As I leave the house, I offer up a silent prayer to St Aloysius, the patron saint of successful blind dates. Aloysius is known for his sensitivity and sympathy, and his attentions are as context-sensitive as his attitude is pragmatic. Ask for help on a night like tonight, he’ll listen, but if the girl that you worship at your place of work comes in all dressed up for stepping out at close of business, a word in his direction will assure that she doesn’t find true love that way.

It isn’t good karma to do things like that, of course, but it’s handy to know that the option is there.

Most of the saints that I give praise to work like that. It’s good… it encourages thinking on your feet, being smart and adapting, and showing appropriate respect to any or all of them, at any given time. I find this system works for me. I have a lot of faith to go around.

As I walk, I give a nod to St Basil, who protects us from tripping up kerbs and stairs, bumping into other pedestrians, and other potentially awful socially awkward scenarios. You know that moment when you see someone waving across the street, so you wave back, and then the person that they were actually waving at walks past you?

Doesn’t happen to me any more. Not since I found out about St Basil.

The saints are completely made up, of course. I got the habit from my mother. She was a strange woman, but she had a surplus of belief in the idea that the world carried a deeper meaning.

It was her who first told me about the saints, though I was in my teens before I asked her why nobody else knew about them at school, and she admitted that it was because she had made them up.

Her argument, and it’s one I carry on in her honour, was that they might be a fiction, but then, so was every other god or monster that people believe in, and once you understand that, what are you supposed to do? Put your trust in someone else’s saints? Or make up your own?

And to be honest, that my saints are fictional doesn’t seem to have had an adverse effect on their power. I mean, look at me. I’ve got friends, a good job, I’m happy. And after tonight, I might even have a girlfriend, which would be ace!

My phone buzzes in my pocket. My best friend, texting to wish me good luck, bless her. I zing out a message on her behalf to Megan, who keeps an eye on everyone who ever got abused, but put a brave face on it.

Some of the saints, like Megan, are really quite valuable. Others, like the one whose statue I’m walking past right now, only have their uses in the most specific of cases.

Actually, he’s one of my favourites. He’s St Marshall, depicted here in a classic pose. He is the patron saint of being stuck reading the same line on the same page of a book over and over, because something keeps distracting you. He’s helpful when completing crossword puzzles and sudoku, as it happens.

That’s the beauty of controlling your own belief system. There’s always someone there to help!

So anyway, I’m almost at the restaurant, where I’m meeting a girl that I’ve only talked to online before now. I’ve already put in the obligatory calls to St Rigsby, patron of disappointment, and I’ve begged the relevant saints to protect me from awkward pauses, dandruff, and food stuck between teeth (the latter two for both me and her). As a hostess leads me to the table, I wonder briefly whether I should put in a quick call to St Ricky, to make sure I don’t have any embarrassing water-pressure incidents in the bathroom, but I figure I’m covered by now.

And then, of course, I see her. And I hope that she doesn’t see me, mouthing a fast and desperate prayer to the saint that I am frantically creating on the spot, the patron saint of people dating way out of their own league.

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Nicolas Papaconstantinou
Nicolas Papaconstantinou is an enthusiastic amateur creative type, and the chap behind Elephant Words. Be nice to him. He growed up kinda wrong.

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