Read A Sample

A sample from the novel novel,
The BAGO Boy – Young Urban Pirate
by John J. Bradley

One bright Friday morning, about two weeks before Christmas, Sister had proclaimed the class would get to decorate the classroom to “celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, of Our Lord and Savior,” she told us with a semblance of a smile. “And I don’t want to see anything about Santa Claus!” she snarled. Sister handed out assignments for the various parts of the Nativity scene to her favorite students. Kiss-up, Klara clapped her hands together and tapped her feet up and down when Sister assigned the most critical mission of bringing Baby Jesus.

The next Monday morning, the excitement in the classroom was as electric as if Santa would make an appearance. Sister quieted down the excited students and said, “Let’s pray for Jesus to overlook us while we decorate the classroom for Christmas!” A cheer went up and Sister slapped her hit stick down on her desk. “Quiet!” she ordered. After the Our Father prayer, Sister added, “…and help us, dear father, honor the birth of Jesus Christ,” she said, “Class? Let’s begin.”

Everyone scurried up with the things they had brought: a breadbasket as a stand-in for the manger, a hay-filled wooden fruit crate to house it, different animals to surround it; a tiny elephant, two palomino foot-high horses, a raccoon hat, a monkey, several teddy bears, and even a rag doll, which Sister rejected. Joseph and Mary were cheap porcelain figurines about the size of my largest Hummel, and the three wise men were toy soldiers wrapped in cloth to simulate robes, and with rags wrapped, turban-like, around their helmets.

Klara had donated a diapered doll with long blonde hair.

Curiosity, I knew, killed cats, and often got me whacked, but I had to know why Klara’s Jesus doll was wearing a diaper. They said Jesus was God, one of the ‘Holy Trinity,’ so why would God need to poop, get all messed up? I pondered asking Sister the God/poop proposition, guaranteeing a whacking, but I had larger issues on my mind.

Sister began in her devout mode. “As Catholics, you must observe holy days of obligation, feast days,” she said. I had heard about Catholic Feast Days, and I thought it meant we could eat as much of whatever we wanted. When Sister said, “One of those feast days will occur while you are on Christmas vacation. On holy days, you must go to Mass, it’s just like Sunday. If you don’t go to Mass, it’s mortal sin!” she admonished, wagging her hit stick. “The feast of the Circumcision of Jesus Christ is eight days after the Nativity, that’s Christmas, and the Feast Day of the Circumcision falls on Tuesday, January first, New Year’s Day,” she explained.

She turned away from the class, and with the tip of her hit stick touching a picture thumb- tacked to the wooden frame of the blackboard, she said, “This is one of the feast days, a holy day of obligation.” Sister tapped on the picture. “This painting shows the Circumcision of Christ.” On the blackboard, she wrote “Feast Day” and “Holy Day of Obligation,” the chalk squeaking, white dust flying.

I had heard the word “circumcision,” and had an idea that it had something to do with a boy’s “equipment.” I squinted to see what was happening in the picture, a faded copy of a classic painting. It portrayed three old men, frowning through scraggly beards, who looked like hobos. They were all wearing odd headgears. One of them held a short stick, his hand hovering over baby Jesus’ groin area. The baby’s face was that of a tiny adult and he had a wide, yellow halo around his head. The men were gathered around the baby and behind one of them, a woman in a drab robe wearing what looked like a babushka around her head, looked up, hands clasped in front of her as if she just won a prize.

Sister, with her chin up, said, “Christ is circumcised and is given the name ‘Jesus.’ That was the name the Angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary to give him, the Son of Gawd,” she said, raising her eyes heavenward.

I had boxed the poop question for later, but this, I had to get more information on. I raised my hand. Reluctantly, her head tilted, eyes narrowed, grim faced, Sister Olga stopped and said, “Yes, Mr. Bradley?” with a decided downbeat.

I slid out of my desk and stood up. “What is the man with the pointy hat doing to the Jesus?” I asked.

Sister looked from one side of the room to the other. “Well,” she said, haltingly, looking down as though the answer might be written on the floor. “This–well, this is a ceremony that, well–it’s a Jewish custom that all Jewish boy babies have done, to…” She shook her head, once, “Jesus was Jewish, so this is done to him.”

“I thought he was Catholic?” I protested.

“Well, Mr. Bradley! He was both Catholic and–”

“Yeah, but what is it–what’re they doing to–”

Sister held up her hand and pointed to me, “Don’t you dare interrupt me, you rude boy! And–”

“But what are those guys doing to Jesus?” I persisted.

“Mr. Bradley? Just sit down and be quiet!”

I was still standing, “OK, but if it’s a feast day, can we eat lots of whatever we want on circumstances day?” I figured this was information that all the kids would want to know!

Sister lowered her head, like an angry bull, and her face, against her stark white habit hood, was the color of a ripe tomato. She let out her breath in a snort, “You–you little–!” she blurted out, rushing down the aisle, “heretic!” she screamed as she grabbed my shoulder, dragged me toward her and slapped my face with her other hand. I pulled back, and she held on to a handful of my shirt. “You are going up to Mother Superior right now!”

She pushed at me and, with an exaggerated stumble, I clomped up the aisle, as though drunk. She pushed me out the doorway and up the stairs to Mother Superior’s classroom. Sister was silent all the way, face twisted in anger and the beads of the rosary clacking, the black cloth of her habit whooshing. I was reminded of the sounds of a gypsy dancer’s beads from a movie I’d seen.

I stumbled forward into Mother Superior’s eighth-grade classroom. Mother Superior, hit stick in hand, pointing to a diagramed sentence on the blackboard, stopped speaking as Sister Olga thrust me, lurching, stumbling forward, up the center aisle between the seventh and eighth grades. “Get up there!” she said and slapped me on the back of the head. All the students were looking at me, the girls, mouths open, the boys, smirking.

Sister Olga, in a loud, strained voice, told Mother Superior that I had mocked God again, making fun of the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, “He called it ‘circumstances day,’” she blurted out, “Imagine! This boy is a heretic!” I heard some tittering and Mother Superior slapped her hit stick on the chalk tray, raising a small cloud of white dust. The noise stopped.

“We’ve had just about enough from you, young man!” Mother Superior said as she stepped over to the rectory door behind her desk and thumped it with her fist. She glared at me, and Sister Olga slapped me on the back of the head again, eliciting more sniggering from the class.

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Lived two houses down from Joey Ferrari and they were each other’s best friend. Bernie was a science buff, nurtured black widow spiders and snakes in his basement, mostly in glass milk bottles. He went to the same school, about a mile away from the Horseshoe neighborhood. Tall for his age, nine, he towered over all but the local teenagers. He and Joey were inseparable.

He was about a year younger than Brad and Em, the same age as Bernie, nine-years-old. Joe was an inch or so shorter than Brad, about the same height as Em, and went to school at another, much larger, Catholic school that was about a mile away from the Horseshoe neighborhood. He lived across the street from Abe’s Market and was one of the first neighborhood boys Brad met. Joe, as some called him, was with Brad on most of the trips taken on Turtle Pond

She was a rat terrier that my mother got me for my 5th birthday, so she was about 5 years old when she accompanied us on our adventure.  Katie was with me whenever conditions permitted, which is to say, when I rode my bike, she couldn’t go, otherwise, including in bed, she did. She was more tan than white, but both colors and weighted around ten or twelve pounds.

She disliked having two first names, Mary Margaret, or either of them separately, so she her nickname was “Em.” Em came from an affluent family who lived in the Upper Darby suburb of Philadelphia before moving to the Horseshoe. Her mother was active in many service organizations, donating her time. Her father was the captain of a Navy destroyer, based at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, which is why the family moved to a historic home on the fringe of Brad’s Horseshoe neighborhood, so he would be closer to his ship. She was about the same age as Brad, and dazzled him with her self-confidence, smarts, and looks when they first met shortly after Brad moved into the neighborhood. Em proved her worth has a pirate, not a girlfriend.

His nickname is “Brad,” but his sister, a few other relatives and Em, his friend who was a girl pirate, called him “Johnny.” Born in Philadelphia, he was living in a rural area of the city until the family moved to a more urban neighborhood, which he dubbed the “Horseshoe.” All of Brad’s gang lived there and most other characters in the book. Although Brad knew early on, he was destined to be a pirate, it was his getting his camera that prompted the idea of making a pirate movie. It wasn’t until he got a pirate ship, that he planned to make a movie about a trip to the island he discovered on a tugboat tour. 

... My articles appeared in TV Radio Mirror, Off Campus and on my non-profit advocacy, established in 2002, Justice On Trial. John Bradley Entertainment produced more than one hundred national broadcasts of Supercross on NBC, CBS, ESPN, in Japan, South Africa and Britain. My company produced some of the first freestyle motocross/Supercross films, Rick Johnson, Profile of a Champion, Ward’s Winning Ways, 1000 Mile Jump, Sick Air, WhatUP!” and many others. I will be completing a new novel, Super Double-Cross - SX 2 , in early 2024.