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You didn't get one, but we did!


Órale, the featured word of this episode is an innocuous cultural meme that makes sense only if you’re of the culture that uses it, but makes no sense at all if you’re on the outside looking in. White elephant, in the mainstream means a gag gift to be given away at a party, not the literal translation of the term. But if you’ve only lived in the world of Caló, it only means an elephant that happens to be white, maybe not a live one but at least something that can be called a white elephant.

“OK, as I promised for the last Friday before Thanksgiving, when many of you go to OJ, we’re going to give away funny gifts to each other. Did everybody bring a white elephant like I asked last week?” Miss Taylor asked her 5th grade class.

Nobody answered, out of fear the Almanza twins were waiting to pounce on anybody who said something wrong.

“Órale, how about you Boy?” the biggest of the two twins chided Boy.

The teacher looked over at Boy, who winced and dropped his head.

“Didn’t you bring a white elephant, Ernesto?” the teacher asked.

Boy had been hoping she wouldn’t ask him that in front of everybody. But there it was. The worst result possible. In front of the whole class and, worse still, with the Almanzas already grinning.

He had taken the request back to his mother the week before and didn’t think more about it after that. Then just before he set off to school that day, she gave him the terrible news that she had gone to all the stores in the Southside and hadn’t found a single white elephant. Only bunnies and chickens. But they were too expensive to risk missing the target. So she merely told Boy to explain to the teacher that it seemed everybody had already picked up all the white elephants that were available. That she’d try again during the weekend when Boy’s father could drive her across town to the bigger stores.

“Ernesto?” the teacher insisted.

“Hmmm. My mom said she couldn’t find any this week…,” Boy began to explain before he was interrupted.

“Hee, hee, she didn’t know where to go, like our mom,” the smaller of two twins said.

“Our mom knew where, and she bought us a nice one. Tell your jefita to ask her, and she’ll teach her,” his brother said sarcastically.

“Let me see it,” the teacher asked the twins.

The twins quickly produced a fluffy terry cloth white elephant, the tag still hung on its neck.

The teacher took a deep breath and looked back at the rest of the class.

“How many of you brought a white elephant?” she asked.

Several hands went up.

“How many of you brought another gift?” she said, resigned to what she already knew would be the answer.

Nobody raised their hand.

“That’s not what I meant, boys,” she told the twins.

“Eeee! I told you so,” the bigger of the twins said to the other.

“Chale, ese, you didn’t. Don’t blame me,” the smaller of the two said.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.