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Le puso machín


Órale, the feature for this episode is the expression ponerle machín. It’s Spanglish. Its literal translation is “act like a machine.” In Caló, it means to step strong, show your power, or get into something assuredly, masterfully.

The Buick Chieftain was a dainty dandy. It didn’t take much mud for it to skid and lose total traction. If you sped through a big puddle or rivulet of rainwater in that ramfla, you’d find on the other side that its motor had flooded out. More than five people got riding? The pichirilo would sputter and tremble as if it was crumbling under their weight.

“Pinche pichirilo. It just barely drizzled!” the vato yelled at his ramfla as the wheels spun without forward movement.

Conditions couldn’t vary much, and you had to give it a long while to warm up. Temperature dropped precipitously? Not only would the motor struggle, the transmission also wouldn’t shift gears. Left it parked outside in the cold a long time? No chance it would go unless you let idle for several minutes.

But it was a pretty car, chrome everywhere and intricately applied thick blue paint. It often turned heads, which is why the vato kept it.

Then there were the times when everything worked perfectly. The vato loved those moments. They were rays of divine intervention, veritable miracles you just didn’t want to end.

But El Pichirilo seemed to know when the moment called for its best behavior.

One Sunday in February, the vato parked outside the Sittin Bull in Tarilas. It was beautiful day when he went in, but the weather quickly turned for the worse as soon after he sat down at the bar.

A few birrias in, the vato heard a disturbance in the pool room. Before too long, the trouble behind it poured into the bar room.

It was JT up to his usual antics: offering money to anybody who would fight him. The vato knew it was only a matter of time before JT made him the same offer. Worse still, JT had a habit of launching into a fight— not even asking—when nobody took him up on his offer.

The vato held his breath when JT stepped up to him.

“Chale, ese. I just wanna pistear my birria and listen to the rolas on the jukebox,” the vato told JT.

“Pos, I wasn’t asking,” JT said.

“I’m gonna the restroom then come back and check you out,” he added.

The vato got out fast. Then as he was walking through the parking lot, he heard JT yell out to him.

“Hey, I was counting on you, ese,” he yelled.

The vato sped up and dove into his ramfla when he reached it. As he turned the key, he noted how the weather had turned for the worse. He looked back and saw JT was coming. He was in a bad spot.

But much to his relief, El Pichirilo didn’t just start up, it launched powerfully out of the lot even without the vato putting it into gear. Seconds later, they were accelerating on the highway.

“Órale, ese! Le pusiste todo machín, Pichirilo,” he said out loud.

Oscar Rodriguez is the creator and host of Caló.