Chelsea had always hated the idea of online dating. She had been absolutely certain that she would end up with some deranged maniac who had a weird obsession with ears or something. Yet she had been surprised. The man she was supposed to meet, Josh, had told her to meet him at a very nice restaurant, one of the nicest restaurants in town.
When he showed up, he looked exactly like he did in all of the pictures, too, which was more than a relief. Although, Josh came into the restaurant carrying a briefcase, which she found peculiar. Maybe he worked weekends, or was just coming from someplace important. Chelsea promised herself that she wouldn’t mention it. She always worried that she asked too many questions.
“Hello there!” Josh said. He seemed perky, which might’ve been a sign of nervousness. “Have you ordered already? I hope I didn’t keep you waiting too long.”
“No, you’re fine,” Chelsea said, putting on her nicest smile. “You’re here right on time. I was early, I guess.”
“Good, good, great,” Josh smiled. He wasn’t quite looking her in the eyes. His gaze was more aimed at her nose.
The waiter came. “Ah, Josh,” the waiter said.
Chelsea didn’t know how to react, so she said nothing.
“Ah, Gregory, good to see you again,” Josh grinned at the waiter.
“Your usual?” the waiter asked him.
Josh seemed hesitant. “Um… Oh, sure, why not?”
The waiter turned to Chelsea. “And for you, ma’am?”
She was hesitant too. “Uh, I’ll start with a salad, I suppose.”
“Any dressing?” the waiter offered. “Josh here loves to see a girl with dressings.”
Chelsea didn’t know if she had just been told a pun, but she managed to answer, “Ranch is fine,” without too much of her discomfort showing through her voice.
The waiter walked away after another smile to Josh.
Chelsea leaned forward, her fingers fidgeting with the corner of the tablecloth. “What was that about liking a girl with dressings?”
Josh rubbed his teeth together. “Do you, ah, know my line of work, at all?”
Chelsea hastily tried to remember what it had said on his dating profile, but she couldn’t remember if it had mentioned his job.
“I’m a slime expert,” Josh told her.
Chelsea assumed that she had misheard, so she smiled and said, “Okay.”
Josh narrowed his eyes. “Maybe I should show you some of my samples.” He lifted his briefcase and set it on the table.
Feeling off-balance, Chelsea looked around the restaurant. “Samples?” Had he actually said that he was a slime expert?
The briefcase popped open, and Chelsea craned her neck to see what was inside. Josh lifted a small vial, filled with a dark green fluid. It was thick, viscous. It was definitely a slime.
“This is one of my personal favorites,” Josh said, looking a touch sheepish.
“You’re a slime expert,” Chelsea stated. There didn’t seem to be anything else to say.
“That’s something of an overgeneralization of my work,” he said, wiggling the vial in front of his eyes. “Slimes are only a small portion of the fluids that I’m involved with. You’ve got your goops, your sludges, your grimes, your mucks… Ah, and mucus, but those only tend to come in during the winter.”
Chelsea felt like her head was spinning. Was she dreaming? Was this a prank?
“Here’s a peculiar specimen that I received only yesterday,” Josh said, taking out another vial. This one was a pale yellow. “I think it might be a glob, but it could be a gloop. They’re very hard to tell apart sometimes.”
He kept sorting through his vials, as if looking for the one that was just right. Chelsea got the sense that none of them would be just right.
Josh suddenly laughed. “Ah, I forgot I had this with me. Quite funny really. Somebody clearly doesn’t know the proper mode of transportation for these kinds of things.” He lifted up a white envelope, but it was dripping a white fluid from the bottom corner. “Some people aren’t too careful with their slimes. They don’t understand the importance of preservation.”
“But what…” Chelsea started. Her mouth didn’t seem to be working properly. Neither did her brain. “But what do you do with all of these… slimes?”
“Well the slimes are only a portion of the specimens, as I just said,” Josh told her. “I use the term ‘slime’ as a simplification for people that aren’t as practiced as I am.” It felt like he was dodging the question. “Do you have any slimes?” he asked her.
“Do I… What?”
He tilted his head. “Do you have any slimes of your own? Goops? Secretions? I know that a cold was going around a few weeks ago, so I’m sure that you’ve got your fair share of mucus.”
Chelsea couldn’t answer him, no matter how hard she fought to find words. It was lucky that the waiter returned at that moment.
“Here’s your salad,” the waiter said, setting it in front of her with a fresh coating of ranch dressing. “And for you,” he added, passing a glass to Josh. It looked like a smoothie or some sort, but it might’ve been a milkshake.
Actually, it could’ve been anything in that glass.
Josh took a long drink from it, nodding to the waiter. “Excellent, as always.”
“I’m glad you approve,” the waiter said retreating back around the corner.
Chelsea desperately searched for a topic, any topic, back she was too slow. Josh asked, “What’s your stance on slugs? Are you a slug girl?”
“I’m… Uhm… I’m more of a dog person, personally,” she said. She felt like she was whispering, but she couldn’t help it.
“I have had a real time getting high quality slugs this past fiscal year,” Josh said, annoyed. “Nobody is a slug person anymore! They’re all going out of business, too. The suppliers, I mean.”
Chelsea stuttered for a moment, drawing a blank.
Josh shut his briefcase and set it aside. “Clearly I’m boring you. So tell me, what do you do for a living, then?”
And it was a huge relief, because finally Chelsea could talk about the toenail business she was running.