I can’t be sure who he is …
I can’t be sure who he is but the man driving him is the Pope has been a long time coming. It began life as a short story – The 137 – that somehow wouldn’t stop.
Genre … Contemporary Fiction, Humour
Words … 88,000
Josie is a muse, her vocation to inspire great artists. Alma is an International Gran of Mystery destined to save the western world. Every day they travel together on the 137, a run of the mill single decker bus, along with east end mobster Ricky the Squid, professional line dancer Mustang Sally and Harry Street. Harry might well be the next messiah. These days he stands in the centre of the aisle to reveal the cut of his robes.
For twenty minutes every day the passengers on the 137 buy into the fantasies that Josie weaves. They dress the part, play along and enjoy synchronised swimming every other Wednesday. They’re about to stage West Side Story.
Alma is on her way to St Mary’s parish church where she volunteers at the Older Folks’ Coffee Morning. When the diocese puts the church up for sale the parishioners are divided. The faithful might have God on their side but Alma and her friends are determined to create a secular church fit for an unbelieving world.
Josie believes. In fact, Josie has known from an early age that God exists and that He’s a nasty bastard to boot, determined to make her life short and unpleasant, as He does for so many of His creation.
The story alternates between Alma’s battle to save St Mary’s and Josie’s to find a purpose in life. Alma is winning, Josie isn’t doing so well, and now the fates have decided they are going to lose the bus. Well, maybe not the fates but when decisions are beyond your control it isn’t hard to lose faith.
I Can’t Be Sure Who He Is … is neither irreligious, anti-religious or sacrilegious. In many ways, it is a book of envy. There is a lot to be said for churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. Somewhere for the big occasion – birth, deaths and marriages – a community centre for quiet contemplation and a sing-song on Sundays. A provider of pastoral support. God help us but even atheists enjoy the language of the church, the gravitas, the history and you’ve just got to love the magical realism of a creator God. It’s just a shame it’s based on such a pile of old bollocks. But I digress, said Alma with a sigh.