The Human Factor

‘I see you’re reading Graham Greene.’ Jenna said to a dark haired man in the row adjacent.

‘I’m trying to,’ he said ‘but it’s not going in.’

‘Is it because of syntax or vocabulary?’

‘Not sure,’ he answered, his cornea-red eyes appraising her face ‘Have you read any of his books?’

‘No, Hemmingway and Bradbury were my forte at University. I guess spy novels didn’t rank high enough on my reading list, although I did read a little Len Deighton.’ She said, her eyes capturing the long length of him.

‘I thought Bradbury’s style was a little naïve. What did you think?’

‘There’s nothing wrong with naivety. It allows the reader to infer as to what really happened. Deighton is wordier. I particularly liked his mode of showing sex had occurred when his protagonist pulls back his bed sheets and finds an earring.

The steward halted the catering trolley in the aisle, forcing them to converse through the window-like space between its work surface and wire racks. Jenna squirmed in her seat. Her companion’s head seemed decapitated and his eyes were like search beams.

‘I confess I’m not that well-read. I’m a computer analyst,’ he said ‘what do you do?’

She considered her answer and then said, ‘You could say I’m a frustrated writer.’

‘Have you had anything published?’

Instead of boring him with how hard it was to find a publisher for her short stories, that the industry seemed geared towards authors likely to generate huge revenues, she answered, ‘Would you like to see an example of my work?’

The steward set down complimentary drinks and moved further down the carriage.

‘Please,’ he said, sitting down next to her as the train came to a halt at Sheffield station.

Jenna stopped herself from cursing as her iPad refused to retrieve an online publisher’s page.

‘Here let me help.’ he said tapping the screen. Nothing happened. The signal icon remained blank.

‘It looks like you won’t be able to resolve this glitch until we get moving again,’ she said ‘where are you from?’

‘Ayr, do you know it?’

‘Ah Burns country, but no I don’t but I’ve heard about the scenic walks. I’m guessing you live in a lovely cottage.’

He took out his phone and showed her a picture of his garden.

‘That’s my dog.’ He said, pointing to a red setter lying beside a conservatory. In the foreground was a small child.

Jenna waited for him to say more or show her other photos but he continued to hold the phone up in front of her. She could feel his breath on her neck.

‘I expect you have peaceful long walks with him. Do you think you could return to your seat now? I need to go to the ladies and your coffee will get cold.’

He smiled and got up.

‘Sure. I’ll be getting off soon. Maybe we can keep in touch by email?’

Jenna looked up at him. He was handsome and undeniably intelligent. He’d be a caring father to any children they might have in the future. But she knew she would never see him again when he handed her a slip of paper.

She stood up and fingered her earlobe, thinking it was time to get the goodbyes over with. ‘Oh,’ she said softly ‘I think I lost an earring in the bathroom, could you help me look for it?’


Image: Beta-Pics Blogspot


©Talia Hardy 2014.


10 thoughts on “The Human Factor

  1. That was simply excellent. Kept reading, every word, wondering where the heck these two people were going to end up. You build such delicious tension. This is honestly one of the best bits of fiction I’ve read in the blog world in ages – Talia, fantastic, honestly.

  2. I love it! And yes, it’s much more fun as a reader to fill in those blanks instead of having everything explained. The ending really made me smile.

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