slime

Mrs Moretz lives with her husband in a narrow, brightly-painted terraced house in the centre of town. Mr Moretz opens the door to me. He’s a hunched and shuffling figure, warmly dressed despite the heat in a fisherman’s jersey, corduroy trousers and dilapidated brown moccasins. He has one of those faces you think you see sometimes in the trunk of an old tree, or a volcanic plug.
‘Who’ve you come for?’ he says. ‘Or is it buy one get one free?’

Mrs Moretz is sitting at an angle on the sofa, her hands neatly folded in her lap, like she’d been expecting me all along, or at least, heard me talking to her husband on the step and quickly dropped into an innocent pose.
‘Nice to meet you,’ I say, shaking her hand. She smiles up at me – and the smile carries on way past the point at which I’d expect something else. It becomes a little unnerving.
‘Well – your pulse feels pretty regular to me,’ I say, writing down the figures. ‘It must have been what they call paroxysmal AF.’
‘Yes,’ she smiles. ‘It must have been.’

Behind me, dominating the room, is a gigantic fish tank. There’s a pump on the go, a few desultory bubbles, but nothing to any great effect. The water is a primordial, soupy green, almost completely opaque, with just a few splodges of rotting weed here and there to differentiate the gloom.
‘Nice tank,’ I say, then, struggling to back that up, add: ‘It’s relaxing, having bubbles.’
Mrs Moretz carries on smiling.
‘There aren’t any fish,’ says Mr Moretz, as if I thought there was the remotest chance there might be.
‘Oh,’ I say. ‘Well – I suppose that’s the thing about aquariums. They’re a lot of work.’
‘You’re telling me,’ says Mr Moretz. ‘That’s why I keep the pump on.’
‘Why?’
‘It keeps the water moving. Cuts down on the slime.’

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