And the Winner is... Esperanza Bey!

Recently, America Hates US (AHUS) ran its first writing contest and Esperanza Bey, out of oakland, California, was the winner.

Esperanza submitted a dope short story, titled 72 Eastbound.

As a reward, Esperanza will get a shirt and hat from AHUS.

Give her story a read below and share your thoughts in the Comments section.

72 Eastbound

Seven people died at the blue liquor store that summer. The first being a hit-and-run on a 9-year-old girl. The second, third, fourth, and fifth occurred during two different drive-by’s that left two people dead each time. The sixth, an attempted robbery by some Samoan dude who accidently fell on the knife he used to rob the store. He bled out before the cops or ambulance came, the common headliner anytime someone in North Oakland is in need of medical assistance. And then there was the night Akbar died.

We just finished our final days as 8th graders at MLK Middle School. Ayesha had just started talking to Malcolm. Clara was writing the outline of her sci-fi novel about a girl possessed by the Brazilian deity of life and death, Omulu, who sought revenge on humanity for positioning themselves as the gate-keepers of life and death. Marie and Ayesha both had been preparing for their showcase at Dimensions Dance Theater, and I was close to earning the money I needed to buy a new camera for my photo-series on bus-stops in Oakland. Us four had been aligned since third grade. We housed each other’s emotions when they became too much to bear on our own. We had to, as moms, dad, uncles, aunties, cousins, and siblings were constantly disappearing and reappearing like some sick magic trick. Sometimes not reappearing at all.

Clara, Marie and I sat in the twin bed across from Ayesha. Legs crossed, fingers interlocked and hungry for whatever she was about to say.

With a deep breath, she shrugged and said, Well, it’s interesting.

Marie laughed, Esha what the hell do you mean by interesting? 

She replied, I mean like everything feels the same. It’s just that, sometimes, I have a person following me around, I guess.

The four of them exchanged looks, then burst into laughter.

Well what do y’all talk about then?

Ayesha leaned back, now looking up at the ceiling as she began to swing her legs to and fro.

His basketball practices mostly. And his older brother Tommy. He can go on about Tommy for hours.

Marie leaped forward and began, I heard about Tommy! He’s the one who robbed that pimp from the Dubs last summer?

Clara confirmed, Yup. He be with them dudes that stay posted at the blue liquor store, down the street from the school. He’s Trigg’s people.

Ayesha now leaning forward began, well just between us y’all, Malcolm says Tommy may have gotten both Alexandria and Dana pregnant.

Marie now wide-eyed asked, aren’t they best friends?

Ayesha laughed, I doubt it now.

In a more serious tone, I asked, do you think Malcolm is the same way, Esha?  

 No. Not right now… He really likes playin ball. I want y’all to come with me to his game on Saturday. It’s the championship game.

I don’t know Esha, Akbar gets out this Thursday and you know how he is about Tommy and the rest of them dudes from South Berkeley.

Eartha, just tell him your spending the night at my house and I’ll see if my sister can pick you up on the way.

Okay, I guess.

I figured Akbar would still be sleep when I got home from checking out potential bus stops for my photo series. Taking off my dusty black Converse I began tip-toeing past his room when I heard the bathroom door creek open. Without looking away from the stained mirror, he removed his toothbrush and began.

The fuck you been?

I went to spot-out some places for my new photo-series.

So, you just walkin around North Oakland like we live in fuckin lalaland.

Previously hovering over the sink, he now stood up and looked straight at me. The cut under his eyebrow from the time a kid brought a razor blade to school was healed but still deep and visible.

 E, that shit is dangerous. Niggas is trife out here. Did you hear about all that shit that happened at the corner store already? Six people are dead, E. So just try to stay yo ass in the house. You hear me?  

Okay, I said, I hear you. But I need to get dress and pack. I’m spending the night at Ayesha’s house.

In the same breath, I ran into my room and began throwing everything into my gym bag. I heard three honks coming from the driveway as I blurred past the bathroom, where Akbar was now shaving the patchy beard that accumulated in the four-month period he was inside.

The game had ended before halftime. What initially turned out to be a youth league basketball tournament, became the perfect space to address almost every hood rivalry. The street lights were already on as we walked out the gymnasium to the blue liquor store to get some pickles and Kool-aid. Malcolm and Ayesha were trailing behind us when a black BMW pulled up along the sidewalk. We all stopped as Tommy hopped out and began walking towards us.

Aye Malcom! The fuck you been man?

My stomach dropped and everything went silent as I caught sight of my brother’s eyes sitting in the passenger seat of a red Camaro across the street. The second he realized it was me, he leaped out the car and flexed his jaw as he narrowed his eyes at me. He saw Tommy approaching us and started charging towards him. In a split second, four shadowy figures jumped out the BMW. Marie, Clara, Ayesha, and I ran towards each other and crouched down to barricade ourselves from sounds of gun-shots and tires screeching the pavement.

My whole body numbed, all I could think about was the hell Akbar was going to put me through when I got home.


I looked up to see the 72 Eastbound transit. As it carried away its overbearing shadow, I looked across the street to see Akbar laid out on the sidewalk, staring at the stars. 


Special thanks to Arkee E. for his support and contributions in this contest!

Busy RiveraComment