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“I’m Eileen Naseby and I’m reading from my novel, Don’t Go Near the Water.
The bedroom is stifling but he refuses to let her turn on the air-conditioning. The noise drives him crazy. She crosses the room and peers through the blinds. Yellow smoke is piling up angrily over the distant northern beaches. In some places the smoke has turned an ugly shade of gray, and she wonders if this means more houses are burning. The air in the bedroom reeks with the brackish menthol of burnt eucalypts. Her shirt is sticking to her skin. She takes it off and hangs it over the chair and she hears him thwack the paper on the bed.
‘Did you go out like that?’ he asks.
It is the longest sentence he has said in days. It feels like years since he said anything about the way she looked. She is wearing the little sleeveless cotton top she bought in Alice Springs.
‘ I just took my shirt off. You saw me. Anyway what does it matter?’ she says.
He shrugs his shoulders. ‘Well don’t be surprised if you get raped going out like that.’ An even longer sentence. He picks up the paper and stares into the newsprint.
‘I hardly think that it’s a problem at my age.’
‘No well, there’s that I suppose.’
‘Can I get you something else?’ she asks. She has become adept at calling truces.
He doesn’t answer. She stretches down to pick up a section of newspaper that has fallen from the bed. The page facing her is given over to the funerals of two young victims of the Bali bombing. In separate photographs, side-by-side, the mothers are weeping. The fathers stand behind and stare vacantly into the photographers’ lens their faces tight compositions of grief. There is something to be said for grief. She feels like crumpling the paper into a ball. Instead she slaps it down on the counterpane.
She looks back out of the window and wonders if the whole world is beginning to burn.”
ABOUT EILEEN NASEBY:
Eileen Naseby was born in Haifa in 1943. At the age of 10 she emigrated to Australia with her mother and stepfather, growing up on a dairy farm in Queensland with her two brothers and three sisters. Married to the painter David Naseby in the mid-60s, Eileen raised four children before establishing Australia’s leading stock footage archival film library, Film World. With Film World and Murdoch Books Eileen produced the Australian Memories series of photographic books, showcasing images from Film World’s Cinesound Movietone Archive.
“I have visited Varuna since 1995 both as paying guest and as the recipient of two Varuna fellowships. I found the support of the director, staff and other writers at Varuna invaluable. During my stays at Varuna I worked on two novels and a biography. The biography of my mother, Ursula, was published in October 2006.” Eileen Naseby
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