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Caló: Let's echarnos

Órale, the Caló word of the day is ‘echarse.’ It’s the Spanish verb for toss, put, lay on, or oust. In Caló, echarse means to slump, give up, or got to bed. The general aesthetic or image that’s conveyed with the term is that of retiring or succumbing to the challenge of the moment, whether it’s a conflict, daunting challenge or merely fatigue.

By Oscar "El Marfa" Rodriguez

Night had fallen in El Mulato. It had been a long day for little Boy. It started out with him hopping a ride in a crowded pickup at daybreak, a week before the last day of his 1 st grade year. The ride had been offered by a neighbor in the Southside who was headed to OJ to see his family, in the company of three other middle-aged men going to OJ for the same reason. As it was crowded in the cabin, the four-hour drive proved too uncomfortable for napping.

Once in OJ, the ride dropped him off with his aunt, who fed him and let him take a brief nap before depositing him at his uncle’s car wash establishment to catch another ride to his grandmother’s house in the Montoyas redoubt. A flat tire delayed Boy’s arrival until the late afternoon.

Now having eaten dinner and sitting at his grandmother’s kitchen table, Boy could hardly keep his eyes open. He kept nodding off and falling out of the conversation with his grandmother.

She had asked him how his mother was doing and if he had learned to read. 

Boy had said yes to both.

“So what is it that people read?” she asked.

“Oh, books,” answered Boy.

“Sí, books, but what do they say? What are they about?” she insisted.

“The same thing as in the newspapers,” he responded, eyes rolling back uncontrollably.

“Pos, I don’t know what the newspapers say. I don’t know how to read,” she said pleadingly.

“Sí,” said Boy.

“Do they give you the books?” she asked.

“Sí, we borrow them from the teacher’s stack in the classroom,” said Boy. 

“And what do they say?” she asked.

“Sí,” said Boy.

“Oooh, you’re echado,” his grandmother told him.

“No. I can still talk,” Boy insisted.

“Hmmm. Let’s echarnos. Come outside and help me set up the bed,” she said.

Boy followed her outside. It was so dark that the Milky Way shone brilliantly in the sky. Boy stumbled on the uneven ground.

“Ay,” he said.

“Be careful and don’t fall and get all dirty. I don’t want you to get dirt in the bed,” she admonished Boy.

As they were half-rolling, half-dragging the bare metal bed to the spot where they were going to sleep, Boy stumbled again.

“Aye, no te eches, his grandmother pleaded. "Don't give up."

“Sí,” said Boy. 

“This is far enough. Wait here. I’ll go in and get the sheets and blankets,” she said.

She came back a short while later and got the bed ready for them to get in it.

“Ahora si, let’s echarnos,” she said.