A modern retelling of the story of Jesus, seen through the eyes of Tom, an out-of-work, out-of-luck guy, hanging around on the edges of this remarkable tale. When Josh returns to his home town after some time out he is clearly not the same man who left. Pretty soon he is kicking up a stir amongst the locals, doing the impossible and gathering a gang of fans and followers.
An extract from the book
The city turned out to be Exeter, not London as I’d first thought.
It was the May bank holiday so the streets were jammed with tourists and day trippers.
“So we’re in the city,” I said, as we fought our way out of the station, “what now?”
Si was there, and Andy of course, and the twins, Matt, Phil and Miz. Apparently she and Jack had a casual thing going on.
Josh snapped his fingers.
“Let’s check out the cathedral,” he said.
“Please tell me that’s the name of a pub,” I muttered as we turned and walked smack into a wall of bodies coming the other way.
It wasn’t a pub. It was a big grey building sitting on a large lawn. It looked dull and difficult to me, like school. Students and kids lolled about on the grass outside. Adults snapped cameras and looked stressed. I was bored already.
And I couldn’t understand why no one was complaining. Why were we spending a hot bank holiday hanging around an old monument?
Josh led the way in and we stood around in the spacious foyer watching people buying tickets to go inside.
“That ain’t right,” said Josh.
I said nothing. We all said nothing.
“This place was built so people could get in touch with God, right?” he said.
I don’t know why he looked at me, all I could think of to do was shrug and look embarrassed.
“You know, years back there was a guy who carried two bags of dirt round with him.”
“Yea, he dug up two patches of ground and put them in his saddle bags cause he’d met God on that little bit of the planet. He figured if he could just keep that bit of earth he’d be able to carry the Maker round with him. But s’pose God’s on every bit of turf? Every rubbish tip, every battlefield, every slum, every council block and every penthouse suite – even,” and he grinned now, “in a Cathedral. S’pose every bit of turf is God’s turf. What do they call it? Hallowed ground?”
I shrugged again, we all shrugged. He’d really lost us know. I just wanted a drink.
“Stay here,” he said, “I think I saw a builder’s merchant over the road.” And he went back outside.
“Oh this is perfect,” I said, “He brings us to a big church and scarpers.”
“Tom, shut up.”
When Si tells you to shut up, you shut up.
It may only have been five minutes before he came back, but it felt like five months. We were blocking the doorway and I knew that sooner or later we’d be moved on by some old geezer in a cap and a uniform. Eventually I spotted a couple of good-looking Japanese women and I just switched my brain onto watching them to forget the torture of the moment.
It was so effective I didn’t spot Josh’s return. Instead I just heard the crashing sound.
There was broken glass and money everywhere… Bits of silver spinning across the floor, rolling under our feet, clattering down the steps and out of the building. So many coins. Josh was scooping them up in handfuls and flinging them about. There was a sledgehammer on the floor near his feet. An alarm was wailing in the background.
That was enough for me. I was out of there.
“Tom, come back!”
I’d been running for ten minutes – and that’s very impressive for me.
I hadn’t been fit in a good long while, sitting in a chair and consuming lots of alcohol does not make you a long distance runner.
I’d run across the cathedral green, down the high street, and just slowed up in a back street when I heard his voice. I hadn’t even realised I’d been followed. And I certainly never expected him.
“Where did you come from?” I gasped, turning and squatting down, my hands clutching onto a drainpipe.
“I followed you guys. I’m interested in what’s going on.”
Now for some reason that made me laugh, as much as you can laugh when you’re coughing up your guts in an alley.
“I’m interested in what’s going on too,” I said, “I wish someone would tell me. Weird things keep happening.”
“These are dark times, Josh, dark times. And dark times need a hero.”
“Sure. You watch. This is just the beginning, Josh’s on the rise. He’s not the kid you thought he was.”
“I know that,” I said and I coughed again and spat a mouthful of phlegm across the floor.
“It’s not going to be easy for him, he needs you Tom. You and the others. You don’t have to understand him to go with him. Just keep taking a few steps at a time.”
“You make it sound like some kind of mission.”
He offered me his hand and helped me up. Then he wouldn’t let go of me. I noticed he was wearing a Rolex watch and more gold than I’d ever seen.
“I just want a quiet life,” I muttered, “in fact I don’t know why I’m stood here talking to you…”
“Because you want something more. And because he needs you. He wants you with him. If you’ll stay with it you’ll see plenty of action.”
“I don’t wanna see plenty of action. I just wanna sit in a dark corner and hide.”
He gripped my hand tightly.
“Listen! You’re not paying attention! If you want your days to count stick with him. Why d’you think I’ve been watching him. I’m fed up too. Tired of my life. Tired of the sham and the mess. We have a chance to make a difference. To change the world.” He pushed his face close to mine and hissed out his next three words. “To make history.”
His mouth was so close a fleck of warm spit landed on my left cheek and stuck there.
People were passing by, some of them throwing us watchful glances, but he didn’t care. I did, I’d have run away, but he wouldn’t let go of my hand.
“Think about it, and don’t let him down.”
And he finally let go, turned and walked away.
Jude. That was his name. The smooth guy I’d seen with Si and Josh in the Greyhound that night. That night when Biker John had jabbed a finger at us and made his mad announcement to his groupies.
I massaged my hand and watched Jude strut away. My hand still hurt from his throttling grip, and I could still smell his expensive aftershave and his cigarette breath.
But it was Biker John’s words that hung around in my head:
“This guy’s gonna change the world, big things are gonna follow in his wake…”
Really? I still just wanted to find a quiet, oak-beamed pub and hide in the dark.