Doctor a satisfactory answer. “Chad puts our number at an even twenty-four,” he announced. “And so, with twelve teams of two, the annual Holiday Hoopla Scavenger Hunt is ready to begin!”
A modest cheer arose, although not from me. “Actually ...” I muttered. To no one in particular. What was I gonna do, leave? Dr. Sabroso was actually patting me on the back. And if we’re being honest, getting myself into any kind of demi-god shape, while not a physiological impossibility, might well take a couple months, and who was he more liable to wait for -- the wet blanket, or the Hero of the Holiday Hoopla?
“So here’s how it works,” Dr. Fortescue was explaining. “Most of you already know, but we have a few new faces with us this year, so just real quick: each team will give a cell phone number to Landon.” A twink in a holiday tie materialized at Dr. Fortescue’s side, his own smart phone hoisted at the ready to note numbers. Blond hair, big blue eyes, and a bubble butt like two balloons, he might have been twenty years old; the alleged boyfriend, I assumed. “At intervals, each team will get a text with the next clue. Some clues are the same, some are different -- there are twenty items on the list, and each team will be sent after five. The first team to return with all five things from their list is the winner, and this year there’s good prizes!”
“Last year it was a cruise!” I heard someone delight in telling anyone in earshot.
A cruise? I mean, Jarek was kinda goofy looking and he seemed like kind of a klutz, but no part of the ten minutes we’d spent together had been unpleasant. I’d sure as heck spent my share of evenings with bigger duds for way less payoff than free fun in the sun.
“Chad, right?” Landon the Supertwink slung a friendly arm across my shoulders. “What’s your phone number?” I must have blushed, for he felt compelled to add, “For the game? You can be your team’s contact.”
“Of course,” I said, offering up my ten digits.
“And who’s your partner?”
“I don’t really know him. That Jarek guy?”
“Skinny? Big sweater?”
I mean, he probably didn’t want it on his headstone, but yeah, I nodded.