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Caló: Ponchados

Órale, the feature today is the word ponchado. It means to get a flat tire. Ponchado also means deflated or depressed. It comes from the English word punch, as in to stick a needle in something, making it go down and be immobilized.

By Oscar “El Marfa” Rodriguez

The slow-moving truck Boy and Cleofas were riding in rocked incessantly and noisily as it rolled over the washboard surface of the dirt road leading to El Mulato. The driver kept it in second gear to avoid using the brakes. Every now and then, they would fall into a rut that proved steeper than it looked, and the truck would buck up and down.

Boy had gotten over his motion sickness, but he could tell the driver was tense. Cleofas didn’t seem to be paying attention. He just kept looking straight ahead in silence, as if lost in a daydream. 

“Que gacho this road has gotten,” the driver said.

“Now it’s just like the abandoned one over there,” he added pointing with his chin to an abandoned lane grown over by creosote next to the one they were on.

“A little boy like you could jump in and disappear in one of these holes,” he went on. 

Boy looked up at him. The driver kept a close eye on the hazards on the road.

Suddenly they descended into a deep pothole, and the front end of the truck crashed into the other end of the depression with a load clang as metal met hard rock.

The driver stopped the truck and shifted into reverse instead of trying to push through the hole.

Boy looked at Cleofas, who was now paying attention.

“It’s ponchada,” Cleofas said.

Boy looked back at the driver, who nodded in agreement.

The driver peeled the wheels in reverse unil the truck got out of the hole. Then he cut the engine. 

“We’re ponchados,” he said.

“Cleofas, get out and help me replace the ponchada with the extra. 

Cleofas quickly went into action as if he was doing a well-practiced drill. 

He walked around and picked up some big, slanted rocks and placed them under the back tires as the driver unbolted the spare tire and jack from the carrier under the box.

“Ummhm. The extra’s ponchada too,” he said glumly. 

“Maybe it just needs air. The hand pump is behind the seat. You boys try to bring it up, while I jack up the wheel,” he said.

Cleofas and Boy started pumping.

“That’s good,” he said when the boys started struggling to depress the pump.

“Let’s see if it stands up.”

The switch-tire stayed up, but he pumped more air into it to be sure.

“Good thing it worked or we would have been here ponchados all afternoon waiting for a ride,” he told the boys.