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Pura labia


Órale, in this episode the featured word is labia. It means gibberish, nonsensical talk. It comes from the latin root word, labium, or lip. In Spanish, the corresponding word is labio. The image it invokes in Caló is that of lips moving with no real or meaningful words coming out.

A fight was about to break out at the end of the second to the last day of school, Boy’s last day in elementary school because he planned to skip out with his friends the next day. There was no real reason for the fight, just two boys wanting to take advantage of the occasion. But one was much bigger than the other one. The expected result was certain, except of course if they resorted to the big equalizers, rocks. The small kid would clearly have the advantage then.

But El Low Rider decided he was going to intervene in the fighte. The bigger kid had tangled with him two years earlier, and El Low Rider had come up on top—literally—because he’d picked up boxing skills at the Boys Club. He was sure he could step in and break up the fighte without much trouble.

“Hey, ese. Hey, vato,” El Low Rider said as he weighed in, looking first at one of the boys then at the other.

Both boys backed off, and El Low Rider stepped between them, both arms raised.

One of his tirilongos, Sam, stood behind El Low Rider facing the opposite direction.

“Watcha, don’t fight or I’ll get in and go after both of you,” El Low Rider threatened both boys.

Neither of the two antagonists complained.

The commotion quickly drew a crowd, including Boy.

El Low Rider noticed this and decided to move the action to a nearby spot where an old concrete water main valve vault protruded from the ground.

“Move over here,” El Low Rider commanded the two almost-fighters as he himself walked a few paces and stepped up on the concrete vault.

The two other boys followed dutifully, as did the small crowd that was forming around them.

Sam followed and took up the same rear-guard position.

Boy thought it was all strange behavior.

Everybody in the crowd, which was growing by the second, looked up wondering what El Low Rider, not a talkative guy, as going to say.

“Watcha…,” he said finally.

Another long pause ensued.

“Órale, Sam’s gonna say something,” he added.

Sam showed his surprise.

“Órale, Sam,” El Low Rider urged him.

Sam hesitated a little then started talking.

“Pos, we were going to our chante. Then El Low Rider said, watcha. And I said órale, simón, ese. And then like on TV, watchas. But one of those channels with no cartoons. Uhumf. And like I was saying, a toda madre. Y never say that…what El Low Rider and me were saying before. Pssst. And grass and rocks.” Sam jabbered.

“What?” somebody said.

“Pura labia,” somebody else said.

“Siról, pura labia,” another bystander repeated.

“Labia,” others joined in.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.