Caló: No, you were looking to do a big favor?

Órale, the Caló word for this episode is ‘no.’ In Caló, the word is often used with double meaning. It both marks a notice and requests acknowledgement. And it’s delivered simultaneously in English and in Spanish with the exact same meaning. The only complication is that there’s a regional difference in its use. Among Caló speakers north of Albuquerque, no comes at the end of the statement, as in, “You didn’t get that at Walmart, no?” South of ‘burque, no comes at the front of the statement, as in “no, you didn’t get that at Walmart?”

By Oscar “El Marfa” Rodriguez

Flaco had done an evil deed, and it was weighing on him.

He knew the weight would only grow with time, that it would keep him from sleeping. And that it would drive him crazy if left unmitigated. The only remedy was to do a countervailing good act to attenuate the bad. And fast. The longer it took, the heavier the weight, and the more sleep he would lose.

“Hey, can I carry your grocery bags,” Flaco asked Titi as she walked out of the store with her grandson in tow, a big bag of food passing between them every few steps.

“Chale, Flaco, we’re almost at my pickup. Haste un lado, get out of our way,” said Titi.

Flaco desisted.

Next came a short, heavyset man with a fat bag swaying from one hand to the other.

“Hey, señor, may I carry your bags?” asked Flaco.

“No, no, get away. Don’t want to deal with anybody right now,” responded the man gruffly. 

Flaco lowered his head. Throngs of people coming out of the grocery store walked by. Some people sometimes looking up at him curiously. 

Eventually, one of the walkers came up to him and got his attention: Chavela, his lifelong neighbor. 

“What you doing, Flaco? Short on money?” she asked.

“Chale, I was just trying to help people,” said Flaco.

“No, you can help people by running to a fire and getting them out from the window?” said Chavela.

Flaco didn’t respond. He got the point.

“Then why are you here trying to help people with their groceries, vato,” asked Chavela.

“Pos, I thought it was the easiest way to help people,” said Flaco. 

“Eeee, I see. No, you’re trying to even the score? Pos, carrying grocery bags may be enough,” said Chavela. 

Flaco leaned backwards. 

“Nel, that’s not it,” he said.

“Then how big you need it?” asked Chavela.

“Just a favor,” said Flaco.

“Little?” asked Chavela. 

“Nel. Big,” said Flaco.

“Órale. No big favors around here. How big do you need?” asked Chavela.

“Pretty big,” said Flaco.

“Like bringing back somebody from the dead or bad health” asked Chavela.

“Nel,” said Flaco.

“Somebody missing something important?” she asked.

“Chale,” said Flaco.”

Órale, then go to the church and put $20 in the slot under the candles,” said Chavela

“Eeee, I hadn’t thought of that,” said Flaco.

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