Jeff had situated himself in the corner near the bar and was watching the party goers with a bored expression. he had made his rounds and grabbed himself a gin and tonic as was his now usual custom. He could remember a time, not too long ago, when he actually looked forward to these events: a chance to meet and greet some of the top names in the field and shake the hands of practicing researchers he'd admired. But it didn't take long for the amusing math jokes to grow old and for the stories to start repeating themselves.
If he, like every other scientist there wasn't desperate for the funding he'd had have stopped coming to these things when the novelty wore off. But he was desperate and every year no matter how much they published it never became any less of a fight to get the funds to field the next study. So now he stationed himself in the corner so he could nod and wave to those he recognized, be visible to those who came late, and sip his drink in peace.
He saw his buddy Dave enter and gave him a wave of acknowledgement. Dave nodded back, rolled his eyes, and entered the fray. Within short order he too finished his rounds and made his way over to Jeff's corner.
"Hey," he greeted him.
"Hey Dave," he said, offering his hand. "You gonna make it?"
"I don't know, man," he said, shaking the hand that was offered. "These things are getting so damned old."
"I know, i'm right there with you. Or rather right here with you biding my time in the corner," Jeff said, taking another sip.
"You think we can quiety slip out before the speeches?"
"No way, Chuck would spot us or something. I swear he has x-ray vision and can see you across a room full of bodies as soon as you make a break for it."
"Yeah. Well, then what the hell are we gonna do with ourselves for the next hour?"
Jeff thought about it for a minute and then had an idea.
"Well, my dear chap- why don't we make a wager?" he said in his faux english accent which popped up from time to time when he'd had enough drinks to bypass the usual embarrasment it would cause.
"Oh, no- you're doing the british voice again? This can't be good," Dave said warily.
"Humor me, won't you? I say we pass our time by seeing who can spot the most fulsome fellow first."
"Hmmm," Dave said, stroking his non-existent beard. "Alright. But let's make it interesting, shall we?"
"You mean a wager?"
"Delightful! How much shall we wager?"
"Oh, let's say twenty pounds," Dave mocked in best faux english accent.
"Pip, pip- good show. I'll wager you twenty pounds that... oh, let's see," Jeff said, scanning the crowd. "Ah! I'll wager you twenty pounds that our dear Dr. Bromley will show his true colors first."
"Dr, Bromely, eh? Alright then, i'll take that wager."
And so the two watched for the next half hour as the subject of their bet made his way through the party. He started off in good performance, laughing far louder than was necessary at jokes the two had heard at least a dozen times and shaking the hands of literally everyone he crossed paths with. But after a good run straight out of the gate he began to show signs of strain. He quieted and meandered over to the bar to refill his drink without even stopping to sing the praises of their boss.
"I don't know, my friend- he seems to be running out of steam," Dave said.
"Come, now- have faith!" Jeff replied.
Just then the director of research for one of the wealthier companies walked up to the bar. Both Dave and Jeff knew that the man hadn't done anything more exciting then sit on the board and snore quiety for the past five years and therefore would be difficult to compliment. Jeff grew excited when he saw Dr. Bromley look up from his drink and smile at the old man.
"Arnold, how are you?" he said in the same exagerated air he'd held for most of the evening.
"Good, good, I suppose- getting tired in my old age," he said, putting his empty glass down on the bar and signaling for a refill.
"Oh, well you don't look it. You look rather distringuished. In fact, have you done something with your hair?"
Jeff sputtered and chocked on the sip he'd been about to swallow and had to stop himself from launching into hysterical laughter.
"He didn't!" Dave whispered.
As soon as Jeff regained the ability to breath properly he cleared his throat and pronounced "Oh yes, he did- he just complimented his toupe! Pay up!"