The Hidden Element

In the following brief story the ‘hidden element’ is the Back Story. The challenge is to introduce this element unobtrusively. The picture here? Look carefully. Within it is a camouflaged NZ native frog. That illustrates what can be hidden in a plot. Of course more than Back Story is introduced unobtrusively by a crafty writer. It’s just a good idea to try challenging yourself with one facet at a time as a regular exercise.

Helen nearly fell off her chair. Jordan, the circus strong-man, had uttered such a yelp she thought he’d had a heart attack and nearly had one herself. When she managed to regain her breath and composure, she swivelled her office chair to face him. He hadn’t come into her office further than the doorway.
‘What???’ Her voice was rather more shrill than she had wanted.
‘Oh nothing really.’ He shrugged but there was a quaver in his words and he had a greenish tone under his olive skin.
She saw that his eyes remained fixed on something by her feet. She glanced down at her handbag nestled on the floor beside her feet. It was a favourite specimen – large and black, decorated in long, edgy dark green tassels. A couple of those had strung themselves into the carpet. They looked like large insect legs.
Helen hid a grin. So, Mr Macho wasn’t so invulnerable. He regularly strutted about looking as if nothing could bother him, ever. In fact he was one to make the odd mocking remark about ‘mere females’ who couldn’t pat his pet rats.
Helen surreptitiously reached beneath her desk for the looped handles of her bag. She watched him as she gave it a sudden tug. The tassels writhed in the carpet and Jordan shrieked again. Two rat hating female staff arrived with questioning looks, behind Jordan where he clutched at the door frame.
‘This the problem?’ Helen held up the handbag. ‘I know some men are afraid of what we have in our handbags, but really they don’t bite – not like rats,’ she added with a little laugh.
Jordan’s expression changed from horror to anger in the briefest of seconds. ‘F you!’ he muttered turning abruptly away and nearly knocking the two women over as he strode off.
‘Interesting,’ Helen observed. ‘He’s from South America isn’t he? Spider phobia?’
One of the ladies outright laughed. ‘Well next time he tries to bully me with one of his rats, I’ll have my mock pet tarantula ready.’
Helen wondered what sort of experiences Jordan had encountered in the past as she finished up for the day. She was strongly aware that his reaction had more to it than simple phobia. The man was hiding a past she would now make it her business to investigate. She hadn’t liked the hiring of him. Perhaps she could contribute to the firing of him.



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