“No, no, no, Philip, please forgive my brusquerie. I’m quite willing to hear what you’ve got to tell me, just as long as you do me the courtesy of listening to me in turn.”

“What’s that?” asks Judy, unexpectedly.

“What’s what?”

“That word. Brusquerie.”

“Oh, a rude or unpolished manner, lack of finesse in one’s conversation … something like that.”

“Are you a teacher?”

“Well, I suppose I am, sort of. I’ve got a brother who’s a musician, and another one who’s a boxer: Pete and Frank.”

They exchange more glances. Clearly they’ve been warned against teachers – or was it intellectuals in general? Unrewarding to talk to, improbable as converts, and always full of lengthy provisos … seed that fell on the waste ground, for the most part.

“Well,” Philip doggedly resumes the scent. “We’re here to talk to you about our personal experience of the Lord Jesus …”

“What was it, then? Tell me about your personal experience of him. Did he come to you in the form of a blinding light, which only left you in the city of Damascus? Did you meet him as a traveller on the road to Emmaus? Or is he just a voice whispering in your head? What’s he saying now?”

“Look, mate …” Philip is going to lose his cool in a moment, so Judy sees this as her moment to intervene.

I hear him talking to me sometimes.”

Do you indeed? Tell me about it.”

“There’s nothing to tell. I just hear him.”

“Words forming in your head out of nowhere? Or is it an actual tone of voice that you recognise?”

“I know it’s him.”

“But how do you know? Is it because of the things he says to you?”

“I guess so, yes.”

“What’s he telling you now, right now, about me?”

“Nothing. It doesn’t happen very often, you know.”

“Couldn’t you ask him? You know, a word or two of advice?”

“Of course. Would you like to pray with us?”

“You know, I might just do that – but only if he tells you something you can pass on to me. You see, I really do need some advice here.”

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