‘Suburban Myths’, by Oliver Mestitz

Photograph by Marcus Wong. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

The Bendigo Toe Tickler

Sam says he knew a kid who saw The Toe Tickler in primary school, back home in Bendigo. The kid reckons he was a victim, that the Toe Tickler came into his house and he saw him, so it must be true.

Apparently the kid was in bed, asleep. It was a school night so his bag and clothes were ready next to the bed. He woke up and this guy was at the foot of the bed, an older guy. He was crouching down so the kid could only see the top part of his head. He wasn’t creepy-looking or breathing heavily. Sam says he was wearing a legionnaire’s hat.

That’s when the kid’s dad came into the room. The Toe Tickler was really close to the kid’s feet. I don’t think there was any actual toe tickling involved, just the potential. Either way, his dad must have heard something because he came into the room and saw the Toe Tickler escaping out the window.

But the kid’s dad was fast. He was out the front door, chasing the Toe Tickler down the street until the dad realised he was naked; it was the middle of the night and he was the only naked person in the situation, running down the street in the middle of the night. Sam says it was autumn. There was a moon poking through the clouds like a finger through an old jumper. There was a possum on a power line. Someone’s sprinkler system was working well, but too well, like, so well that it’d spray you if you were chasing someone down the street naked in the middle of the night.

The kid’s dad started to slow down to think about what was happening. Sam says it was a sort of role-reversal situation: who’s the crazy-seeming person in this scenario? And also: who’s currently breaking the law? The guy who’s fully clothed or the other one, the naked one, chasing the fully clothed guy down the street? The kid’s dad had always slept naked but this was the first time he’d every really stopped to think about it.

And once he’d stopped to think about it, Sam says, it was too late to start running again.


The Victorian Panther

Lily says there’s a panther in every forest in Victoria. Her grandma’s seen one twice and she lives in the Otways. I’m not sure if a couple of them escaped and started a dynasty or if there’s one roaming perpetually. Apparently “panther” is a substitute word, a signifier for something dark and wild and furry. It’s not an actual panther, Lily says, but it may as well be.

I have another friend who used to stay with his girlfriend and her parents near Mt Macedon. He swears he saw a panther when he was driving on the mountain once, not to the summit but down the north face, heading away from the city. He says there are no horses or rich people on that side of the mountain and it’s cold and dark. The Other Side, he calls it.

He saw it and it was gone.

My friend says he was on the Other Side, driving through thick foliage, when he got the feeling there was something running along the side of the road. He says he saw something in the periphery of his vision, like when you go to change lanes and there’s nothing in your side mirrors, but there’s a car in your blind spot and you can feel it beside you, nosing ahead. It was more of a feeling, he says. It was maybe a couple of trees back, running alongside the car. My friend didn’t slow down because it happened too fast. He saw it and it was gone. It wasn’t necessarily a panther, he says. It could have been a feral cat, except it was darker than a cat, and wilder and furrier.

Lily says her grandma is the kind of person who’s been settled in one place so long it doesn’t matter if she’s lived anywhere else. The place for her is the Otways. The second time she saw the Otways panther she was driving. It looked me in the eyes, Lily, she says. Right in the eyes. Lily says it’s one of her grandma’s favourite stories.


The Last Election

Emma’s grandma says her husband hated John Howard so much that he got cancer. It formed a ball of hatred inside of him, she says, and after eleven years it had to manifest itself somehow.


The Brunswick Whisperer

Sarah says she was lying on her bed one afternoon, trying to nap. She’d worked the morning shift and was working again that night. At the time she lived in a single-storey Edwardian with a concrete porch and room enough to fit a small car in the drive. She had the front bedroom, facing Brunswick Rd, with a double window and thick, white curtains. It was summer and she was wearing one of her old t-shirts, lying on top of the sheets with the window and curtains open.

TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN.

Sarah says she was dreaming about a bird. It was an exotic bird, like a parrot, something that could be taught human phrases. At first she couldn’t make out anything in particular but the more she thought about it, she says, the more she could hear a single, repeated phrase: TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN. It was delivered in a kind of stage whisper and it was nervous and pleading and excitable. TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, it said, over and over again.

Eventually Sarah realised the phrase wasn’t just a part of her dream. It was coming from outside, mingled with the noise of traffic. She got off her bed and walked over to the window. There was a rustling and the crunch of gravel and maybe she caught sight of a sneaker, she says, or a branch quivering or a shadow across the picket fence, headed straight for the Upfield line.


Suburban Myths first appeared in The Lifted Brow: Digital, Volume 11, Issue 2: The Gargoyle & Garbage Edition.

Oliver Mestitz writes poetry and fiction and makes music as The Finks.