ALEXEI • by Gaius Coffey

The most notable thing about Alexei’s black leather jacket was the zip. The interlocking pins were curiously oversized and enamelled in pure white to look like shark’s teeth. He liked to wear his jacket half-open to reveal a garish red shirt with a white ringed collar and, from a distance, it might look as if his head was about to be swallowed whole by a ferocious beast.

Below his waist, he wore black leather trousers with shining black winkle-picker boots. Above his shoulders, he wore his hair in asymmetric grandeur with the left back-combed and hair-sprayed into rigid straight edges while the right was dyed red and allowed to cascade over his shoulders like the fresh flowing blood of a sacrificial virgin. His heavily made up eyes were darkened to look like the empty sockets of a skull.

Rarely had any man lacked sartorial imagination so entirely, for this was all he ever wore and all he ever wanted to wear. His name was Alexei and Alexei was cool… for a preacher. He savoured the rush of adrenalin as he marched into the chapel then lifted his arms high above his head as he called out “I feel Jesus!”

“PRAISE THE LORD!” came the fervent response.

“Does anyone else think it’s cold in here?” Alexei asked, shivering bodily as he closed the zip on his jacket, even though the sun was scorching the pavement outside. He raised his eyes to address them with the sincerity of a devoted friend. “It’s the cold, cold wind of intolerance that makes me shiver. But we are all one in His eyes. The tall, the short, the plain… the colourful…”

He winked and indicated himself with a flowing sweep of his hands, then allowed them time to chuckle at his self-mocking before he continued.

“God is bigger than this town. He sees further than the end of the road. They may be strangers to us, but they are somebody’s family. They are God’s children too! Why would He care if they call him by a different name or pray to him in a different language? He is all-knowing, all-seeing, almighty God. Praise him!”

The enthusiastic response from the congregation made it all worthwhile and justified his little white lie about the God thing. Alexei could not describe himself as agnostic because he had no doubts. Neither could he describe himself as atheist; nobody could define the God he was meant to deny in sufficient detail for him to make such a bold statement.

Instead, Alexei was ignostic. He knew that the correct answer to any part of his belief was wholly dependent on his personal interpretation of the terms at the exact moment that the answer was composed. This allowed for the utmost subtlety in theological discussions and enabled him to communicate his message with confidence in each of the seventeen small towns he had visited this year.

That is not to say he had no belief. Alexei believed very strongly in the value of religion and the importance of free speech. His sermon was heartfelt, and he hoped they would hear his message. He hoped also that he was right to trust the aim of the white-robed man who had just entered the chapel, and who was holding a worryingly large handgun that was now pointing at Alexei’s chest. The man’s face was hidden beneath a white-pointed hat.

“Can I help you, my son?” Alexei asked.

“You preach lies and welcome scum. You defile His church.”

Alexei allowed time for his congregation to turn to see the intruder before replying; “I welcome all God’s children and my love for them is an exultation of His church.”

Alexei saw the smoke before he heard the deafening explosion as the man fired. The impact dazed him as it threw him back against the altar. By the time he opened his eyes, a crowd had formed around him and the man, he knew, had fled.

“Our lord has saved me!” Alexei called out. “Praise the miracle, praise Him!”


Alexei didn’t much believe in miracles, which was why his leather jacket was built around a bulletproof vest. Although the bruising from the gunshot made it difficult to continue preaching, the enthusiastic rain of cash into the collection plate at the end made it seem like a fair exchange. They had paid for his, and his assailant’s, accommodation for the next two weeks. In return, they had benefitted from a sermon on tolerance that they were unlikely ever to forget.

Gaius Coffey has written full outlines for two sit-coms, several novels, a couple of screen plays, a stage play and a radio play. He has even completed some of them. His flash fiction story “Alone, Not Lonely” was shortlisted for the 2010 Fish Publications One-page Story competition. His story “Terry and the Eye” was Every Day Fiction’s most read story in March, 2010. He lives in Dublin with his wife and two cats.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Oonah V Joslin

    Nicely done, Brother, Amen 😉

  • Sarah Ann Watts

    Great story, Gaius!

  • Difficult to comment on.

    The long description of Alexei doesn’t lend itself to flash fiction but is well done.

    The scam is predictable, but again is well done.

    Maybe Alexei should be resurrected for a novel or a more substantial short story with more scope for originality.

  • Brenda Blakey

    I agree with Paul for the most part.

  • Too discriptive but he seems to be successful?

  • Ridiculous. The descriptions of his jacket, etc, are key to the scam.

    Excellent story.

  • ajcap

    hmmm…if I were in the congregation I’m pretty sure I would have ended up laughing. But I would still have chipped in for the show.

    Very entertaining and I liked the physcial descriptions. Didn’t think the agnostic, atheist, ignostic paragraphs were necessary at first but they did kind of flow into each other.

    Ultimately I agree with Paul, as well. Interesting character, worthy of a novel.

  • Tom

    Completely agree with Paul that it was arduous wading through the description that truly had little impact on the story. You could have minimized the description of the jacket while still putting some emphasis on it. Perhaps that part lends itself to a little foreshadowing that was missing, too.

    Thought the scam was very good, though, and I didn’t see it coming. Once you got over the description I thought the writing was great.

    I could see this as a novel-worthy concept.

  • Rich detail, vibrant characterization, good pace carried me through the story effortlessly; you sir are a writer

  • Jen

    Alexi seems like a pretty cool guy. He’s definitly smart to wear a bullet proof jacket. I also like that he preaches tolerance for *all* people when they’re so much hat hoing on. I gave it a five.

  • Fehmida

    Great twist, enjoyed 🙂

  • Kit

    I loved this – it was so vivid and really came to life for me. A little slow in the beginning but the writing was so good and the payoff so strong that it worked. I did wonder why Alexei had such an alternative look. I understand the need for the jacket to cover up the bullet proof vest but why the hair and black-ringed eyes? Wasn’t sure how the look added to his scam.

  • Very entertaining!
    5 stars

  • Bob

    Too many words.

  • Gaius

    Hi everyone,
    Thanks for reading and commenting so generously!
    Hadn’t even considered him for a bigger story (he came about as a happy accident of writing the first line of his description) but very pleased to know it’s a possibility.

  • Mary F. Mc Ateer

    I loved this! Religion has always been a great business.
    The juxtaposition between the physical description and the self-analysis was clever.

  • Victoria

    This is a good story but I almost missed that entirely, having tuned out at the “hair like fresh blood of virgins” and instead come to read the comments. It was only after reading the discussion that I went back and gave it another chance.

    It’s a very clever story. I’m not a pro but to do it justice I do think this would benefit from a little editorial.

  • I’d love to see this character pop up in a novel. I want to know about his next scam!

  • Helen Latner

    I agree wit h all who object to the long description, so overwritten that it is ridiculous. Alexei , with his “virgin’s blood” hair and dead eyes would not have made it past the first occupied row of pews in any small town church. His message is a popular cliche. He has a great scam, but it belongs on a vaudevulle stage -(which is dead, like his eyes. Try Sinclair Lewis’ “Elmer Gantry”, Gaius, if you want to see how to write a satire on religion.

  • jennifer walmsley

    Loved this colourful character. Enjoyed the story. Great scam.

    Yes, this could make an excellent novel.

    Most people like a happy rogue. Well I do. He could turn out to be a Robin of Sherwood character.

  • Tyrean

    Interesting that this story goes over so well, but if the scam were being run on any other religion in the world, there would be an outcry of intolerance. So sad.

  • Tyrean

    about intolerance

  • Gaius

    Good to see people still reading and commenting, thank-you to everyone for taking the time. 🙂

    To answer a couple of things:
    Sorry, Victoria, for turning you off with my over the top purplitude – but thank-you for highlighting the point where it got too much, it’s always tough to find out the things people don’t say.

    Helen, thanks for the book suggestion! I googled it and read a symopsis, so I can see where you’re coming from. My intention wasn’t so much to satirise religion as to portray a specific individual’s (to me at least) interesting motivations and complex morality. The religion was almost incidental… _almost_ …not entirely.

    Which brings me to Tyrean; yes, exactly. Although the idea of an evangelical Buddhist is faintly comical and self-contradictory, I think the story could have been set in a number of different locations – including some that are aligned to no religion at all.

  • This was pretty good. I did have problems with the overly descriptive opening, especially since much of it led to little in the end. The zipper was handled nicely and the vest did actually surprise me. Kudos for that. I’m still getting a glass half-full vibe from the piece though.