John 3:16

One

Maura McDuffer is one bad-ass, two-fisted, gum-popping broad and she's only thirteen. She's this crazy-psycho-bitch who'd just as soon fuck you as fuck you up. The toughest kid period at St. Thomas Catholic Elementary School. No one is tougher than Maura McDuffer. Standing all of four-foot-eleven, thin-as- a-rail, with jet black hair and a cock-eyed sneer to her right ear, a right ear laced with earrings, five of them. All gold hoops.

Her arms are hairy, paper white skin covered with soft jet black hair. It looks like she's petting a ferret when she smoothes her arm hair forward, while loudly popping strawberry Bubble yum in Science class. Seriously. That's how hairy her arms are. She cheats openly in class, flicks off the flag, Christ, the teacher and everyone looks the other way. Why? because she's Maura McDuffer, dumb-ass. Her plaid, Catholic school skirt is so short that when she strides swiftly, confident and cocky, down the linoleum floors of our school- saddle shoes clacking all the while-you can damn near see her panties. Panties that Estaban-her twenty-year-old, gold-toothed, bandana-wearing, toothpick-chewing, felonious boyfriend-probably bought for her at The Mall. Estaban. A guy with the top button of his flannel pinched tight, and the rest of his shirt unbuttoned-flying loosely in the wind. Estaban. A man feared by all.

A guy who-if swaggering were an Olympic event- would be a credit to our fine democracy. The dude swaggers so hard you'd think he's an epileptic. He pulls up in front of St. Thomas Catholic School in his shiny, ebony-black Monte Carlo, a Newport in his right hand, left hand full of steering wheel. The windows are tinted, dark, and almost all closed except for a crack in the driver's side window where blue smoke seeps out. The heavy metronome beats of his system vibrate the fillings in your teeth, bass shakes the ground. Maura, with a fresh cube of Bubble Yum in her maw, bobs out of school with a look on her face that says, "Yeah motherfucker, just gimme a reason." She raises one hand aloft, like she's hailing a taxi or swishing a free throw and shouts, "Back that car up, motherfucker! I'm over here!" And all the kids, young and pimpled, youthful and freckled, awkward and ugly, turn their heads and think, "Damn!" Because all they have going for them are Ninja Turtles, comic books, Hostess Pies, The Mall and- if they're lucky- awkward make-out sessions in alleys, basements, garages, bedrooms. . .

Two

Some pale-faced, red-mustached, guest-speaker gentleman came to lecture our class about criminal, sexual and juvenile-delinquency matters. Topics which some of the class, including Maura McDuffer, had been known for. We called him Ken. He preferred it. Fucker was docile, soft-spoken. He passed around a wooden question box with a slot in it. We were supposed to write down and insert the queries we had concerning this awful word we live in, into the box. He would answer our questions in a safe, anonymous environment. Maura sat with legs crossed, pulling a strand of chewed-up Bubble Yum away from her face then shoving it back into her mouth for future mastication.

"Why is Maura slutty? . . not to mention stupid and ugly?" freckle-infected John Shickel wrote on ripped yellow loose-leaf, depositing his note into the box. When his note was read aloud, Maura fumed. She knew of only one fellow student in class who had yellow loose-leaf. Her face reddened to the color of ripe cranberries. Speaking of red: red-mustache-face called said question inappropriate.

"You = dead after school," Maura said, grabbing at her crotch with one hand and pointing at John with the other.

"What you said, Ms. McDuffer, can be construed as inappropriate, too," Ken said.

"Suck my balls," retorted Maura.

Our class tittered-even ugly kids smiled.

No more interesting things happened until 3:16.

"You gonna die!" Maura said to John as she strutted outside towards her boyfriend's Monte Carlo, depositing her books in his trunk then pulling out a rusted crowbar with which she intended to throttle John. Maura charged towards him with her head down and brows furrowed. John ran fatly, also stupidly, towards our kick ball court of faded gray asphalt.

Three

Maura McDuffer chased John Shickel, sprinting after him on the sun-warmed black top, flanked on one side by an old Polish granny's multi-colored flower garden, on the other by a basketball court infested with sweaty, shirtless gawkers, dirty fingers clung to the chain link fence. All the kids said: Go! Go! Go! Fightfightfight! As they clapped and laughed at John, scurrying away from Maura's wrath while wheezing like an old man with a four-pack-a-day habit. Maura held the crow bar on her shoulder, like an old time baseball slugger posing for a baseball card portrait. Her arms taut, tensed; her ponytail swung around the back of her head wildly.

"I'm gonna bust your head open, scum!" she said. They went around and around. Estaban sat on the hood of his Monte Carlo with a cigarette blazing on the street-side of the basketball court. He smiled-sun shimmered off his golden front teeth. Maura's plaid skirt skipped and jumped, whipped and flipped, up and down, and as it did, all of the seventh- and eighth-grade boys got millisecond glimpses of her panties, designed with hearts on them. On the next lap Maura kicked a deflated kick ball at the furiously pumping legs of John. She grunted loudly and her five loopy earrings clanged together like the muffled war cries of inch-tall beings. The kickball landed right in front of John's right, tasseled loafer and he hurtled toward the ground. That's when Maura wielded her wrath. As John fell, he held his hand above his head like a target, a tee ball on a tee. Maura smacked his right pointer finger with all her might, producing a quiet metal-on-bone cracking noise. John screamed, wailed. The circle of kids surrounding the warriors tightened. John's finger bled generously as he held it aloft. You could see the jagged remnants of his fingernail, bloody, looking like a crudely-designed crown. Maura stood above him, nodding her head affirmatively, with all the showmanship of a victorious wrestler while John wept like a crying crybaby. He possessed the crown, yes, that odd crown-shaped fingernail, but there was no doubt in anyone's mind who stood as the real royalty of that playground. Maura McDuffer: Queen of the Court. John wept.

No nuns happened to be around-none-possibly holed up in our school's nunnery, eating macaroni and cheese, or maybe even Chili Mac. Which is what? An amalgam! Of what? you ask. Of Chili and Mac! I say. None of which is important, yet, still: delicious!

About the author:

Joe Deir is from Chicago. His work has previously appeared in The2ndhand.com and Inkstains.org-- where he is the co-editor of the fiction section (the magazine will soon be available in print format). He has been writing for a couple of years and plans to write more in the future.