MARK (mumbling): They’ll be along soon.
(He peers up at the sky, then at his watch)
Eight’o’clock. They’ll be along soon.
(JEN jogs past, dripping wet from an earlier downpour and bobbing along to music on her headphones. She slows down and stops, staring at MARK and the empty dancefloor)
JEN (calling out): What’s all this for?
MARK (perking up): Who’s there? Are you here for the party?
JEN: Party? In this weather? You must be mad.
(JEN walks forward into the light sweeping the dancefloor, pulling out an earphone bud and twirling it around a finger nervously)
MARK (deflating): Oh.
JEN: What’s wrong?
MARK: I thought you were a guest, for my party, you know. Everyone’s running awfully late, but they’ll be along soon, I expect.
JEN (incredulous): Your friends are pretty brave if they’re willing to venture out in this. It’s been bucketing for hours.
MARK (glancing skywards): The weather report said it wasn’t going to rain.
JEN (laughing): Well, you only had to look out the window, didn’t you?
(wandering over to the table)
Ooh, are those red velvet cupcakes? I’m famished.
Do you mind?
MARK (intervening): Hey! Do you have an invitation?
JEN: An invitation? Well, no. But what’s that got to do with anything?
MARK: This food is intended for the guests. Guests have invitations.
JEN: But there’s plenty here. Surely your guests won’t miss a single wet cupcake. When they arrive, that is.
MARK: Oh, alright. But just one.
(JEN joyfully plucks a cupcake from the plate and munches away happily. There is silence, apart from the brooding storm)
MARK (eventually): They’ll be along any minute, you know.
JEN: Who will?
MARK: My guests.
JEN: The ones with invitations?
I sent them out two weeks ago. I’m sure it couldn’t take more than two weeks. They should have arrived by now, shouldn’t they?
JEN: The invitations? I expect so.
Perhaps they got lost.
MARK: My guests?
JEN: The invitations.
MARK: Oh! Do you think?
JEN (seriously): Or stolen. You hear stories.
MARK (worried): Do you?
JEN: Oh, sure. The decline of professionalism in the face of the widespread casualization of the working force. Lax operating standards resulting from the government-funded corruption of basic moral codes. Who knows? Your invitations might have been intercepted by agents of the company and used as propaganda.
MARK (startled): Really? All of that?
JEN: Well, probably not.
Still, you never know.
MARK: I sent emails, too.
JEN: To your guests?
MARK: That’s right. At least to the ones I had the addresses for.
JEN (nodding): Sensible decision, sending emails.
MARK: You think?
JEN: Always pays to make sure, with times being what they are.
I think I read that somewhere, but I’m not sure. Maybe it was in the paper.
Mind if I have another?
MARK: Well, I suppose. Just one more.
(takes a bite)
They’re awfully good. Remind me of a party I went to last year. It was in a park, too.
MARK: Oh, yes?
JEN: Or a barn. No, I think it must have been a park because I got peed on by a dog. People don’t keep dogs in barns, do they?
MARK: They should have come by now.
JEN: The emails?
MARK: No. My guests.
JEN: Perhaps they just got lost.
MARK: The guests?
JEN: The invitations. They might have been too busy.
MARK: Too busy for what?
JEN: To read their emails, I suppose. They probably have a lot to do.
MARK: The guests?
JEN: Yes, the ones you invited. I expect that’s it.
MARK: What is?
JEN (conspiratorially): What happened. I can see it now. Guest A, sitting at his computer on the night of the full moon, was perusing his inbox, little knowing that an invitation – the invitation – was waiting, lurking there for him.
MARK: This is ridiculous.
JEN (ignoring him): Now, Guest A, unsuspecting, had just opened the fateful email that would lead him to this very party when disaster struck and the power went out! By the time he’d rebooted his computer and reached his inbox once more, it was too late! The email, already marked as “read”, had been driven from his mind. A downed power line was discovered several miles away, but sabotage, while suspected, was never able to be proven.
MARK (annoyed): You’re really not helping, you know. I don’t need you here. I’ll have guests to attend to in a moment, and they won’t appreciate some stranger bringing down the mood.
JEN: Maybe. If they ever get here. What time were these guests of yours meant to arrive, anyway?
They’ll be along any minute.
JEN: The fashionably late types, then?
JEN: Your guests.
MARK: No. What do you mean?
JEN (patiently): They’re pretty bloody late already, aren’t they? If my friends were this late to something I’d organized, I certainly wouldn’t be hanging around on their account. Especially not in this weather.
(As if to emphasize her statement, thunder rumbles anew and JEN glances up, dubiously, sticking out her hand, palm-up, testing for raindrops)
JEN: It’s only a matter of time before it starts pouring again. I wish I’d brought an umbrella.
Well, I’d better head off, or I’ll get soaked on my way home. Thanks for the cupcakes, anyway.
(JEN makes as if to leave)
MARK: No, wait! Hang on. Back to what you said before. How are they late? It’s only just on eight now.
JEN: Only just eight? Maybe in Hawaii or somewhere. Here where we’re standing it’s at least half past ten.
MARK: It isn’t!
JEN: It is, too. Your watch must be broken.
MARK (peering at it): It was working fine this morning.
(raises it to his ear and shakes it experimentally)
I can’t hear ticking, but that could just be this lousy weather. I don’t understand. The weather report said it wasn’t meant to storm tonight.
JEN: No, it’s broken alright. I didn’t leave until nine’o’clock, and it’s been at least an hour. I’m sorry, but I don’t think anyone’s coming.
MARK: I’m sure they’ll be here any moment.
JEN: Perhaps. Well, so long.
(JEN starts to head off into the darkness, leaving MARK alone at the table. He watches her disappear)
MARK (abruptly): Wait!
JEN (faintly): What is it?
MARK: You could stay.
JEN: I’ve got to get home before the rain starts. (laughs) Besides, I don’t have an invitation.
MARK: That doesn’t matter. You can have another cupcake, if you’d like.
(JEN emerges from the darkness)
JEN: Why the sudden change of heart?
MARK: Oh, I just thought… since no one else has come, you could stay a while. I mean, if you don’t have somewhere to be.
(puts out hands pleadingly)
It seems a shame to let all this food go to waste.
JEN (smiling): They could have gotten lost.
MARK: The guests?
JEN: The invitations. The guests. What does it matter?
MARK: It doesn’t, I suppose.
I don’t think they’re coming, after all.
JEN: I’m sorry. But look at it this way: you’ve got all this food to yourself.
MARK: Mmm. There’s that, at least.
(JEN grabs another cupcake and thrusts it into the dispirited MARK’s hand)
JEN: C’mon, have one. They’re yours, so you may as well enjoy them.
(MARK accepts her offering and bites into it. A moment later, he spits it out onto the ground)
MARK: It’s soggy!
JEN: What do you expect? It’s been raining. Don’t you like red velvet?
MARK: No, I do. But the rain makes it taste more like wet cardboard than anything. I can’t understand how you can eat it. It’s awful!
JEN: Says you!
(JEN takes another and starts to eat it)
JEN (mouth full): So here’s a question for you.
MARK: What is it?
JEN: You have lights and a dance floor, but where’s the music? How are people meant to dance if there isn’t any music?
MARK (embarrassed): I hired a DJ. He was meant to be here some time ago, but he hasn’t shown up either.
JEN (sympathetically): Seems to be a lot of that going around.
MARK: I guess it just goes to show what you mentioned earlier.
JEN: What was that?
MARK (thoughtful): Something about the decline of professionalism.
Still, I wish there were music. At least the whole thing wouldn’t be quite so depressing.
JEN: I think I can help with that. Hang on a sec.
(JEN pulls out her portable music player and disconnects the headphones, placing them back in her pocket. She rests the player on the table and cranks up the volume. The distant bass of a dance song can just be heard over the ambient noise of the weather)
JEN: There you go. Now the party can begin.
(They stand there for a short period until the song changes. JEN brightens)
JEN: Oh! I love this song!
(JEN wanders onto the edge of the dancefloor and dances slightly, eyes closed as she tries to focus on the faint strains of the song. MARK watches)
MARK (to himself): I wonder why no one turned up. I sent out the invitations and the emails weeks ago. They said they would come. A few of them, at least.
(looks at the sky)
It must be the weather, after all. Or perhaps they got lost. But I didn’t have any trouble finding this place.
(placing his cup on the table)
Maybe they just forgot, or something came up. I’ve been guilty of that sometimes, myself. That must be it.
(JEN opens her eyes and realizes MARK isn’t dancing)
JEN: Hey! Quit your moping and come over here and dance with me!
MARK: But –
JEN: Go on.
MARK (relenting): Alright.
(MARK joins JEN at the edge of the dancefloor and attempts a few half-hearted moves. JEN nods approvingly)
JEN: That’s the spirit!
(They continue in this fashion for a small while. MARK appears more cheerful and begins to dance with greater enthusiasm. Suddenly, the thunder and lightning intensify in frequency and volume, and the audience gets the intimation that it has started pouring. The music is almost completely drowned out and MARK stops, though JEN does not)
MARK (loudly): It’s raining!
MARK: Shouldn’t we find cover?
JEN: Why bother? If we’re going to get soaked, we may as well enjoy ourselves.
MARK: You’re crazy! The sky is falling.
(MARK seems torn between staying with JEN and sprinting for the trees)
JEN (stopping): Oh!
JEN: I think I’ve figured it out!
MARK: What are you talking about?
JEN: Why your guests haven’t arrived!
MARK: Is this really the time?
JEN: Don’t you want to know?
MARK: I think I’ve lost interest. They probably just got lost. Let’s go and find cover before we get pneumonia!
(As he says this, the loud sparking and crackling noise of electronics short-circuiting can be heard and the dancefloor lights flicker off abruptly. The storm gets even louder, and MARK and JEN have to shout to be heard)
JEN and MARK: Oh!
JEN: What was that?
MARK: It must have been the lights!
MARK: The lights!
(MARK and JEN scurry off-stage, illuminated in part by flashes of lightning, which slowly fade away to nothing)