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“Hi, my name is Jane Skelton and I’m reading from my novel, ‘earth eaters’: The wind brought summer, and earth eaters. A thick west wind that boiled the sky, rinsed it with copper, lowered it so it hung heavy over us, suffocating us.
The wind left the land littered with strange bones, delicate as flowers, and teeth, smooth or cracked, some still stuck to wide open jaws, biting on dust.
It’s a fire wind, said a voice in my head, a small, quiet voice. A wind that uncovers. At dawn I picked through the litter of bone and tooth scattered out in the yard.
Tom said the bones were left by the ghosts of dead farmers so hungry for land that in death they wandered and tasted and spat. They gnawed at the dry land and choked on dust.
That’s what Tom said, but what would he know ? He was not here long enough to know we all eat dirt.
And my sister.
I have to tell you about my sister, Sherrie. Try to explain. Though there is no explanation. I was a confused girl alone too long. Too many nights alone in a house. My own thoughts crowding in, jostling. Warm thoughts about old things. Warm voices offering comfort somewhere.
In bed I listened to the voices in the wind. Funereal background monologues overlaid by a hissing and shushing, by outbursts of chanting. Hearty sea-songs were carried over and through me from across the deserts, from somewhere in the middle of the country where the flat waters of an inland sea spread out over hundreds of miles, still, silent, waiting.
Sometimes the wind was like a machine, like an engine, or a train, full of mysterious clankings and rhythms. I felt a restlessness inside, and painful longings. I wished I could leave on the wind, be carried away by an invisible force that gathered strength and speed.
The wind drew strange clouds over us that slid majestically past the window – a slug, a hand, a boot, a loaf of bread; blue-grey, hard membranes stretched tight. Slow and synchronised, the clouds constantly bulged into different shapes like fat balloon animals.”
ABOUT JANE SKELTON:
Jane Skelton has published short fiction and poetry in a range of literary journals and anthologies. Her novel ‘earth eaters’ was a winner in the 2010 LitLink Unpublished Manuscript awards. In 2006 she was the recipient of a Literature Board (Australia Council) grant which had assisted her in completing ‘earth eaters’. Extracts of earlier ‘earth eaters’ drafts were published in Hecate 29.1.2003, and 32.2, 2006. She has since completed another novel, ‘1983’. Jane works in the non-government community sector in western Sydney and lives in the Blue Mountains, NSW.
“I stayed at Varuna in 2010 after my novel, ‘earth eaters’, was a winner in the LitLink Unpublished Manuscript awards. It was August, and there was an ever-present wind which made the house sing and the trees dance. Snow flurried out of the sky. It was a place of great energy, which I found I could transfer to my writing. My stay at Varuna is etched strongly in my memory – and I hope I will experience it again, one day.” Jane Skelton
Jane Skelton has published short fiction in a range of literary journals and anthologies over the past 20 years, including in Hecate, Island Magazine, Australian Short Stories, Overland, Overland Express (internet journal), Going Down Swinging, Hobo, Hidden Hands, Idiom, and Telling Ways: Australian Women’s Experimental Writing.
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