Navin and Kamal sit squashed together in the train’s doorway, feet dangling outside, and — as the backwaters meander past; as the last rays of sun strike through swaying fronds; as a barefoot man, machete in hand, climbs a coconut tree; as, from the homes by the tracks, flicker kerosene lamps and waft frying pomfret; as the vestibule creaks behind them whenever a bearer makes his way between carriages — finally talk about the girl they had both kissed, and about the “gentlemanly” way forward. They hold hands as they do; for a moment, the older brother rests his head on the younger’s shoulder.

Abhilash Mudaliar grew up in Australia and India, and currently lives in Seattle. He is finally taking writing seriously, and never wants to stop.