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The Hazards of Computer Dating

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As he ran the razor down his cheek, Mayhem paused to look in the mirror, examining his finely chiseled features. Strong chin, straight nose, thick hair. All combined to make him ruggedly handsome. The effect was marred a bit by the latest gash, the one running along his temple, currently secured by a series of butterfly bandages. Ah well, that last didn't matter. According to everything he'd read in Cosmo, chicks dug scars.


He finished shaving, wiped the remainder of the shaving cream from his face, and splashed aftershave on a bit too liberally. It was date night, and everything had to be perfect.


Mayhem had found Shelia on one of those internet dating sites. Thirty six years old, five foot six, and quite attractive, judging from her photo. Her profile listed her as an emergency room nurse, which made Mayhem wonder why he'd never met her before. No matter, he was meeting her tonight. Much to his surprise, she had agreed to join him at his apartment and allow him to make dinner for her.


He had decided to keep the meal simple, a roast that he was cooking in the crock-pot. The slow cooker would give him a bit of flexibility as to exactly what time he would serve, and it sent delicious aromas wafting through the apartment. Hopefully Shelia would be impressed by his cooking.


A quick glance at the clock revealed that she would be there soon. Mayhem took advantage of the time to begin preparing the table. A lovely bowl of fruit for a centerpiece. Candlesticks holding delicate ivory tapers. Plates, silverware, wineglasses, cloth napkins. He pulled a lighter from his pocket and lit the tapers.


Stepping back to admire his handiwork, Mayhem realized that the centerpiece wasn't quite centered. He leaned across to correct it, carefully avoiding the candles. As he did, his elbow brushed one of the wineglasses knocking it over and sending it rolling towards the edge of the table.


Mayhem made a mad grab. He snagged the glass as it rolled off the edge, but caught it awkwardly by the fragile stem. The stem snapped, leaving just the base in his hand, and the remainder smashed into shards on the floor below.


Undaunted, Mayhem tossed the base in the trash can then went to the closet and retrieved a dustpan. He knelt and began picking up the larger pieces of glass.


"Ow!" Mayhem scowled. One of the bits had sliced open his finger, and blood was running down his hand, threatening to get on his clothing. That would never do. He reached up with his uninjured hand, groping blindly until he found one of the napkins from the table. He wrapped it around his finger to stop the bleeding and went back to cleaning up the glass.


As he gingerly deposited the last piece in the dustpan, he sniffed at the air. Something smelled odd. He gave another sniff. Something was burning! Abandoning the dust pan where it was in the middle of the floor, he leapt to his feet and ran to check his roast.


He yanked the cover from the slow cooker only to find that the roast was fine, which didn't make sense until he turned and saw that the strange burning smell wasn't his cooking, but was actually the tablecloth. Despite being billed as flame retardant, it was smoldering, wisps of smoke rising from a growing black hole in the cloth. Somehow, as he'd reached for the napkin, he must have knocked over one of the candlesticks.


It was only a tiny fire, barely even a real flame. It was nothing compared to some of the other infernos he'd accidentally started. It would be easy to put out, and with a quick switch of tablecovers, dinner would be saved. Mayhem grabbed the bowl he'd planned to serve the potatoes in and began filling it at the sink. Surely a quick dunk would be enough. . . .


He was halfway to the table with the bowl of water when the smoke alarm began sounding, and as it did, the sprinklers his apartment manager had insisted on installing came on. Water sprayed down from the ceiling, dousing the fire, the candles, the table, his roast and Mayhem himself.


The fire went out, and Mayhem righted the fallen candle. He found the emergency shutoff and turned off the water to the sprinklers. The spray of water finally stopped, with one last, defiant drop of water running down the nape of Mayhem's neck. After a few long, very loud minutes, the alarm shut off as well.


Mayhem looked around. His dinner was ruined, his carefully prepared table was ruined. There was a quarter inch of water puddled on the floor, and he was drenched to the skin. So much for his perfect date with lovely Shelia.


He suddenly had an idea. Perhaps the evening could still be salvaged. If he get changed into dry clothes before she arrived, he could meet her at the door and tell her that there had been a change of plan. He could take her out to a fancy dinner, wine and dine her, and clean up the apartment later.


Toeing off his shoes, Mayhem started removing his clothing, quickly stripping down until all he was wearing was his boxers and the napkin that was wrapped around his still bleeding finger.


He gathered up his wet shirt, pants and shoes and dumped them into the sink, hurrying as he noted the time. He only had a few minutes before Shelia was supposed to be there, but all he needed to do was go throw on some dry clothes and find a band-aid for his finger. Mayhem headed for his bedroom.


Crunch. "Aggh!" That didn't feel good at all. Mayhem raised his foot and looked down. In his haste, he'd stepped in the dustpan full of broken glass, and now shards protruded from the bottom of his foot.


Mayhem grabbed a kitchen chair and sat down to pull the worst of the glass from his foot. Once he had, he tied another napkin around it, hoping to keep the worst of the blood off his rugs. Standing, he slowly limped from the room.


He was crossing the living room when the doorbell rang. A glance at the clock said that it still wasn't quite time for Shelia. With luck, it was only the apartment manager or a fellow tenant, checking to see what had set off the alarm.


Hopping to the front door, Mayhem balanced on one foot as he looked through the peep hole. He was relieved to see that it was some old woman. Probably a neighbor checking on him. Maybe she could help him bandage his foot.


He opened the door, only to find that upon closer inspection, the woman seemed familiar. "Shelia?" he asked, noting that if it was her, then the photo that had accompanied her profile had been at least a couple decades out of date. This woman was closer to sixty three than thirty six, and more like six foot five than five foot six.


"Mayhem?" she asked.


As he watched her, she took in his near nakedness, his wet underwear, the napkin wrapped around his hand, the trail of bloody footprints across the living room carpet, the thin stream of water making its way from the kitchen. "Oh my," she said, eyes lighting up with sinister delight as she smiled. She stepped into the apartment, closing the door behind her. "All this is for me?"


Mayhem grinned. It seemed Shelia was his kind of girl. The evening might not be a total loss after all.