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Caló: Go ask for some trolas

This episode is about the word ‘trola.’ It means matchstick, wooden out of a box or cardboard from a book of matches. Trola is rooted solely in Caló. There is a word in Spanish that sounds close to trola, but it means something categorically different.

By Oscar “El Marfa” Rodriguez

Boy’s aunt walked Boy by the hand to her brother’s car wash in OJ. He was still rousing from a siesta after having been dropped off from the long ride from Southside. 

“Where is he?” she asked the car washers. 

“On the other side, shopping,” one of the workers said.

“Presidio or Alpine?” she asked.

“He didn’t say,” said the workman.

“Mmmm. Well, you know of anybody going to El Mulato who can take this boy?” she asked loud enough that everybody, workers and clients, could hear.

“Cleofas, over there is waiting for a ride, too,” an old man waiting for his truck to be washed said pointing to a pre-teen child watching a worker repair a flat tire. 

“I just came from there. I’m here to buy parts for the harvester. If nobody offers to take them by the time I come back through, I’ll take them,” he added.

“Dale,” said Boy’s aunt.

Then she walked over to Cleofas and pulled young Boy by his side.

“He’s going to El Mulato. Watch him and take him with you when you get a ride,” said Boy’s aunt. 

Then she turned to Boy and said, “and you obey him until the ride drops you off at my mother’s.”

Cleofas nodded in acquiescence. Then he watched silently as she departed. 

“What’s your name?” asked Cleofas.

“They call me Boy,” said Boy.

“You in school yet?” asked Cleofas.

“Just finished the first grade,” said Boy nodding.

“Órale,” said Cleofas.

“Follow me,” he told Boy as he walked across the street.

Boy followed dutifully.

Cleofas partially unrolled his long sleeve khaki, which he had rolled up to his armpit, and pulled out a half-used cigarette.

Boy had seen people smoke cigarettes before. That Cleofas pulled out a half-burned one fit with his expectation of what people do when they don’t want to smoke the entire stick.

Cleofas then handed the cigarette to Boy and said, “hold this so I can get the trolas.”

Cleafas then reached deep into his pockets and came up with a wadded up and nearly disintegrated book of matches. 

“Chhhhhh. They’re no good. Hey, go ask that vato for some trolas,” he commanded Boy pointing to a man smoking a cigarette while he waited for his truck to be serviced. 

Boy promptly went over to the man.

“He says if you have trolas,” Boy told the man as he pointed at Cleofas.

“Trolas? For what?” asked the man.

“No. You’re too young be frajiando! No trolas for you,” he said shaking his head.

Boy went back to Cleofas without saying anything. Cleofas frowned and looked around until he spotted one of the car washers pulling out a cigarette and lighting it with a matchstick.

“Yup. He has trolas. Wait here,” Cleofas ordered Boy.

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