"Efrén Divided" by Ernesto Cisneros, Chapters 12–19

When his mother is deported, twelve-year-old Efrén must take on new responsibilities, including caring for his younger siblings.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1–5, Chapters 6–11, Chapters 12–19
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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. ogle
    stare or look at, especially with amorous intentions
    Max pointed to a tiny panda bear with shifty button eyes while Mía ogled what could have been a koala or a badly sewn sloth.
  2. gauge
    an instrument for measuring and indicating a quantity
    Efrén sank into the passenger seat and waited inside the truck, feeling his stomach tighten as the numbers on the gas pump gauge rose.
  3. notarize
    authenticate by someone empowered to witness signatures
    “AND my identification card. AAANND your notarized letter of permission too.”
  4. vie
    compete for something
    He was heading toward a row of taxi drivers—all in street clothes—each vying for his business.
  5. recede
    pull back or move away or backward
    Efrén surveyed the men, pausing at the oldest gentleman with the receding hairline.
  6. upholstery
    covering on a piece of furniture
    Efrén looked around at the stains and tears on the upholstery.
  7. limbo
    the state of being disregarded or forgotten
    “This place is limbo, man. A place not quite Mexico, not quite the US. La Tierra de los Olvidados—the Land of the Forgotten. You don’t get a name like that for nothing.”
  8. mesh
    an open fabric woven together at regular intervals
    All around him, vendors held up heavy fleece blankets—perfect for cold winter nights—colorful mesh bags used for grocery shopping, lucha libre wrestling masks, a variety of superhero piñatas, and the always popular Mexican sarapes.
  9. aqueduct
    a conduit that carries water over a valley
    A few feet away stood the ruins of an aqueduct, the arch barely standing.
  10. cartel
    a consortium formed to limit commercial competition
    He’d also heard about drug cartels and corruption.
  11. stricken
    affected by something overwhelming
    And still, the people he slammed into acted as if witnessing a panic- stricken kid running through the streets was simply an everyday occurrence.
  12. menacing
    threatening evil or danger
    The men chasing him stopped as well, breaking into menacing smiles as if they knew something he did not.
  13. rickety
    inclined to shake as from weakness or defect
    Just a tiny room barely large enough to fit one twin mattress, one rickety bookshelf, and a propane burner to cook.
  14. unconditional
    not subject to any restrictions or limitations
    She didn’t see a high school dropout, didn’t see the tats on my arms or back. She just accepted me— unconditional love, bro.
  15. hearty
    without reservation
    Lalo laughed heartily.
  16. jalapeno
    hot green or red pepper
    Immediately, his eyes stung as if they’d been rubbed with a ripe jalapeño.
  17. fend
    try to manage without help
    Some of them promise to get you across, but instead, they just take your money and dump you into the desert to fend for yourself.
  18. musky
    resembling the smell of a deer secretion or odorous perfume
    It’s what our people do—we make do. Lalo’s words stuck around like the musky odor in the car.
  19. jut
    extend out or project in space
    Efrén bolted out of the car, anxiously scanning the area around him. And when that didn’t work, he turned to Lalo who calmly jutted his chin at a rompope-colored Taco Loco restaurant. “Over there.”
  20. mosaic
    design made of small pieces of colored stone or glass
    Amused and equally excited, Efrén rushed inside the restaurant where a lady behind a mosaic counter flattened out rolls of masa into perfectly shaped tortillas, like Amá used to do back home.
  21. behalf
    as the agent of or on someone's part
    “Then I dropped four G’s on some fake papers but ended up getting arrested and sent back. Things are different now. Even if my daughter’s old enough to petition on my behalf, they’ll never give me permission. Not with my record.”
  22. hostile
    characterized by enmity or ill will
    “Reason for visiting?” the man said in a slight Mexican accent.
    Efrén understood the Latino man was simply doing his job, but that didn’t stop him from judging his choice of job. “To visit my mother,” he said, looking up and giving the man a hostile look.
  23. corrupt
    dishonest or immoral or evasive
    “But then, the drug cartels began to get more and more power. Soon the government itself became corrupt—bien chuecos—and many of my own men began taking bribes for small favors. But those favors grew bigger each time. Then one day, some men from a maldito cartel stopped by. They wanted help releasing a few of their men. They gave me a choice. Help them out and get paid nicely or...”
  24. crane
    stretch, so as to see better
    Apá continued to crane his neck for a better look. “I can’t tell if it’s open or not. Too many big trucks.”
  25. precision
    the quality of being exact
    He might not have been able to form steaming sopes with his bare hands, but he was able to clean a kitchen with the same speed and precision as Amá.
  26. specialty
    an asset of special worth or utility
    Piojitos were his favorite, but Efrén wasn’t sure he’d accept them from Apá. After all, that was Amá's specialty.
  27. technically
    according to the exact meaning; according to the facts
    “Ms. Salas convinced my mom to let me stay with her until the program can find me a place. Technically, she’s my foster parent.”
  28. epithet
    a defamatory or abusive word or phrase
    “School security caught David damaging posters. But he’s not the person who wrote those racial epithets. In fact, he was going around the campus tearing them down. I can only imagine what you must have thought.”
  29. abhorrent
    offensive to the mind
    We’ll find whoever wrote those abhorrent comments.
  30. honorary
    given as an award without the normal duties
    “When I moved here, you never treated me differently, even if I was the only white kid on the entire block. You always called me an honorary Mexican and introduced me to your friends, and showed me the ropes. You even taught me all the Spanish words I needed—starting with the bad ones.”
Created on July 10, 2020 (updated July 14, 2020)

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