(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A train moving from one point to another is an appropriate setting for this story about two ten-year-old girls in transition in both space and time. Jane Muirhead’s parents fight continuously as “bitterly as vipers,” and Danica Anderson’s mother has just remarried and has sent her off with the Muirheads for the summer to give her some time to settle in with her new husband. The story begins with the two girls exploring the train on the way home to Florida. Mr. and Mrs. Muirhead spend most of their time in the lounge drinking cocktails, although they do not sit together. Mr. Muirhead talks to young men, because, he says, his wife will not let him talk to young women.

Danica, lonely during the trip, often feels like crying, for she is surrounded by strangers saying and doing crazy things. At one point, Mrs. Muirhead gives her a note to take to Mr. Muirhead, but Jane tells her later that her father ate the note. At another point, the two girls meet a woman, and Jane tells her that her name is Crystal and that Danica is her twin sister Clara. When Jane tells the woman she probably does not believe in men, the woman says it is true, that men are a collective hallucination of women. The woman tells the girls she does research on human pheromones, the chemical substances that people excrete that can lead other people to do or feel a certain thing.

Mr. Muirhead meets a young man who is writing a book on cemeteries of the world, and they talk...

(The entire section is 508 words.)