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Caló: Chupale al frajo

Órale, today’s feature in Caló is the word frajo. It means cigarette. There is nothing comparable or related in Spanish or English.

By Oscar “El Marfa” Rodriguez

Cleafas, the pre-teen conscripted by Boy’s aunt to escort Boy to his grandmother’s house in El Mulato, walked across the bay of the car wash where they were waiting for a ride and huddled with a young car washer who lit his half-used cigarette. Then he walked back to Boy blowing smoke through his nose. 

Boy winced. He didn’t like the smelly smoke. 

“You ever had a frajo?” he asked Boy.

Boy shook his head. 

“Try this,” Cleofas told Boy.

“Just suck out some smoke like this,” said Cleofas.

Boy winced again.

“Why?” he asked the older boy.

“It makes you feel good,” said Cleafas.

“Like sleepy?” asked Boy.

“No. More awake and smarter,” said Cleofas.

“Chupale, suck on it,” he told Boy.

“It stinks,” said Boy.

“But if you suck it, it’ll smell better,” said Cleofas.

Boy gave him a doubtful look. Cleofas desisted.

“Ah,” said Cleofas. 

He took a last drag on the cigarette and flicked the butt into the wet bay.

Soon a man walked up to them and said, “you chavalitos smoking?”

The two boys stood silent. Boy wanted to deny the accusation but knew better than to cross his newly appointed guardian. 

“Well, if you boys want a ride to El Mulato, get in that pickup. I’m leaving right after I pay for the wash.

The two boys walked over to the pickup. Cleofas walked behind Boy and pushed him to the middle of the seat so he could sit by the window.

The owner of the truck soon stepped into the cab and started the engine. He gunned it a couple of times before he put it into gear.

“Guácala, yuck, it smells bad,” he said out loud as they drove off. 

Neither Boy nor Cleofas said anything.

“I’ll drop you off at your uncle’s at Los Quirós,” the man told Cleofas.

“You, little one, at your grandmother’s, no? She’s waiting for you?” he asked Boy.

“Uhuh, my aunt’s going to put a spot the radio,” said Boy nodding animatedly.

The driver nodded back at him.

“Cleofas, I know you’re from here. You, chico? You from the other side?” he asked Boy.

“I’m from here and the Southside,” Boy said politely. 

They rode in silence until they reached a chalky, eroded mesa.

“No you know this place, Cleofas?” the man asked.

Cleofas shook his head despondently.

“It used to be a bear town,” the man said.

“Really?” asked Boy.

“Ask Cleofas,” he responded.

Cleofas stayed quiet. 

“But all the bears left. Moved into town,” the man said. 

Boy looked over at Cleofas, who looked straight at the road ahead in silence.

A while later, they entered the long straightaway where the dirt road was roughest.

Soon Boy felt nauseous.

The driver saw Boy lose his color.

“That’s what you get for frajiando,” he said.

“But I didn’t,” said Boy.

The man looked over at Cleofas and shook his head.