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When he stares at pictures, he says, he sees a gridded schematic of the people in them, like in the movie Predator. A yellow spot means sickness, maybe cancer; reds mean pain; lime green is a dull ache or inhibition; purple means they're healing already, like a bruise.
"The mother isn't old, is she?" he asks.
No, she's 28.
He says the nine-year-old is going to marry young, like her mother. And he says she needs glasses. He says they're going to figure it out at school when she has trouble reading.
(He's right about the glasses. The girl's teachers already have said she needs them; her parents just haven't had a chance to get them. She sits up front because she has trouble seeing, and her parents both have bad vision.)
She's going to be an average student, he says. Not in the accelerated learning program.
(Not true. She's getting straight A's in the gifted and talented program.)
The three-year-old is going to grow well beyond the oldest, he says. She'll be taller and bigger all around.
(Probably. She is kinda chubby. And she's already wearing clothes her sister wore when she was five.)
She's bright and eager to do things. She started speaking earlier than the older girl, using bigger words and more complex sentences.
The little one, she's certainly going to be the star of the family.
("I picked her up from day care today, and she's telling me the stoplight colors in Spanish," her mom says. "Maybe there is something to what he says.")
That's one demonstration of Bubba's psychic powers, as ambiguous as any other such demonstration. But Bubba can tell more about these strangers in the photo than a stranger would be likely to figure out about Bubba.
Looking at a picture of him, you might guess his other lines of work (personal trainer, massage therapist), but you probably wouldn't guess "psychic." At 43, he has Mighty Mouse's muscles -- each bicep's bigger than a softball -- and his teeth are whiter than the whites of his eyes. In a tight pink T-shirt and $8 sandals, he looks more like a wrestler than a tarot card reader.
But never mind appearances. Bubba says he has got all the psychic gifts there are. He's clairaudient, meaning he hears voices that other people don't -- voices that belong to angels, or spirits, or God. He's clairvoyant: He can see future events taking place. And he's clairsentient: He can sense things about a person by touching something she has touched or by holding her hand. "Everybody has their own truth," he says. He just looks for it.
Those truths often hurt. Reading someone is painful, he says, because he sucks the person's energy inside him, drawing in all the negative, bad feelings before he tries to return them in the form of good, clean energy. And it hurts to know that someone you care about is going to get sick and not get better. Sometimes he tells someone to go to the doctor, but the person says he's fine. Then Bubba watches him die.
"To be able to see people's future, you have to see their past," Bubba says. "The past is what creates the future. If you don't have a foundation, you can't put a building on it."
The life he has lead, a life full of neglect and heartache, made him who he is. Without the pain, he says, he wouldn't have the power.
He grew up in Lake Jackson with three sisters. When he was five, he told his parents that they were going to get a divorce right after he got his driver's license. His mother told him to get her belt. Whenever he said something he shouldn't have been able to know, he got a whipping. But as he predicted, his parents divorced a month after his 16th birthday. Before the divorce, Bubba's dad had a child with Bubba's aunt, the wife of his mother's brother.
After the divorce, Bubba was the only kid who went to live with his dad, who worked at Dow Chemical and raised quarter horses on the side. Bubba's eldest sister, Kathy, was 19 and living in Germany with the soldier she'd married. Eighteen-year-old Mary was a slow learner; she and Bubba were in the same grade. Fifteen-year-old Martha had married when she was 13, but she had temporarily left her husband and was living with her mother.
Bubba's father never told dirty jokes, never said an ugly word about a woman and never had beer in his house. Bubba says he also never had food in the house; he ate all his meals at his girlfriend's, so Bubba ate out on his own dollar every meal. Bubba didn't have friends, and he wasn't allowed to play sports; he had horses to take care of.