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“Hi, my name’s Peta Murray, and I’m reading from my short story, Indigestion:
She was the childless aunt, and at the children’s parties she was never quite sure where to stand, so, over the years, she had settled for a place in the kitchen. It was so much quieter there, away from the inevitable tears and collisions, and more tears, and the shock of the balloons bursting, like random gunfire. They made her jump. In the kitchen she could hide from the small talk and the inane games, and the terrible moment when her own inappropriate gift was opened in front of the rest of the family. Over time, having shown some initiative, she became known as the catering aunt.
She would arrive just a little bit early, pop her apron on and power up the urn – her sister had one, naturally, for large gatherings – then get the oven warming, and find a large enough pot to heat the pink saveloys through, starting them off slowly, in cold water, and easing the flame up under them, gently, so they didn’t burst their skins. There was nothing more unappetizing than an exploded saveloy. But when heated correctly, and with toothpicks offered beside them in a small pottery dish, and the brilliant red sauce, they could be quite appealing. There was an art to it.
There were perks, of course, to her title. A hot cup of tea with her sister before the trays were passed round, and if her brother-in-law remembered her, a glass of Champagne. And if they all forgot about her, as they had, it seemed, today, there were other compensations. The hundreds-and-thousands that stuck to her buttery fingers as she plated up biliously cheerful little triangles of bread. The honey joys that she stuffed into each cheek, as she doled out the licorice allsorts. If she kept her head down, she could eat one after another till they melted away. Still more could be slipped into apron pockets, and later, into her hand-bag while no-one was looking. They would do for later, and they always kept well.
But, best of all, as the catering aunt, she was in charge of sausage rolls.
They had always been a weakness. It had started in childhood, with a tuck shop lunch on Mondays. A sausage roll and a cream bum. How they’d trembled with laughter, she and her sister, as they scribbled their orders on their brown paper bags in 2B pencil. They never wrote the rude word, but they always had to say it out loud. The cream bum was over-rated, really just a vehicle for a groove full of whipped cream and jam to probe out and lick from a finger. But a sausage roll? Warm, plump and greasy, the pastry flaked in your mouth, and the meat left a peppery smear on your lips and a coating of fat on your tongue to comfort for hours after.”
ABOUT PETA MURRAY:
Peta Murray is a professional writer of plays and short stories, a dramaturge and teacher. She is currently co-facilitator of The Black Writers Lab at Ilbijerri Theatre, Melbourne.
Her best-known play, Wallflowering has seen numerous productions in Australia and overseas. Other plays include AWGIE winners Spitting Chips and The Keys to the Animal Room, and Salt which won the Victorian Premier’s Award for Drama. She is currently completing a new work, Things That Fall Over.
Peta’s stories have been published in anthologies, including Sleepers Almanac and New Australian Stories.
Peta is co-founder and Creative Consultant of The GroundSwell Project
“I stayed at Varuna on a fellowship in 1991.” Peta Murray
Wallflowering, Currency Press, Sydney, 1992
Spitting Chips, Currency Press, Sydney, 1995
Salt, Currency Press, Sydney, 2001
The Volunteer – in Award-Winning Australian Writing, Melbourne Books 2008
Cameraman – in Sleepers Almanac #5, Sleepers Publishing, Melbourne 2009
Indigestion – in New Australian Stories 2, Scribe, Melbourne 2010
C/- HLA Management