Papa Justify speaks:

I am a hoodoo priest of sorts. If you want to summon the spirits, I can help. In fact, I’m probably the only one you’ll ever meet who can actually deliver the goods. Everyone else who claims to be a hoodoo priest is usually simply an unemployed alcoholic, and they are legion.

Predicting the future is simply a matter of seeing correctly, and most people are capable of doing so with the proper instruction and encouragement. Many are afraid to go down that path, because they’d rather avoid the responsibility of knowing. They’d rather pretend to be helpless in the face of coming events.

The fact remains that we all know what’s coming, but are frightened or lazy enough to pretend we don’t. It comes as a feeling, a taste, a smell, a vision, sometimes as a sound. We are not alone. We are surrounded by spirits who are doing their best to contact us and guide us if we consent to be guided.

Those of us who wish to go it alone are free to do so. The Spirits are not jealous regarding their domain. Think of them as real estate agents. If you can sell your house at a good price on your own, by all means do so. If you can’t, give them a call.

There are many more spirits than most practioners will acknowledge. I am personally acquainted with forty-one, and suspect there are ten times than number who are yet beyond my ken. Each spirit has an area of expertise. In this way they are like craftsmen. A good plumber can recommend you to a good electrician.

My closest relationship with a spirit involves TongoBongo, a Fijian headhunter and cannibal who died in 1921. I don’t know why we hit it off, but we did. I’ve never really seen him, just heard his voice in my head, but I imagine he’s heavily tattooed, painted and wears a bone in his nose. Sometimes we talk for quite a while, usually while I’m falling asleep.

“Nothing you people value as important really is. It’s all nonsense. Fads. Marketing. You can prove it to yourself. You can never get enough of what you don’t need.”

“But what do we need?” I ask.

“Community. Extended family. Nothing else matters in the long run.”

He’s probably right.

The spirits told me that I’m special, that I’m an advanced life-form who is obligated by karmic debt to devote myself to a life of service to others. I had no problem accepting this. In fact, I’m surprised it took them so long to get around to it. I’ve know it, at some level, for most of my life.

But exactly how am I to do this? What guidance will I receive, who will grease the wheels to help me succeed in such altruism? I wait for answers, but so far none arrive.

No problem. I have all the time in the world.

Nobody I’ve ever spoken to can imagine his or her own death. Secretely, we believe we’re the exception. Jesus will return and personally escort us to our heavenly reward, or else science will finally discover the cure for all disease. We know it doesn’t make sense, but deep down be believe it to be the case.

As a hoodoo anointed practioner, I have access to priviledge information. I might be able to predict your future, including the date of your demise, but rarely do I exercise my precognitive powers in this way. How would it help?

We must learn to relax and enjoy the bliss of the present moment. Now already contains everything we need in order to be content and even happy. Many of us lie to ourselves in order to believe the opposite, and this gives us an excuse to run away from what we have in search of what we don’t. As if this were some form of progress.

True progress rarely results from running away from or toward anything. Calm introspection advances our cause more often than frenetic action.

But you already know this, otherwise why would you have read this far? I am not only preaching to the choir, I am being serenaded by my fellow choir members. We are all in this together. Don’t pretend you’re not a dues-paying member of this club.

Admit to yourself at least that you can kill another simply by cursing that person. Hoodoo gives you that power. You may have forgotten the exact nature of the ritual, but it will come back to you if you simply try. That’s how it worked for me and countless others.


When the devil makes you do it, it really hurts. In the short term, not so much, but in the long term, the grief in interminable. It gets worse over time.

That’s why I’ve taken to exposing Satan and all his minions whenever I can, which is most of the time seeing as I’m unemployed and on disability.

I’m so sick of grief! Are you? Maybe some people haven’t yet suffered enough, but I sure have. My dues have been paid and then some. So I am now under no obligation to languish in remorse or bathe in sorrow. I have been washed in the blood of the Lamb!

One cannot simply eliminate temptation from one’s life. Wrestling with the devil will get you nowhere but sweaty and smelling like brimstone. You can’t win that wrestling match and he can’t defeat you, because you have God on your side, even though you don’t act like it most of the time. Victory is ours! Why don’t we feel good about that?

Because we are led astray by sin. We are trapped by multiple snares. It will only be when this life is over that we can see clearly, for now we see as if we had some kind of goop in our eyes.

If Satan won’t get behind us, how are we supposed to advance? With him blocking our field of vision, all we can see are the snares of sin. Unless you look at it closely, a trap usually doesn’t look like one. It looks like something normal and common, or like nothing at all.

Devious intent emits no obvious warning signs. No odor, no sound, no visual hint that someone who hopes to benefit from your downfall has targeted you. You can’t even look down and see the glow of a laser sighting device dancing over your clothes. It would be convenient and easy to assume that evil does not exist, that everyone in your ken has your best interests at heart. But that’s simply not the case. Not by a long shot.

But why have I been targeted while my more devious and sinful peers have not? Did their mothers pray for their offspring with more fervor than did mine? More novenas, implorations to the Blessed Mother for intervention?

Maybe I should be proud that the Father of Lies has noticed me at all, much less chosen to recruit me in his cause. Did I come to his attention because of my essential goodness or its opposite? Have I displayed a talent for malevolence or is it something that is merely latent in me, but noticeable to those proficient in the Dark Arts?

I’ve always wanted to excel at something, but evil has never been on the list. I once had a roommate in college who was very strange and might have made a better candidate for “Handmaid of Satan” than I. She enjoyed being alone to an asburd degree. Most people if left alone for a day would find something to do with the time. Not her. This was before cellphones, but if you took a young woman of today and locked her in a room, she would immediately take out her phone and start scrolling or texting and taking selfies. This lady preferred to do nothing at all. We had an old clock that ticked away in a solemn way one doesn’t hear often nowadays. The ticks echoed through the still room. She sat absolutely still, often with her eyes closed, not moving, barely breathing, and seemed quite content. I figured she was either mentally ill or posessed by evil spirits. I never found out which was true because at the end of the semester she moved away and I never saw her again.

It occurred to me later that maybe she wasn’t even enrolled as a student. She could have been a trans-dimensional being who just need a place to hang out for a while.

Or maybe she was just a strange and possibly mentally ill college girl a long time ago, and I’m still making too big a deal about all of it. After all, I was no Boy Scout at the time. I was doing my best to ape the hippies I read about, Timothy Leary, etc. My use of psychedelics was routine. I’m just lucky I emerged relatively unscathed. In every college town I lived in, you would come across one guy walking barefoot in the winter, his long hair matted, fingernails black, accompanied by a dog he had adopted, and either rummaging through trash or asking for spare change. Someone would always tell me “that’s Crazy Bob. He used to be an English major, but then he took too much acid.”

There but for the grace of God go I.

Fun and Games

The women were sitting on my bed when I checked into the room. They didn’t seem terribly interested in talking to me, which was fine, because I was tired from my trip and just wanted to relax. Maybe they came with the room. I was too fatigued to care.

At first I assumed they were twin sisters, because they were dressed alike, pretty in the same way and about the same age. But then I realized they didn’t even speak the same language. Neither spoke a language I could identify. I decided this was one of those dilemmas that would turn out best if simply left alone. I didn’t cause it, I couldn’t cure it.

I took a shower and came out of the bathroom wearing a the complimentary plush bath robe that came with this VIP room. By then the two women had stopped sitting on the bed and were playing chess on an elegant mahogany table near the window. The view of the city below was astounding. The women seemed so wrapped up in their game they didn’t notice it, or me, for that matter. However, I noticed what seemed like a mob of people running down the street in front of our hotel. You could see tanks and trucks coming at the mob from the other direction. Flames.

When I turned on the TV all the channels showed the same thing: an announcement reading Peace and Unity. Patriotic music. Later, I would find the conference I had come here to attend had been cancelled. The Prime Minister was in hiding. The army was in charge. I should prepare for frequent power outages. Food and water may temporarily be in short supply. Stay tuned for further developments.

Twilight came and I must have fallen asleep. When I woke in the middle of the night, the two women had already left. In the morning, there was man sitting at the same table at which the women had played chess. He was eating breakfast.

“Sleep well?” he asked, as I sat up.

“Fine. Who are you?”

“The name is Joseph Jameson. I’m here to make you an offer you probably won’t want to refuse. Care for breakfast?”

I didn’t feel like asking who was paying for our meals, though I had the sinking suspicion I would ultimately be the one to pay for room service upon checkout. But when would that be, anyway, now that martial law had most likely been declared?

“We need a caucasian expert to talk on television. Do you have a doctorate?”

“I spent a couple of sememsters in a community college in Iowa,” I replied.

“We’ll refer to you as Doctor anyway. We need to assure the populace that everything is under control.”

“Is it?”

“Sure. Someone is in charge. That’s all they need to know. Just remember to downwardly inflect your voice at the end of each utterance to imply certainty. These are facts, not opinions. You’re not looking for approval or reinforcement.”

“And after that?”

“We’ll confer with the Ministers of Environment and Interior. They’re hiding in the basement of the Palace of Democracy. We need to give them some talking points. We’ll be traveling with a retinue of beautiful young women. In this country that’s important, it shows that you’re somebody important.”

“And then what?”

“And then we pay you several thousand dollars for your time and ask you to be available again if needed. We don’t know how long this period of uncertainty will last.”

There was a car waiting in front of the hotel, with the two beautiful women who had been sitting on my bed when I arrived and three more, very pretty younger women. Here I found they are called “pretties” and are valued only for their looks and youth. They were demure and shy, but made sure to sit as close to me as possible wherever we were, because that was their job.

The man who had negotiated with me drove, but before he took the wheel he donned a chauffeur’s cap and leather driving gloves. I guess here if you want to be taken seriously you have to look the part.

At the TV station I sat in front of a green screen while the man and woman who interviewed me sat in folding chairs in front of me. I glanced at the monitor and saw that through electronic wizardry it seemed if we were sitting in front of a lush, tropical forest, with a swimming pool off to one side. I repeated the lines that I had been coached to say, “This was nothing out of the ordinary, just the routine growing pains of newly emerged democracies. Of course other nations sympathized but were not overly concerned. If called upon to help, they would gladly do what they could. The United Nations was on our side. Everyone was on our side.”

Apparently my handlers were pleased with my performance, for on our way to visit the Ministers In Hiding the girls snuggled even closer to me. The general mood was optimistic. A few bombs and sirens going off at random intervals failed to spoil the mood. Much.

When we found him, the Minister of Health was in the basement, hiding behind a copy machine. He didn’t seem much like a Minister, and was dressed in dirty coveralls, looking very much like a janitor at the end of a hard day. It soon occurred to me that his appearance was deliberate.

“What do they want from me?” he pleaded, looking at me imploringly. I feigned compassion as best I could.

“It’s not about you. They want democracy,” I assured him.

“We tried that before. It didn’t work. My people are not ready for demoracy. They want a strong leader, someone to believe in.”

“Where is the Prime Minister?”

“I wish I knew. I would punch him in the nose.”

Another voice joined us, coming from a nearby closet. “He’s not at fault. It’s the Army. You know that as well as I do.”

Another man stepped out. My guide introduced him as the Minister of the Interior. I expected him to talk about politics or the state of the nation, but he had only one thing on his mind. “Please, get me out of here. I’ll do anything.”

We offered to let him ride in the trunk of the car, hidden under some blankets. He managed to climb in unnoticed, and even though we stopped for drinks and didn’t invite him along, he wasn’t resentful. We dropped him off at the bus station, and he shook my hand warmly. “Maybe I’ll see you in Chicago someday. Or Omaha. I have a brother in law in Omaha.”

We took the girls to an enormous apartment building that ran along the river. They smiled and said something in their language, and I smiled back and waved. That was it. Then the driver took me to the airport and paid me more money than I’d made for one day’s work in my entire life. I hoped to hear from him again, but he never called.

Raw Talent

Bloom where you’re planted

If you were born with a surfeit of talent in one area, then you’re obligated to develop that facility to the best of your ability. You can’t just hang out and slide by. You need to apply yourself daily. Your talent was a gift, and you owe it to the rest of us to use it.

Of course, it your talent is for torturing animals or compulsive lying, then that previous statement doesn’t apply. It would be better for you to keep a low profile. No reason to break a sweat.

Some of us were born to lead, to make great changes for the better, while others were put here to hang out. Remember, for every leader there needs to be a group of followers. Sometimes that group can grow very large. Think of Trump or Hitler.

Brains Don’t Help

Brains don’t help in most situations. In fact, they’re often a liability. People don’t like smart guys, they like sincere, hard-working normal Joes. So if you happen to be extremely intelligent, don’t wear your smarts on your sleeve. Keep them secret and use them in situations where a favorable outcome will make you seem simply lucky.

All the best film actors know this trick. Play stupid and you’ll make the audience feel smart. Let them see you strain to make sense of your character’s predicament. Allow them to see the wheels turning in his or her tiny brain.

Sympathy begins to have a chance when you stop threatening people. Stupid people know this deep-down, and use it to their advantage whenever their intelligence fails them. They affect a puppy-dog look complete with big, watery, sad eyes.

Free as a bird

I am scouting a new path, and forging new tools to help me enjoy the journey. My old habits have brought me mostly ennui and pain. From now on, I will try to find new ways to live.

When in doubt, I will do nothing. Although I may not be able to wait until certainty arrives, I should at least be able to resist the compulsive and repetitive behaviors that have brought me this far down. I have sunk to previously unimaginable depths. The financial future looks bleak. My reputation is in tatters.

Old friends avoid me. Now that I drool uncontrollably and palsy shakes my limbs, I am unlikely to make new ones. I could assume that somehow this is all my fault, karmic retribution for my past deeds, but I don’t think that will get me anywhere I want to go. Neither saint nor sinner, I am merely a garden-variety human being, struggling to make the best of the situation in which he finds himself.

Should I expect redemption? A bounty of good luck? Absolution for past failings, and the sympathy of bystanders? Hardly.

When I stole that bus I knew what I was doing. When I forced the children on it to walk into the desert without food or water, I was fully aware of my actions. What I failed to understand were my motives. They were obscure to me. Before that incident, I had never thought one way or the other about school buses, yet one proved to be my undoing.

Fortunately, every one of those school children survived, though I’ve heard that a few are still undergoing therapy. The owner of the school bus declined to press charges, for it was revealed that the driver was taking an unauthorized cigarette break and flirting with the cashier at the gas station. He shouldn’t have left the keys in the ignition and the door wide-open.

My lawyers tell me that I’ll likely get off with a sentence that remands me to mental health counseling. After a year or so, I’ll be free of the ankle bracelet and able to come and go as I please.

A Satisfied Man



It was a job, but that’s all it was. Not a vocation. No emotional rewards, no feelings of accomplishment. I escorted people who had never questioned anything, who had never had an original thought in their lives, and showed them a bunch of sleepy alligators. Nobody complained or asked for their money back, so I guess I did OK.




When I got off work I cracked a couple of cold ones and watched TV until I started to fall asleep. The next day was no different. I got to work at 1, when we opened, and already there was a line waiting at the ticket office. I knew what my goals were. I was going to save up for a flying car. Popular Mechanics promised that by 1990 they would be standard issue. I just had to keep working, keep saving money, and wait.




Every Saturday night, the wife and I would go to Bob’s All You Can Eat for stewed Troglodytes. They swam in their own gravy and you have as many as you liked. I always left with a full stomach. The wife would nibble off my plate, all the while saying she wasn’t hungry, but I think she put down as many as I did.




If we had people over, we’d show movies of our big vacation from three years ago, the time we went to Borneo, where the men grow tall as trees and the women prune them once a month. Our friends actually enjoyed seeing the same home movies over and over again, because it gave them a chance to rehearse their wisecracks.




Watching somebody else’s vacation photos is usually an exercise in tolerance, but we try to get creative when it comes to ours.




Before we send the gang home we crack out the tuna n’ waffles, which puts everybody in a good mood. It’s the most cost-effective and easy to prepare meal we know of, and that’s saying a lot.






I found it in the driveway. Thought maybe it was a tropical plant or a branch of a tree, or perhaps a reptile that had been run over by a car. It seemed to have once been alive. I took it into the garage and left it on a pile of tarps. I could examine it later when I had more time.




But first I had to get to my daily piano practice. Half an hour a day, no more, no less. I really enjoy my time in my study. The soothing pastel colors allow me to relax and focus, something that I value even more now in these days since I was released from the mental institution.




There was a time, not too long ago, when I was on top the world. Women couldn’t get enough of me. Employers sought me out. I had so many offers that it literally made my head spin. And that’s how I ended up needing professional care.




Then I got a job entertaining at a motel cocktail lounge. It was a little hotel, with a little pool and a tiny lounge bar, but it was enough for me. I was starting to reconnect with the outside world. I no longer drooled when I got dressed in the morning.




Truth is, I only knew three or four songs on the keyboard, but that was enough to fill most of the time and we had so few customers those that came were happy to hear my New York New York/Changes/Younger Than Springtime medley.  Looking back on that time, I can truly say those days were some of my happiest.


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But getting back to the thing I found in the driveway. It turns out it’s an extra-dimensional parasite that lodges in your spine and the only way you can extract it is by screaming. Isn’t life strange?