author bio




2 Short was a tagger from down around 24th St. He hung with the Locos de Veinte set, though he freelanced as much as he banged. His tag was a cloudy blue/silver goth “II-SHT” and it went out on freight trains and trucks all over the fucking place. His tag was, like, sailing through Nebraska or some shit like that. Out there, famous, large.

2 Short lived with his pops in that rundown house on W 20th. That one with the black iron spears for a fence. The old timer feeds shorties some times when they don’t have anywhere to go—kids like Lil Wino and Jetson. 2 Short’s pops is a veterano. Been in jail a few times, been on the street, knows what it’s like. He’d like 2 Short to stay in school, but hey, what you gonna do? The vatos do what they got to do.

2 Short sometimes hangs in the backyard. He’s not some nature pussy or nothing, but he likes the yard. Likes the old orange tree. The nopal cactus his pops cuts up and fries with eggs. 2 Short studies shit like birds and butterflies, tries to get their shapes and their colors in his tag book. Hummingbirds.

Out behind their yard is that little scrapyard on 23rd. That one that takes up a block one way and about two blocks the other. Old, too. Cars in there been rusting out since ’68. Gutiérrez, the old dude runs the place, he’s been scrapping the same hulks forever. Chasing kids out of there with a BB gun. Ping! Right in the ass!

2 Short always had too much imagination. He was scared to death of Gutiérrez’s little kingdom behind the fence. All’s you could see was the big tractor G used to drag wrecks around. The black oily crane stuck up like the stinger of the monsters in the sci-fi movies on channel 10. The Black Scorpion and shit.

The fence was ten feet tall, slats. Had some discolored rubber stuff woven in, like pieces of lawn furniture or something. So 2 Short could only see little bits of the scary wrecks in there if he pressed his eye to the fence and squinted.

One day he just ran into the fence with his bike and one of those rotten old slats fell out and there it was—a passageway into the yard. He looked around, made sure Pops wasn’t watching, listened to make sure G wasn’t over there, and he slipped through.

Damn. There were wrecked cars piled on top of each other. It was eerie. Crumpled metal. Torn-off doors. Busted glass. He could see stars in the wind shields where the heads had hit. Oh man—peeps died in here, Homes.

2 Short crept into musty dead cars and twisted the steering wheels.

He came to a crunched ’71 Charger. The seats were twisted and the dash was ripped out. Was that blood on the old seat? Oh man. He ran his hand over the faded stain. BLOOD.

He found her bracelet under the seat. Her wrist must have been slender. It was a little gold chain with a little blue stone heart. He held it in his palm. Chick must have croaked right here.

He stared at the starred windshield. The way it was pushed out around the terrible cracks. Still brown. More blood. And then the hair.

Oh shit—there was hair in strands still stuck to the brown stains and the glass. Long blonde strands of hair. They moved in the breeze. He touched them. He pulled them free. He wrapped them around his finger.

That night, he rubbed the hairs over his lips. He couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking of the white girl. She was dead. How was that possible? How could she be dead?

He held the bracelet against his face. He lay with the hair against his cheek.

When he went out to tag two nights later, 2 Short aborted his own name. Die Hard and Arab said, “Yo, what’s wrong with you?”

But he only said, “The white girl.”

“What white girl? Yo?”

But he stayed silent. He uncapped the blue. He stood in front of the train car. THE WHITE GIRL. He wrote it. It went out to New York. He sent it out to Mexico, to Japan on a container ship. THE WHITE GIRL.

He wrote it and wrote it. He sent it out to the world. He prayed with his can. He could not stop.

Author Bio
Luis Alberto Urrea was born in Tijuana, Mexico, to a Mexican father and an American mother. His first book, Across the Wire, was a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the Christopher
Award. He won an American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life; and his short-story collection, Six Kinds of Sky, received a Book of the Year award from
ForeWord magazine. His nonfiction book The Devil’s Highway won the 2004 Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. His historical novel, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, won the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize for fiction. He lives with his family in Naperville, Illinois, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.