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love on a train
cassie and marlo listen in
by tracey l. kelley (@TraceyLKelley)

This lady, she was blue-black, and her skin simply glowed. She worn nothing but orange--a big kaftan, with a matching headwrap. Around her neck was a string of giant silver discs. She sounded like a windchime when she moved even a little bit.

Were you seated with her?

No--I was just behind her. But, it's hard for me to pass up a good conversation, even if it's one I'm not involved in. So when this scrawny white chick sat next to her--and can I just say, the girl looked absolutely terrified at the prospect--and the woman said, 'Well sweetheart, you look like something love brought in,' I was intrigued.

Why couldn't I have sat next to the windchime lady on the plane, instead of crazy lightning death guy?

Who are you kidding? You wouldn't have wanted to talk to her anyway.

Whatever. So I take it you dropped your book and leaned over the seat?

Not exactly--after all, I need the book for cover. But, I did look up in time to see the girl's mouth drop, and I do mean open about an inch, when the woman said that.

Did the girl look all moony?

See, that's the thing. I just saw her pointy elbows and her ragged blue jeans and a Pearl Jam concert t-shirt. Brownish hair in a ponytail. No makeup. I did not see love. I know she got on with some guy, but he was a few seats away.

So you did not see the love.

No, but the black woman sure did. She patted the girl on the arm and said, 'I can see it, honey. There is love all over your face. And that's good, that's real good.'

Reaching out and touching and everything, wow!

I know--you would have had a heart attack. The girl just kind of smiled a little, and pointed back at that guy and said she was with him. And the woman grinned wide, like one of those sunshine pictures a kid would draw, and laughed. 'Did I scare you?' she said. And laughed again.

What the girl do?

Sank down in her seat a little, frankly. I'm thinkin' she hadn't been out her county, much less the state, and this woman was practically a U.N. ambassador from Morocco.

I would have moved to another seat.

It gets better. The woman leaned over and said, 'Love is the only magic left in the world that people can't buy or sell.'


Yeah. I stopped reading then.

I can't say I agree, though. People think they're buying love all the time. How else would you explain rich, middle-aged men and trophy wives?

Is the man intent on buying love, though, or is he really hoping for love, and wants to show it with all he can afford?

I think he's fully aware of what his money can buy, and that includes people, just like it would a boat or a racehorse or 911 Turbo. How can it be otherwise?

The whole book/cover thing, I guess. Look at the black woman and the girl. Somehow that woman just knew this girl was in love.

So you're saying that things are not what they appear to be?

Well, if you want to base it on strictly external trappings, yeah, I guess so. There's no need to be so literal--peel back the skin a bit.

So what else happened?

Not much after that--I guess the woman flashed on all she needed to see at the time. They talked a little about what was in the paper, how their trips were, going back to Durham. The woman did mention she was one of the first black women in the army.

Really? She didn't say anything about that?

Well, she might have, but my stop came up.

I hate that! I was waitressing a long time ago, and I heard two guys talking about being in Vegas during bomb testings. But they weren't at my table, so I never got the full story. But it was interesting, for sure.

The Cassie and Marlo series is a serialized fiction experiment exploring social norms and the ridiculous things you can overhear if you're listening at the right time. For more on the project, click here.

This installment is open to workshopping. In the comment box below, please provide some constructive critique as to whether the third attempt at dialogue reformatting works for you, and if the shift in character POV flushes out both characters more.


Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou

more about tracey l. kelley


cassie and marlo listen in: part 2
by tracey l. kelley
topic: writing
published: 4.27.09

swimmin’ wid da fishes
with ankles chained by writer's blocks
by tracey l. kelley
topic: writing
published: 10.23.02


sandra thompson
5.30.09 @ 7:52a

Very effective!

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