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“Hi, I’m Susan Beinart reading from my novel, Thin Skin. Before Leon came that night, I pictured him on Mum’s hard kitchen chair. As if he were with us, below the painting of Mr Mandela, sharing lamb chops at the round table with Mum, her boyfriend plus my Olly and me. We sat close, like a real family. Yet our door stayed shut – Leon wasn’t there. Was he scoring at some dealer’s? Palms clenched, I almost got up to search for him. I scowled at the wall and said, ‘Instead of painting Mandela, Leon should see his shrink – his art’s worse since he did that picture.’
‘Your brother’s painting’s all right,’ Olly said. ‘And all the shrinks I know talk crap.’ Mum frowned while her boyfriend wiped his lips, threw back his head, laughed.
After that, Leon’s Nelson Mandela was my Mona Lisa: the eyes stalked me while I packed our dishwasher. Mandela watched from the wall where Mum’d hung him on a nail; Leon’d once hauled him down but Mum’d soon put him up again. Young Mandela robbed by Leon from Mum’s South African past. Despite the contrast – Jimi Hendrix afro teamed with traditional bead necklace – he looked wise enough to trail me in that knowing way.
Mum and her boyfriend went upstairs while Olly and I cleared the table. Olly licked the back of my neck. ‘God, you’re sexy when you clear up, babe: wish I didn’t have to work.’ He spun me round and winked, as if he’d been joking. I was too thrilled by his lips to question him. Kissing, we slow-stepped to the door. He left me trembling when his ute rumbled away. I closed the dishwasher, turned the knob, went to bed. Snores echoed from Mum’s room when I passed their door.
At one am, Mum’s scream woke me up. Leon’d arrived and burst in her room. I followed them downstairs where, jeans torn, he stood under his Mandela picture. Eyes turned away, he raved while we sat at the table, shivering in our robes. He didn’t look at us once. I felt as if I were more than six years older than twenty-year-old Leon.
‘Fire: it made me run,’ he said. ‘Woke up, flames eating my jacket. I took it off, thrashed it on the floor. Jumped on it, saw an album spit, curtains burn. Smoke made me spew. Flung the door wide, ran down streets. Stopped here to chill, came in.’
‘Just like Meltdown Man,’ Mum said, ‘that Aussie sprinter. You gave him a run for his money. But where, my sweet, was that fire?’
‘Can’t tell you,’ Leon whined, mood clearly starting to arc.”
ABOUT SUSAN BEINART:
Susan Beinart, from South Africa, has lived in Australia for over thirty years. A teacher with two children and a grandson, Susan enjoys writing fiction. She has published short stories and articles, and is currently re-drafting a novel, Thin Skin. An early piece, The Cockroach Lair, won the Joseph Furphy Commemorative Literary Prize for short fiction. It was published in Kalimat, New Albury Writing and Bondi Tides. Another piece, Leaving Eden, won Highly Commended in the Bauhinia Awards, and Commended in the Edith Fisher Memorial Awards. It was published in idiom 23. Susan has been awarded two Fellowships at Varuna.
“I first spent time in Varuna in 2006, when I was awarded a Litlink Fellowship. The week passed in a frenzy of writing. I worked almost non-stop for those seven days. During this time I was sustained by delicious, nourishing meals, the other five writers and director Peter Bishop’s astonishing insights into my novel. I completed my first draft of Thin Skin in this exhilarating environment. In 2007, under similar conditions, I participated in a Longlines Workshop. Again, Peter Bishop drew out of me, in Socratic fashion, amazing ways in which I could enrich Thin Skin. I ended up restructuring and miraculously completing draft two of the novel. During the week, there were endless opportunities to workshop with the other participants, and, again, to feel like a real writer. The wonderful house that is Varuna, the great soups, the informal workshopping over cheese and wine, Peter Bishop, new insights, all helped make Varuna an unforgettable and valuable writing experience.” Susan Beinart
2011 ‘The Cockroach Lair.’ Bondi Tides. An online anthology at www.bondiwritersgroup.org.au short story]
2008 ‘Olive Trees Around My Table.’ Gleebooks Gleaner. Vol. 15 [book review]
2007 ‘The Cockroach Lair.’ Culture is… The Multicultural Writers of Australia [short-listed for short-story anthology]
2007 ‘A Week at Varuna.’ newswrite. Issue 166, February [article]
2006 ‘Wah-Wah.’ Kalimat. vol. 24 [film review]
2006 ‘Thin Skin.’ Booranga News. Feb-March [novel excerpt]
2005 ‘The Diamond Ring.’ Kalimat. Vol. 21 [short story]
2004 ‘True Stories.’ fourW. Vol.15 [novel excerpt]
2004 ‘Leaving Eden.’ Idiom 23. Vol. 16 [short story]
2004 ‘Patrick White’s Other Side in The Tree of Man.‘ Kalimat. vol. 19 [article]
2003 ‘Murray Time.’ An Illustrated Progressive Novel. Albury. Letao Publishing. [short story]
2003 ‘Bicultural Fiction and the Post-colonial.’ Kalimat. Vol. 15 [article]
2002 ‘The Cockroach Lair.’ Kalimat. Vol.16 (Arabic) [translated short story]
2002 ‘The Cockroach Lair.’ New Albury Writing. Albury. Leteo Publishing [short story]
2002 ‘Espresso.’ fourW. vol. 13 [short story]
2002 ‘The Cockroach Lair.’ Kalimat. Vol. 9 [short story]
2002 ‘Espresso.’ http://www.geocities.com/reddragonwriters/SusanBeinart.html 21 Jan [short story]
2001 ‘Getting to know John Marsden.’ Booranga News. Charles Sturt University. Newsletter no. 4 [article]
2000 ‘Andy’s Cactus.’ Tamba. Vol. 24. [short story]
1998 ‘The Leaf Watcher’ fourW. vol. 9 [short story]
1986 ‘Interaction or Reaction – Barriers to interaction between Australians from different cultures…’ Interchange. Adult Migrant English Service magazine. Vol. 6 [article]
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