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TOOBORAC Once upon a different time in the distance north of Melbourne at a house beside the highway on a corner close to town there was a garage made of fibro with concrete on the floor and a pretty painted doorway good for going out and in and the car was new within it and polished every weekend and vacuumed on the inside for little rocks and scraps of dust and the roof could fold down neatly into a rear compartment and the driver’s seat was modern and all laminates and foam and the sparkle on the windscreen was brighter than a morning and the blackness of the tyres was the black of brand new night and everyone around the place could hear the engine going though it was never loud or noxious or ever coarse or hard but gentle as a leaf drop yet a quiet that intruded and took flavour out of breakfast or the evening cup of tea. The girl who owned it was the fattest person in the township but smarter than her neighbours and had a better type of job and knowledge of mathematics and part share in a patent for a social network software sold with normal mobile phones. When she went out shopping she was sure of herself and certain and moved slowly down the footpaths and lingered at the windows and bought things with brand new money from a microfibre purse. And when she was most cheerful she laughed upward like a bubble and when she was most satisfied she was talkative and smiles but the people were too busy with time and aggravations and no one was delighted or desirous of a friendship or had the eyes to watch for her or get out from in her way but they turned aside to talk of her in tucks of three or two and gathered for the occasion with their business left undone. And some professed that they would never join her on a picnic and some affirmed there was never time to offer her a drink and they said, “Her dresses are odd and in horrible colours and everything is bling to her and nothing is important and she wants her cup of coffee when we are all too busy and very time she drives her car she sits up like a duchess and nothing about the village ever causes her to care,” and they agreed that you could park a bus inside her bum crack and still have room for roadworks and for the people to get out and their faces when they said it looked almost quite indifferent and they listened without blinking and they nibbled on their teeth. There was an Echidna that lived in a tidy wooden place of moisture by the road-bank under the shedding of some trees and he was known to wander through the backstreets and the gardens and all across the public space where the ANZAC statue stood and when he overheard all that the villagers were saying something turned frail inside him and he was sorry for the girl and he began to watch her from a careful kind of distance and he began to think of her all the times she was not there and on a sunny morning when his eyes were soft and sleepy he knew that he was in love and that love was what he wanted Tooborac

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and that he must arise now from out of the leaves and see her so that she could see what he now knew and know it for herself. When he arrived the girl was in a weekend smock and bonnet with cotton gloves on both her hands and a chamois leather rag just lightly touched with polish to rub the bumpers up to gloss and he thought of all his spines and the skin of his proboscis and each particular curving claw from muscle-root to tip and it hurt him that he was not caressed like this and polished and it was bitter on his liquid tongue and in every eye and all across his belly he felt a coldness to his blood and a grief that he was not so loved as she so loved the car and he went back to his shelter and his diggings and the dirt and he hid himself by grunting and scratching through the litter and he curled up as a bundle and became a little lump like something not quite broken free from an eggshell or from mud and all that day the time went by familiar with its footsteps and all that night there was nothing new to turn upon the earth and after sunrise there were centipedes running to the ground and beetles in the grass-heads and grubs and little butterflies and the Echidna listened to the coming of the traffic down the road from Bendigo in the first light of the morning and he scratched himself and stood upright and bristled out his spines and he said, “She is beautiful beyond the others and so whatever she must love must be the thing most proper to love and in love is found fulfillment and so now I love the car.� He returned to the garage with assurance and with purpose because he knew the places in the houses of the township where people kept their private things and their money and their keys and while the girl was waiting for the open eye of waking he was into her purse and kitchen and out within a flash and while she was lifting over her hair upon the pillow he had the car in overdrive and was hooning down the road. And the news went round the tables and the coffee and the toast and the telephones were eager and the grapevine was aloud and the people went ecstatic and the people went alive and tweeted their companions that the Echidna had quite cracked and gone off in the fat chick’s car and was driving like a freak and on the road to Heathcote with no end or a crash in sight. Time is not a super-speed but undresses like a lady and waits in patient corners for who will see her there and come. The Police got a message that a BMW Roadster Z4 and fast was halfway through to Bendigo through Axedale and through Longlea and school hours were coming closer and now rush hour in the town and they took their toughest drivers and their fastest bikes and cars and set them in formations on the highways and the turnings for pursuit and interceptions and a very sure arrest but the Echidna had the top down and the wind in his spines and the flash of the road quite naked reflected on his face filled his body up with marvels and in all that wild career he had no heart for danger and nothing human but the road and all that was sent against him and all that was sent behind he outpaced and he outdrove them and he shredded all their plans. Tooborac

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There were helicopters and cameras and objects in the sky designed to capture miscreants on the traffic side of crime but he went down the tram-lines and the footpaths and the bridges and all the way to Huntly before a picture hit the screen. They closed the road at Goornong with a chicane of motorbikes and flashers of red and orange and a line of plastic drums but he could make those four wheels dance and the camber of the road was like a stage or a ballroom and was perfectly his own and when the dust had cleared away and when all the noise was past and the officers had shook themselves and opened all their eyes he was through and on the other side with nothing scratched or scarred but Senior Constable Kelly had caltrops up in Elmore and Constables Fitzroy and Davis had all the highway clear. There was a silent minute and no birdsong and no whistle and no mutter on the pavement and no gurgle from the pub came out to touch the lovely air or to litter up the day and then the wonderful engine from the fast and far away was heard around the corners and in the hedges and the homes and distance was all done and gone and the BMW was suddenly there amongst them in the here and in the now. It hit the caltrops at salsa speed and the syncopation of each beautiful and bursting tyre was brighter than the best. It flipped up on its bonnet and it spun in the air and rolled in detonations down the empty road until at the last it hit a lamp-post and was shattered to fragments and to bits. The Echidna was thrown clear and he curled up into a ball and continued undeflected straight in a line and airborne until he was caught by the branches of a Kurrajong Tree and from there he slithered gently through the husks and through the leaves down to the scattering of wreckage and there he lay silent but not broken and as breathless and unmoving as a brush. “What’s that,” said Constable Davis, and she kicked him to one side. “Just roadkill,” they said, “and some rubbish and no concern of us.” All that day as forensic officers measured the crash site and took the pieces for photographs and swept them all away the Echidna lay unmoving until at last at morning he crawled away to hide himself in a digging near the bush. “I loved the car,” he said, “but it had no such loving for me. It was only an ornament of humanity and pride and as beautiful in destruction as when it first was made.” All the coming summer there were Saturday night adventures and traffic along the highway from the border to the coast and the fashions changed and eyeliners varied in their colours and girls and metrosexuals wore distinctions in their dress and clubs were especially open to entertain the distant and hook-ups were made by mobile and nobody knew their names but there were witnesses to an apparition or a voice out between the towns and houses in the wilderness and dark and an utterance or a warning that everyone believed not to go or to journey far but to keep the straight roads straight. And they said it was no phantom and they said it was too real and that it was The Roadkill Warrior for that was the name Tooborac

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he called himself and they had seen it written on the roadside and on the surface of the stop signs and sometimes in the dust and to read of it or hear of it made you want to whisper and made you think of sudden things like the time that you might die. There were peculiarities in acts and on occasions that were sometimes something criminal and sometimes something strange and every type of carriage-way and every type of business was upset and out of order and impossibly restrained. And these were among the happenings that caused the chaos best: when heavy freight was scheduled down from Deniliquin or Hay all the traffic got diverted to no-through roads and paddocks where it spun its wheels and broke up dust and never could get out and the road-trains sank there axle-deep in jack-knives and in tails and B-Doubles stalled amongst them and refrigerated trucks were gridlocked there with caravans and Toyotas and with utes; and ATMs were pulled with chains out of gildings and from walls and the money thrown on gusty days in several different towns through the gum-trees and the fences and the drive-ways of the poor; and shrines of wood and breakages and of other scraps and trash were erected on the corners and in curious places and covered with leaves and colours and from every one were hung little things and presents and the names of the dead and the lost; and the elderly and all the young and ages in between were frequently absent and down where the riverbed was dry and their mouths were sometimes open and sometimes they were silent and their eyes were soft and watchful and they faced toward the sky and gathered in groups and clusters to wait for rain and the dove. Kelly, Fitzroy and Davis were assembled as a taskforce and given a mobile office with a satellite uplink and an online liaison with the State and Federal Police. “We are facing,” they said, “a malfeasance known to us by name with an anti-social profile for danger and derring-do and we will mount a manhunt from Echuca down to Gisborne and trap him in flanking movements and we’ll bring him to despair. His confederates will leave him and come to us for comfort and betray him to a showdown where we can there surround him and he will then surrender and all of us end up famous and The Roadkill Warrior will fester somewhere deep in gaol.” The flowers of the stringybark are most lovely in the dew and the moon is many colours and the brilliance of the night and the Echidna had known since the day he had arisen as The Roadkill Warrior out of an unfamiliar earth that he must keep a jealousy for the everlasting bush and that now he had a duty and it was in his toenails and in his nerves and his neck-bones and through his muscular skin to humiliate and disobey and protest and reject all that was only proud of itself and rational and cute and busy to be expensive and to show itself at cost and all his actions would come abroad and whosoever heard and whosoever had eyes enough to see them where they stood had the freedom too to fabricate or fantasise or guess and pass outward through their networks whatever they made or meant Tooborac

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but some few would understand and the some few would be enough but he was tired and heavy now and he wished to lay his head among the things he recognised and the places of his home so he returned to Tooborac and went underneath the trees and dug himself a cushion and curled himself and went to sleep and filled himself up with dreaming and was easy in his eyes. He was woken by voices and dogs in the middle distance and Government Cars in their lowest gear coming to a stop and radios and noises that were sudden and then silent and his place had been discovered and officers with batons were approaching from the road bank and were probing through the grass. He ran to the fence and slipped beneath and knew his way to town but he had been identified and when he had gained the park and the middle of the village between the shops and flowers it was cordoned off behind him and nowhere was left to go. He clambered up the pedestal of the War Memorial past the names and the inscriptions until at the top he reached the statue of a soldier standing easy with his rifle and although he found no shelter there he clung to it for peace. The taskforce had surrounded him with ribbons and revolvers and the villagers behind them were gathered into parties to watch and have excitement for an opinion for a day and some said, “It’s a native animal and it’s on our coins and in our schoolbooks and it must have a certainty of rights,” and others said, “If I had known I would have supported him with the comfort of blankets and with the blogosphere and tea,” and someone said, “I am afraid of The Roadkill Warrior but glad that he was one of us and familiar with our town and stop talking and be watchful now in case he gets away,” and they tweeted and took photos and they rang their many friends. A Negotiator was expected from the Defense Force seconded to the taskforce from anti-terrorist actions and best in situations where the impossible was done but Kelly, Fitzroy and Davis were specialists and marksmen and awaited the arrival with live rounds in their chambers and a firmness in their vision and a steadiness of aim. The Fat Girl left the crowd and she went to Officer Davis and when a moment came that was psychological and right she said to her, “He took my car and you know that I loved it and I was often seen in it and I always looked my best and I am the forgotten victim of all that he has done,” and Davis shot him twice in the chest and watched him hit the dirt. And they rolled up all their ribbons and they took away their cars and gave statements to the media that everyone around could take comfort in their beds tonight and everyone was safe and they left the town behind them highlighted on their records recommended all for medals and promotions from the bush and the villagers went home again for biscuits and for tea and they locked their doors behind them and they drew their curtains shut. That was the The Roadkill Warrior and the living that he died. When it was finished he was forgotten and left where he fell in a corner by the kerbing where the rubbish often was Tooborac

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but creatures from the undergrowth and people without a name came to the corpse and carried it and the night was very long and they went into a garden and they laid him in a tomb.

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