Winner of the Swinburne Sudden Writing Prize
There are three brothers on a train. David sits by the window. Jamie sits to David’s right. Clive sits to Jamie’s right. Jamie sits in the middle because his younger brothers don’t like to sit in the middle. Jamie is so nervous he feels his fingers trembling, but because his younger brothers are tense today about going where they’re going, Jamie pretends he isn’t anxious and sits as still as he can between them, hoping that they don’t notice how fast his heart is racing and how he keeps wiping his hands on his trousers.
David looks out of the window. He is the youngest of the three. He feels so anxious today that he skipped breakfast. He knew if he tried to eat, he would only throw it up. And if he complained about feeling nauseated, he knew Clive would roll his eyes and he couldn’t bear that. So, he sits close to the window, and sits on top of his hands so that he doesn’t have to clutch at his stomach.
Clive sits closest to the door. He wishes he had sat next to the window because he feels sick, and he wants to stick his head out for some air. He’s decided it might help with the queasiness he feels in his stomach. He feels awful about going where they’re going but he doesn’t want David and Jamie to see, so he faces the door and when he’s tired of looking at the door, he scrolls through his phone and rereads the texts from his daughter.
When the meal bell rings, Jamie startles and David and Clive turn to look at him. But Jamie stares ahead and they both look away again as if balance has been restored. When there is a knock at the door, David gets up immediately to open it, and he pays the lady with the cart eighteen dollars for three ham and cheese sandwiches. David still doesn’t have an appetite. Jamie wants to take the pill in his pocket to see if it would help him get some sleep. Clive wants to throw up into the plastic bag floating on the seat opposite the brothers. The three brothers eat their sandwiches in silence.
Not bad David says quietly.
Jamie hums enthusiastically.
Yeah, I was starving Clive says.
They had all lied.