Fingers trembling, he dialled the 0Hate hundred number. It was hard with his head spinning wildly, going round and round on his neck like a top. But eventually, after a desperate struggle, his scaly hands did as they were bid.
Click. "Thank you for calling Beelzeban," a recorded voice intoned. "For Account information, press 1. For technical assistance, press 2. For infestations of hobgoblins, trolls, gnomes or banshees, press 3. For visitations by cloven-hoofed beasts, press 4. To talk to one of our credit consultants, press 5. If your call concerns deranged adolescents obliged to stay home all day because their blasted teachers are playing spoilt-brat industrial games, press 6. For continuous howls or sudden aversion to holy water, press 7. For sulphurous eruptions in your toilet, press 8. For any other inquiries, please press 0."
After another struggle with his rebellious body, he pressed 0.
"Thank you," intoned the voice. "All our operators are busy at present. Your call is important to us. And to you, presumably, especially if you've got some satanic loony in your lounge, prancing on the Dralon and eating the plastic flowers. You have been placed in a priority queue and we will answer your desperate cry for help as soon as possible. The current waiting time is ... (another recorded voice) three weeks."
A strident blast of recorded music, either Metallica or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, in his frantic state he couldn't tell which, blasted down the line. Over in the corner, the four horsemen of the apocalypse suddenly stormed out of the TV set. Hideous shrieks filled the air. Everything was shaking. The hands of the clock spun wildly and the numbers fell off its face. Only the cross on the wall stood still.
"Oh well," he sighed. "I guess I'll just have to wait."
As will we all if this overseas report's correct. Because it appears there's a chronic shortage of authorised exorcists, despite soaring demand for their de-demonising ministrations. In parts of America, apparently, it's harder to get an exorcist than it is to get a plumber - and nigh impossible to find anyone offering both services.
It's the same here. We haven't got enough exorcists either, in fact, we probably don't have any. If we did, they'd all be up at the Taipa Point yacht club, exorcising madly, quite likely with a travel subsidy from The Attorney General (no private exorcisms on the side, mind).
With 144,000 kids up to their inkwells in NCEA this week, the tragedy is that none of them will be doing Exorcism 101. In a tight job market, we're denying the young a lucrative career striking out wickedness. Better than being a teacher - all they do is strike!
Footnote: Through his long-time muse and agent, Ms Epiphany Throbbe, the extinguished poet laureate, Sir Jam Hipkins (Honour pending) has submitted his latest belle epoche sang froid mon petit for publication. Have a squizz ...
In Kathmandu a man can do
Business at his leisure,
In Mandalay the dandy may
Mix commerce with his pleasure.
In Buffalo the tough'll go
To work on holiday,
And Santiago won't embargo
Trading when at play.
A San Francisco plan can risk no
Censure when it's done,
And Copenhagen hopes a bargain
Makes your visit fun.
In old Tashkent the cashed up gent
Can settle any pact,
In Rotterdam it's not a scam
To sign a cheese contract.
But in Wellington they're telling Wong
"You're sent to Coventry, For bending vending rules around The travel subsidy.
A work perk, yes, but strictly for
Your rest and recreation,
Your spouse can do no deals at all
When travelling on vacation.
If you've got any Botany downtime
It can only be used to unwind
Any foreign excursion must be a diversion."
This wasn't. That's it. She resigned.
In this case a (paraphrased) adage
Surely sums up our poor Pansy's plight - Though trade is free, for this M.P.
Two Wongs don't make a right.
Stop Press: No sooner had the preceding work arrived than a second tearstained missive was delivered by Ms Throbbe (who thinks the ring is a bad omen, by the by.)
"I think it's a bad omen," she told The Harold. "Everybody does. He shouldn't have given her that ring. Just wait. When all the poor wee polar bears are climbing banana trees and Ireland's been sold for scrap, we'll remember and say, 'It was the ring. It was the ring.' "Ms Throbbe then left to have her chakras rebalanced, leaving behind her companion's loyal royal verse ...
Ode to the King
Quick! Down the aisle and to the throne,
We'll make your gorgeous Kate our own.
Through plague and peril, woe and ill,
You'll hear us cheer, "God save King Bill!"
And so say all of us, in our colloquial way. Good on y'mate!
See ya in the Fanzone!